Burlesque bar flaunts all things risqué

by Matt Doran

Sam Sparhawk, Staff Photographer
Sam Sparhawk, Staff Photographer

What’s not to like: flirtatious waitresses in fishnets, sultry live music, spacious leather booths and cocktails called Kentucky Tramp and another that makes an obvious gonorrhea reference? Saint Peter should be the bouncer, because what lies behind those pearly gates is surely heaven.

Actually, the theme of Marble Room is not exactly Jesus and Moses’s type of haunt. Patrons of this hedonistic relic are looking to embrace a more sensual lifestyle rather than live piously and rack up points for the afterlife. And the staff is all too happy to oblige.

Crammed among the many bars and restaurants along Fifth Avenue, Marble Room stands as a monument to downtown San Diego’s less scrupulous past. The building itself was once home to The Golden Poppy Saloon and Hotel, a brothel of considerable repute. The Marble Room takes its name from the marble that patrons of The Golden Poppy would receive upon paying for their pleasurable company. Today, Madame Cora, the same name of the madame of The Golden Poppy, is known to hand out marbles to patrons on occasion.

While the brothel may no longer be in existence, the bordello-themed bar is still attracting a crowd eager to revel in the establishment’s licentious history. Through the Western saloon-style red doors waits a bevy of scantily clad women ready to serve drinks and food in a most risqué setting. Paintings of nude, buxom femmes line the walls. Red lights set a decidedly racy tone. Next to the bar is a small stage where singers of blues and jazz croon and occasionally lure guests onto the dance floor.

The menu is fairly extensive and has won awards, and in a place celebrating carnal indulgence, it is only fitting to satiate all appetites. The prices lean toward reasonable, and as a third date spot, Marble Room fits the bill nicely.

The service can be slow, but the décor, music and vibe help ease the wait, and any frustrations are readily diffused by the friendly staff. Weekends, like anywhere else downtown, can be crowded, so reservations are encouraged.

Marble Room has all the key ingredients for a raunchy party — sex, booze, food, music — but throw in some lacy underwear and dress it all up in an old whorehouse, and you’ll lose your marbles.