“Some restaurant owners say something stupid like, ‘It’s in my blood.’ And I don’t know, maybe it is, but I owned two bars previous to this and neither worked out,” said Todd Brown, owner and founder of Bub’s. “That’s the crazy part. You kind of have to be an idiot to be in this business. I think that’s why I’ve done so well.”
Brown and his former business partner started the first Bub’s in Oceanside back in the early ’90s. Though the building lacked a kitchen, fresh food was still a priority to Brown, who used the barbecue from his house to grill up wings on the sidewalk in front of the bar for hungry drinkers. They weren’t fried, but people loved them.
“I figured the only chance I had at making it in the business was having good food,” said Brown. “That’s what started it all. Food creates an atmosphere and it’s kind of the core to the concept. You can get a cold beer up and down the street, but we knew we could really differentiate ourselves with food.”
Unfortunately, Bub’s Dive Bar took a dive south, eventually going out of business altogether. Fortunately, Brown had another chance to make his grilled wings take flight when a cheap location opened up in Pacific Beach. So, in 1998, Bub’s Dive Bar became Bub’s at the Beach, grilled wing phenomenon and premier Pittsburg Steelers sports bar.
“It being nothing, and me having nothing, lined up pretty good,” said Brown, who was given the building after a previous buyer’s grill failed after just 30 days. “My business partner convinced me to make the location another Bub’s. Honestly, I didn’t even really like the name, but figured, ‘Why not?’ It was my first opportunity to do my own thing.”
Brown made Bub’s unique from the get-go, with East Coast menu items like “Steakums,” serving chunks of steak fajita-style, topped with peppers, mushrooms and the works, inspired by Brown’s Virginia Tech college days.
Bub’s was also one of the first bar and grills to serve Tater Tots instead of fries, improvising off a fluke food delivery. Now, it’s a staple in their menu, serving Nacho Tots, Ballpark Tots, Sweet Potato Tots, and, most popularly, Tator Skin Tots.
Even the choice of an all-brick bar table, open wood ceiling beams and game tables came from Brown and his team trying to be “as creative as we could with the least amount of money we had.” But there is a sort of prophetic aspect to it as well.
“My landlord was sitting there watching me brick this bar up and he said it made him happy because it made him feel like I planned to stick around,” said Brown.
Twenty years later, Bub’s gets to celebrate their long-term, food-famous relationship with the Pacific Beach community. Leading up to the main event, the bar and grill is offering nostalgic throw-back specials all week long, like 25-cent wing Wednesdays. While the party on Sunday is invitation only from 7 to 9 p.m. for their regulars, 9 p.m. till closing time is open to the public.
“We’re just stoked to have been a part of Pacific Beach for 20 years,” said Brown. “We feel like we’re a real part of the community. Who knows, maybe we’ll get another 20 years. We don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.”
Bub’s at the Beach
What: Celebrating 20 years on Sunday, Aug. 26.
Where: 1030 Garnet Ave.
Hours: Mondays to Fridays 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.