This is definately a local's bar located in the heart of SLO. The locals definately seem to be having a great time with each other. Everybody seems to know each other and have each others back. Here in lies the problem. I have been to other local's bars and have immediately felt at home. I was treated like a regular right away. At McCarthy's I just don't get that vibe. It is really hard to break the ice with these people. Maybe because it is a touristy area so they are weary. I will keep on trying because the regulars do really seem loyal to each other.
San Luis Obispo is a college town that does blend well with a beach town and fits in with a laid back population. One of the bright spots is a shrine to many a college student at both Cal Poly and Questa for not only the specialty hamburgers that make In-N-Out burgers look tiny, but for the fun atmosphere of the dance floor and the MO|TAV VIP Lounge and Private Bar that looks down on the dance floor. Just make sure you have your ID ready.
If you enjoy going out at night but are looking to save a few bucks, check out www.slohappyhours.com. You can search by establishment or day of the week..... you'll be surprised at how many great deals are in town!
Bull's is a local dive bar that has a reputation for not only a stench of old puke, but also of urine. Because of this reputation, we made Bull's our first stop in SLO. I have been to many bars in my years, and old puke and urine are often key ingredients of good drinking establishments. Add in relatively cheap beers at about $3.50 each and you have a winner.
When we arrived, Bull's had a crowd of about 6 or 8 guys smoking at the entrance, but the inside was kind of deserted. They had old folksy-rock playing on the jukebox (like Neil Diamond and the Eagles) and a crowd of half college kids and half old locals drinking beer. I had a Firestone draft for a cheap (for California) $3.50 and we sat and chatted for an hour... no rude people bumping into us, no bartender pushing drinks... We just talked, watched some basketball game, and admired the cool ceiling tiles that were custom made by previous customers. Yes this is a dive bar, but it takes a special kind of dive bar to survive in a town like San Luis Obispo. In my opinion, this is one of the top dive bars in California.
By the way, Bull's only smells like urine because they have no restroom door. What do you expect from a place like this? Besides, it was cleaner than some of the places I visited in Vietnam and Western Pennsylvania.
Irish Pub? Not really, despite the green walls and numerous shamrocks.
College dive bar? Most definitely, despite the bikers on their Kawasaki Ninjas.
We walked by at 7pm and the outside smoking area was packed and loud. The inside was probably similar. We returned around 11pm and the outside patio was still full of people inhaling each others cigarette smoke. Inside was a zoo--packed wall to wall with college kids. We pushed our way through to the bar and ordered a few pints of Smithwicks then found a few empty stools way back in the corner by the restrooms. We just sat and watched the students hit on chicks and get drunk, until the Santa Cruz Vampires biker gang sat down in front of us. They really didn't fit into the college scene, but in a bar like this everyone seems to be welcome.
I usually look for locally owned breweries when I travel, as they often have good beer and decent food. Often I am disappointed in one of these aspects as microbreweries have become almost like McDonald's, spouting up everywhere, almost in cookie-cutter molds of other successful breweries.
While I didn't eat at SLO's Downtown Brewery, I did have a few good beers here, and my only complaint was the service. We arrived and tried to go to the downstairs bar, but it turned out they had a live band ("from Chicago!"), but the upstairs bar was open and free to enter so we headed up there. After finding a table, we waited at least 10-15 minutes and there was no hint of a waitress, so we and several others shuffled to the bar to order our drinks. Luckily there were two free stools, so we just grabbed our stuff and moved to the bar. For some reason our first round cost us $6 a beer, while our second round was only $4 a beer... not sure if the bartender was just stealing from us, or if happy hour happened to start at 9:27 PM. The bar is big, clean, and comfortable, perhaps my only complaint other than the lousy service was that the music from the live bands downstairs vibrated up though the floor, kind of annoying the customers who were upstairs eating, watching TV, or playing pool.
All in all, this seems like a nice bar, but beware of the lousy service. Though I missed it, many people think Central Coast Brewing Company on Monterey is a better bar.
Downtown Brewing also has locations in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.
Ever since this place put a dance area in, the atmosphere has changed. I'm sure they did it to compete with the other bars in the area, but they ended up alienating a lot of their old regulars. It used to be a place where you could sit out on the patio and have long conversations with friends. The patio, where smoking is allowed, is still open now, but they rarely have the tables or the chairs set out anymore. I don’t think the bar is worth the cover that they now sometimes charge, but if it is one of the nights when there is no entrance fee, then I still enjoy this place. It used to be my favorite, actually. The crowd is mainly comprised of college students, but I have seen older people there too, enjoying the night and a drink.
The bartenders and bouncers there are very friendly but most of my favorites have moved to SLO Brew. The drinks they pour at Mission are good (taste good and aren’t too strong and definitely not weak either) and the cost is on par with bars in this area. They offer beer, hard alcohol, mixed drinks and wine.
Mission Grill is also a restaurant by day, and you can find my tip on that aspect in my Restaurants area.
the PAC or Christopher Cohan Center, features a variety of shows, concerts, plays, etc. Just see what's playing/ showing at the moment. Students can get in for 5 bucks i think an hour or half hour before show. check online for more info.
You can pretty much hit all the spots of downtown in one night.
Bull's -- kind of a dive, but big cheap drinks
from there you can go to Mother's Tavern for dancing and drinking . . (live bands)
if the music there isn't jumping, go next door to
The Library for dancing and more drinking (live bands)
SLO Brew has 2 levels, 2 bars, and a lot more space to dance
People go to Tortilla Flats mostly for dancing, music's pretty good buy teeny dance floor
The Grad is not downtown, they have themed nights, like swing night or country line dancing, "hump" night, etc.
Mission Grill is just a big more subdued than these other places, another bar to hop to. . .
Blu is supposedly mellow. . ..
bar hopping can get old, but fun once in a while.
Every tuesday night is $1 dollar night, meaning that when you bring/buy a Frog and Peach glass you get a refill for $1 (for Bud light, $3 for Guinness). The place, a neat little pub with a rather spacey back yard, tends to be packed with cool people. They also have live music, all kinds thereof; metal, punk, reagge, rock...
Dress Code: Whatever is comfy.