Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 5 a.m.
Inside Knuckle Heads bar
Despite south Orange County's
polished reputation for being pristine,upscale and, well, boring, there lies a couple of dark secret spots in the cracks and crevices of this conservative paradise. It's within those blind spots you find south county's most remarkable, crazy and just plain creepy characters marinating themselves in all kinds of fermentation. Where, you so eagerly ask? Ladies and gents, I give you the top five dive bars of south Orange County.
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5. Ole's Tavern
By reputation the great city of San Clemente seems to dominate south county's dive bar scene raking in several fine options, Ole's Tavern being one. Perhaps one of the smallest bars located around the infamous "triangle" area off south El Camino Real, Ole's dark interiors are pretty simple: pool, T.V., jukebox with over a million over-played songs and cheap-ass drinks served up by hot girls in tight black tanks and, of course, the regulars who meander or march in to knock one back. For all of you Texan transplants, yes they have Shiner Bock.
Ladies Beware: Drunk and horny Marines
4. The Sandpiper:
Also known by many as "the Dirty Bird," this Laguna Beach bar's small but mighty stage hosts a number of local reggae and cover bands like local faves Rebel Rockers and World Anthem. Infamous for their reggae Wednesdays and Thursdays, a small, five dollar cover gets you through the doors and surrounded by dreds, cheap rum and cokes and tons of colorful boardshorts.
Ladies Beware: Drunk/stoned and horny surfers attempting every cheesy pick-up line in the book.
3. Turk's Bar:
Walking around Dana Point Harbor, you might blink and miss the tiny crevice that is Turk's. During the day, this small bar serves up pub-style food and showcases a plethora of cheap drinks and beer and is surrounded by the obvious nautical themed decor. Marines, fisherman, and dirty sailors tend to gravitate to this hole-in-the-wall after a long day out at sea while a steady crop of South County hipsters practice standing around in dark glasses and skinny jeans looking salted and weathered like the rest of them.
Ladies Beware: Salty seamen with no concept of personal space.
If you're in the mood for leather jackets and ten-gallon hats, visit Swallow's Inn. Located in the heart of San Juan Capistrano, this bar hosts dance space aplenty for the line dancin' folk where you can boot-scoot-n' boogie your drunk ass all the way to the X-rated bathroom for a much needed piss. There, you will be welcomed by one of the most famous assets of the bar: large amounts of porn cut-outs pasted scrap-book style all over the bathroom walls. Plenty of "for a good time, call" numbers also decorate the inside of the bathroom as well. It's definitely the kind of place that makes you want to open the door with a paper towel.
Ladies Beware: Drunk cowboys who forgot to get off their high horses.
1. Knuckle Heads:
Local characters love Knuckle Heads Bar in San Clemente for good drinks, friends and food.
When a bar's staple saying is "Sorry we are open!" at first you might reconsider, but if there ever was a "Cheers" for south Orange County, Knuckle Heads would be the call. If you're not a north San Clemente local or just a plain old alchy, everybody knows it the minute you walk through the doors. Two stages are hosts to local band favorite like rockers SixStep and rockabilly band Mad Dog and The Smokin' J's. There's almost no need to buy drinks because the alcohol smell and friendly demeanor seem to intoxicate you where ever you decide to park it. But just for good humor, you might as well purchase one of their cheap drinks and, hell, why not a burger to go with it? Famous for their sliders for only $5.50, their burgers are fresh ground chuck on sweet Hawaiian buns with a special ketchup that's as spicy as the crowd. Eventually you learn there are no strangers at this most awesome dive. Yes, by time you leave everybody will know your name.
Ladies Beware: Everyone