[Editor's Note: We all know local music and dive bars go hand-in-hand. So in the interest of merging the two together on Heard Mentality, we bring you our newest nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our Mexican-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
Newport Beach boasts four types of bars, each corresponding to a different strata of the city's life, each a glimpse into how Newps interacts with the rest of Orange County. One version is the dives favored by working-class locals along the coast, your Blackie's and Cassidy's and Malarky's, where my friend and I once nearly got in a fight with some bros because--guess what?--we were Mexicans entering the Balboa Peninsula on a Friday night, and our kind didn't belong there. Then there are the dens for MILFs and sugar daddies: Gulfstream, Quiet Woman, Duke's Place and Javier's, populated almost exclusively by the Audi set and outsiders who want some wrinkled, rich love for their night. A third Newps hooch haven is the club bar--Tapas, Tentation, Ten and anywhere else 20-something girls from across OC want EDM for their twerking pleasures.
And then there's the most cosmopolitan crew of them all: the expense-report bar, the place where execs have lunch with people they're not trying to impress, where midlevel workers hang out during Happy Hour while letting the traffic on the 73 and PCH die down, where conferences that couldn't afford to rent the St. Regis or the Montage suggest attendees haunt if they want a night out on the town. The majority of the boozehounds at these bars aren't Newporters. There are really only a couple of these, almost all in the area from Muldoon's going inland toward John Wayne Airport, to that business area where you sneeze and Irvine gets your spittle. And the genre's best representative is Classic Q.
It's a cavernous place, with a patio area, rooms for pool tables, a lounge with low-slung leather couches near a fireplace, and a big bar at the center of it all. During Happy Hour, the crowd is overwhelmingly middle-aged, middle-class male, and the conversations are as much about financial quarters as basketball ones. This type of male has money--the women who come here at Happy Hour are usually office drones in their 20s and 30s, sitting in groups as if it were an eighth-grade dance--but is painfully nerdy: You will see a balding guy in a long-sleeved shirt bouncing his knees to whatever KIIS-FM hit plays from the speakers. With a design emphasis on wood, low lighting and muted lines, Classic Q would have the ambiance of a hunting lodge if not for the more than 50 flat-screen televisions covering the bar, tuned to every ESPN and FOX Sports affiliate in the known universe on the walls--together, they resemble Mission Control at NASA.
If you're looking for a gastropub or a dive-y experience, Classic Q ain't the place. Here, as many types of Stoli and ABSOLUT variants are stocked as bourbons, the cole slaw tastes of the tub from which it just got scooped, the only advertised cocktails are shots with evocative names such as the Red-Headed Slut (bad) and the Rumchata (not bad), and Lagunitas is what passes for craft beer. The menu is standard bar food: sandwiches, surprisingly stellar hamburgers, pointless salads and inedible pizzas. And yet I can't help but like the spot. Classic Q is doing something right: It has been around since 1991, a lofty accomplishment given the independent expense-report bar must compete with the TGI Friday's and El Toritos of the county for the tabs of travelers. The attitude is kept at a minimum--remember, the customers here are aspiring to graduate to Javier's at some point in their lives, so they've yet to transform into douches--and the waitresses, all curvy and cute, with black T-shirts accentuating what God gifted them with, pay attention.
Best of all, the pool tables get some serious action going, the billiard cloths tended to with the care of a groundskeeper. In fact, the one group of Newport regulars I see are men who enjoy one of the last non-immigrant pool halls left in the county--play them with caution, though, as Gramps will own your girlfriend by the end of the night if you're not careful. And isn't that how every night in Newport is supposed to end?
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INTERESTING BUT TRUE: A vending machine sells condoms and cigarettes--and the cigarettes are more expensive.
STRANGEST MEMENTO: The framed Chone Figgins jersey. Classic Q fellas: He hasn't played for your Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim since 2009.
The Classic Q Billiards and Sports Club, 4251 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 261-9458; theclassicq.com.