Charcoal House

Few places are better known for their ripened regulars.
  • Few places are better known for their ripened regulars.

Charcoal House

9566 Murray Drive, La Mesa

British actor Naveen Andrews once said: “Older women know who they are, and that makes them more beautiful than younger ones. I like to see a face with some character. I want to see lines. I want to see wrinkles.”

Few places are better known for their ripened regulars than the nearly half-century-old Charcoal House in La Mesa. Named for the underwhelming steakhouse in back, the Charcoal House is more notorious for its spacious front-of-the-house bar, which was long ago dubbed “the Wrinkle Room.”

A bit over a year ago, the Wrinkle Room got a facelift with new owners, management, and a renovation. Curious if the place still lived up to its label, I visited on a recent Wednesday to check out their famous karaoke.

Behold! Faces full with character and self-knowing were everywhere. Footloose cougars and post-menopausal saber-toothed tigers ruled the dance floor. A couple of over-eager young kits fumbled over Sublime lyrics with cocktails in their hands.

The comprehensive demographics came as no surprise. After all, out front, the Charcoal House’s big, red sign suggests a Chinese restaurant, while arched windows and mirrors inside hint at Mexican origins. The courtyard, meanwhile, looks like a miniature golf course.

It’s somewhere between all these aesthetics that one finds the classic Wrinkle Room patron — croaking out a haphazard rendition of “Summertime” or a lesser-known Sam Cooke number to a backdrop of sequined high heels tapping to the beat.

“Club Charcoal” on Friday and Saturday (10 p.m. to close) features DJ Frog selecting hip-hop and R&B jams with $3 shot specials.

There’s plenty of parking in the lot behind the bar, so be sure to bring a case of Ensure tallboys to tailgate with the girls before karaoke kicks off (also Thursdays, 8 p.m. to close).

  • Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight(ish) daily; until 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday
  • Happy Hour: 3 to 7 p.m. daily — $2 domestics, $3 Premium, 25 percent off appetizers, and $1 off wells/wine
  • Cards accepted

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Also noteworthy: the building hasn't burned down in at least a decade - I remember the place going up in flames at least three times while I was a kid, always rising from the ashes...though repeated partial reconstruction could explain the weird layout.

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