Nestled at the south end of Chula Vista’s Third Avenue, Mr. D’s Cocktail Lounge (1322 Third Ave.) is the dive-bar equivalent of Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree. Equal parts charreada and hoedown, it’s the place where spinster Mexican aunts—who rock Christmas vests well into Candlemas Day and have kept the home-perm industry alive— come to bask in the forgiving mood lighting and shake their cola on the parquet dance floor to the sounds of Elvis Crespo and the “goddess of cumbia,” Margarita y su Sonora.
Decorative elements ranging from festive, beer-logo-emblazoned papel picado to a collection of sarcastic stickers (“If I wanted to hear an asshole, I’d fart”) give the home of “Tecate Tuesdays” its unique charm. The best ornament, hands-down, though, is the collection of a half-dozen plastic great horned owls (the kind meant to scare vermin) carefully perched atop the bar’s roof.
Here, the good shit isn’t kept on the top, but, rather, low to the ground inside a locked cabinet, and the popcorn ceiling is painted high-gloss black for that true gangsta feel.
“I’m not sure if I trust a man who drinks O’Doul’s,” bartender Jennifer said as she uncapped my premium non-alcoholic. It’d been a rough weekend, and I was on the wagon. She then showed a photo on her phone to a couple of the aforementioned tías, saying, “This gets me hard every time!” She refused to show me, but it was just as well. Nothing could top the images that ran rampant through my head.
An all-white cover band called Brown Sugar was performing soul standards, and as entertaining as they were, they played second fiddle to a cut-off patron rocking a bevy of San Diego-centric scalp tattoos who first refused to pay for a bottle of water and, then, in a haze, took a beer from a customer sitting bar-side and drenched his maniacal face, repeatedly shouting, “How do you like me now?” Flustered, Jennifer kept mistakenly handing me other patron’s change.
“Stay put,” she said, “you might leave here a rich man.”
With the band reaching its caramelized zenith, thanks to its rendition of “Knock on Wood,” Diego Dome made a final cameo by storming into the joint with an empty sports bottle and demanding, in a drunken vato accent, for it to be filled.
Hey, Mr. D’s, here’s a good New Year’s resolution for you: Add another owl to the parliament. Apparently, six just ain’t cutting it.