By Ron Donoho / Photo by Andrew Vanover
The overhead roar of airplanes making their final approach to nearby Lindbergh Field makes North Little Italy’s El Camino the perfect place to enjoy a drink while reading this transportation-themed issue of PacificSD. The nueva Mexicana-themed bar/restaurant is directly below the flight path. The noise is a trip.
“More than 90 percent of guests love the planes flying over so loudly, and they think it’s amazing,” says bartender (and bar operations manager) Brynn Nersesian. “They cheer and do shots and play drinking games. There are a few people who hate it, but we’re loud and vibrant. This is definitely not your Nana’s place... though, your Nana is welcome here. Just know what you’re getting into.”
Nersesian, 31, is a New Hampshire native and now downtown denizen who’s been in San Diego for 10 years. She started at El Camino’s original location in South Park (now closed) four years ago. Nersesian recalls a time at El Camino (formerly Airport Lounge) when an overhead plane caused a stir.
“When planes fly over, there is a [wave of turbulence] that happens about a minute after they pass,” she says. “It’s super-loud, and sometimes there’s wind. Earlier this summer, the patio was full, around dinnertime. So much wind came, that it stirred up dirt and sand and just covered all the people and their food.”
Most shrugged it off. Some folks had to have their meals replaced. “I don’t know why it happened that day,” says Nersesian. “But that’s the only time it’s ever done that.”
So the odds are low that an airplane vortex will affect anyone who stops by for weekend brunch and orders a 40-ounce cocktail punch bowl.
“People love our new punch bowls,” says Nersesian, who had a hand in creating El Camino’s cocktail list. “They’re tequila-based, and we light them on fire. We put them in these amazing, vintage, carnival-glass bowls. We were giving people teacups to drink from, but we’ve found most people want to drink them through straws. It’s a party vibe.”
The list of party drinks goes on to include Micheladas - beer mixed with Clamato and served in a glass boot with the rim lined with spicy chili and dried lime.
“I think half the people who order a Michelada do it because we serve it in a boot,” says Nersesian.
Her drink of choice is a Mezcal Old-Fashioned. That’s what she’ll be holding in her hand when a 747 whisks her off to a vacation on Oahu.
Lindbergh Field Average Flights Per Day: 620 - 310 arrivals and 310 departures.
Departure Curfew: Planes cannot depart Lindbergh Field after 11:30 p.m. or before 6:30 a.m.
Arrival Curfew: None. Per federal mandate, planes may land at Lindbergh at any time of day.