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  • Bars
  • River West/West Town
  • price 2 of 4
  1. A variety of tostadas on a table
    Photograph: Courtesy of Diego
  2. Fish taco
    Photograph: Courtesy of Diego
  3. tuna tostada
    Photograph: Jeffy Mai
  4. A burger and fries
    Photograph: Courtesy of Diego
  5. Shrimp and mac tostada
    Photograph: Courtesy of Diego
  6. tacos dorados
    Photograph: Courtesy of Diego
  7. The interior of Diego
    Photograph: Courtesy of Diego

Time Out says

This upbeat West Town bar refreshes the neighborhood tavern with a casual, mariscos-heavy menu and bright environs.

It’s not every day that a neighborhood tavern serves standout food that transports you elsewhere without feeling contrived. Leave it to a place that self-describes as a dive, I suppose. Of course, breezy, colorful Diego—in the former G&O Tavern space in West Town—is anything but a dive, dressed in blue and white tile, beachy woods and pale yellow walls accented by clusters of framed contemporary art and puffy graffiti. The food, chef/owner Stephen Sandoval’s loving nod to the street fare of Tijuana and his hometown of San Diego, centers around a terrific lineup of Baja-inspired tostadas and tacos. 

Said tostadas shatter with a satisfyingly greasy crunch, by the way, indicating they’re fried to order from fresh corn tortillas. We broke off shards to scoop up bites of tangy snapper ceviche in coconut milk with tomatoes, avocado, onion and lime, while sipping our first round of drinks. A crisp September breeze floated in through the garage-style doors, which were thrown open to expose the spacious, wedge-shaped patio full of potted palms and revelers wrapped in colorful serape blankets. 

Diego represents the casual companion to Sandoval’s forthcoming fine-dining restaurant Sueños, which will open at 1235 W. Grand Avenue early in 2024. The chef, who worked with Rick Bayless at Leña Brava, laid the groundwork for both concepts through his popup Entre Sueños, which morphed into a lengthy, beloved residency at Soho House dubbed Sueños. 

It’s hard to pick a wrong tostada on Sandoval’s tight menu, be it toothsome octopus and shrimp mingling with red onion in tart-sweet red salsa; playful shrimp with chipotle-tinged macaroni; or the elegant yellowfin tuna tartare with pickled red onion, avocado and a drizzle of nutty salsa macha. Likewise with the hefty tacos, like beer-battered pescado (cod) with cabbage and crema. However, I must insist that you order the Gobernador taco, comprising shrimp encased in quesabirria-style caramelized cheese, topped with pickled onions and smeared with crema. Two tacos will more than satisfy most, which perhaps justifies their higher price point ($7 to $8). 

Punchy salsas are deep in flavor even when gentle on heat, the sort you can dab thoughtfully to season or dunk with abandon because you want to drink every bit—as was the case with the magnetic, roasted Tatemada salsa with blistered chiles, tomatoes and garlic. 

Beverage director Danielle Lewis’s agave-centric cocktail menu cleverly hides complexity within easy-going guises. Un Perro takes the refreshing Greyhound somewhere more savory, infusing vodka with strawberries for 24 hours and then mixing it with miso simple syrup, lime and grapefruit juice. In the sultry Flor Morada, hibiscus-infused mezcal gets treacley sweetness and heat from chipotle-piloncillo (whole cane sugar) syrup with a tart squeeze of fresh lime juice. 

This is the sort of joint you wouldn’t feel judged for rolling into with a hangover. Depending on your state, a self-described hangover-curing michelada with a raw oyster might be just what the doctor ordered. Or maybe a steak burrito rolled up with seasoned fries is more your speed. The latter, despite packing tender, well-seasoned steak, was rolled such that the fries were sequestered on one end and meat on the other, one of my biggest burrito pet peeves. A solid burger—with flavorful Creekstone beef, pickled jalapenos and terrific macha aioli on soft Aya Pastry bun—likewise fell a little short on execution, via under-melted cheese. 

Service, though occasionally fickle on the part of the servers, revealed genuine enthusiasm for the food and drink. The music rambled along with our meal at the same relaxed, upbeat tempo, mixing dreamy Frank Ocean tracks and ‘90s hip hop from Q-Tip and the Pharcyde. 

It all felt so fresh, the sort of reincarnation of the neighborhood tavern we need more of, with a self-assured point of view and connection to its community. Plus, come February, I’ll be relishing those beach-hut vibes sitting on my winter coat as I feast on marisco tostadas and micheladas. 

The vibe: Designed with help from Aida Napoles at AGN Design, the beachy environs highlight street art and illustrations from local artists like Amanda Rivera-Redic and Andrés Galván. There’s a row of flatscreens above the bar for posting up on game days. Like G&O before it, Diego boasts an excellent patio, weather permitting. Live DJs spin every Friday and Saturday night starting at 9:30pm.

The food: Baja-inspired handhelds anchor the focused menu. Don’t miss the snapper ceviche in rich coconut milk, the savory tuna tartare tostada or the Gobernador taco with shrimp and caramelized queso. 

The drink: Beachy cocktails lean blessedly more balanced and complex than cloying, like the savoy Greyhound riff Un Perro. Compact beer and wine lists focus on Mexico and California, including a smooth, peppery Baja cabernet. 

Maggie Hennessy
Written by
Maggie Hennessy


459 N Ogden Ave
Opening hours:
Tue-Thu 4pm-2am, Fri-Sun noon-2am
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