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TGIF: Head to The Spot for a Drink with Longtime Bartender Mario

Bartender Mario Delgado recalls serving Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Frank Sinatra, the entire Rat Pack.

Mario Delgado has been a bartender at The Spot in La Jolla for 15 years.
Mario Delgado has been a bartender at The Spot in La Jolla for 15 years.

Written by Megan Gallagher

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And if it’s up to long time La Jolla bartender, Mario Delgado, you’ll go to The Spot. 

Delgado, who currently serves as the shift manager and bartender at The Spot on Prospect Avenue, has been the man behind the drinks there for 15 years and has seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the restaurant world. 

La Jolla Patch sat down with him to hear more about the man who has become a staple in La Jolla’s dining scene.

La Jolla Patch: When did you first start working in La Jolla?

Mario Delgado: I started working at The Spot 15 years ago, but I have been working in La Jolla since 1980. My first job in La Jolla was at the now-missed Whaling Bar at the Valencia Hotel. Then I went on to the Grand Colonial for five years and was the manager of Avanti, which was a nightclub where Roppongi now stands. Then I came here.

La Jolla Patch: What is it about The Spot that made you want to stay?
Delgado: It is like Cheers of La Jolla in here. It is a spot for locals and that is what I really love about it.    

La Jolla Patch: How long have you been in the restaurant business?

Delgado: I started working at the Hotel Del in 1969. I was a busboy and server there and got to serve many movie stars and presidents. I served Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Frank Sinatra, the entire Rat Pack, you name it.

La Jolla Patch: That’s quite a list. What is one of your most memorable experiences?

Delgado: In 1969 when Reagan was governor, I was a busboy and I was serving him soup. As I got to the table he moved his arm and hit the soup out of my hand. It went all over me and all over the floor. He jumped right out of his seat and started cleaning me up. I was worried that I was going to get fired over it, but instead of getting fired I got an autograph. 

La Jolla Patch: What are some of the things that you’ve contributed to The Spot while working there?

Delgado: Well, I created something called the Mario-rita, which has been on our menu for more than four years now. It is a margarita with citrus. I muddle the orange, lemon, lime and agave so it is like a combination between a margarita and a mojito. It seems to be very popular.

The Spot also has “Mario’s Happy Hour” on Wednesday nights, which is when I bring flowers for all the ladies. What’s great is that all of the locals know each other and know about the happy hour, and look forward to it. It has become like a tradition. Other bars have tried to copy it, but it hasn’t worked.

La Jolla Patch: What is your pet peeve about how people behave in bars?

Delgado: Definitely how they’re always on their cell phone. I try to take their order and they’re not even paying attention. It wasn’t always like that, of course. Now everyone has a cell phone.

La Jolla Patch: What is the best way for someone to get your attention when the bar is busy?

Delgado: Give me a nice smile and I’ll be right there.

La Jolla Patch: What do you like most about working in restaurants?

Delgado: What I like most is that every day is different and every day is like a party. You’re going to the same place every day but there are new people and it’s never the same.

La Jolla Patch: What are some of your other hobbies and interests?

Delgado: On the weekends I like to go to the Hotel Del just to hang out. I also love playing racquetball.

I live in Chula Vista, but after work I try to go to places in town and stay in touch. I’ve been working here for 15 years and everyone knows me. It’s nice to say hello and give business to other local places.  

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