October 12, 2012 | 10:59am
When it comes to dive bars, Long Beach has some of the best in Southern California. An area stuck between Orange County and Los Angeles, Long Beach is truly its own city, belonging to no one. An iconoclast. A haven for cheap beer and wild stories. And after spending many hours slaving over research -- ah um drinking and talking to bartenders -- we've compiled a list of the best dive bars. While it was difficult to cut the list down to only five, I took into account look, smell, crowd, the price of drinks, and history. So, barflies and wandering Beatniks/hipsters, I give you the top 5 dive bars in the LBC.
5. 36 36 Club
Known as the last-call bar, 36 36 Club
on Broadway is the type of dive bar you end up when you can't remember how the hell you got there. This dive boasts a glorious 1950s style sign, and it has been open for almost 40 years. With pool tables, a Harley-Davidson pinball machine, and a set of windows so dark you might wonder if the bartenders are actually vampires, the 36 36 Club is the perfect place for mayhem on Broadway. They even concoct their own drink; Pearl, a bartender who has been there for two years, called it the Jameson Mai Thai -- yes, a Polynesian-style mix made with whiskey.
Outsiders Beware: The window facing the bar is called Channel 36 36. It's where everyone sits and watches all the crazy shit happening on Broadway. So don't make a fool out of yourself and think no one is watching.
Now, some dive-bar purists might disagree with The Stache Bar
being called "divey," because they have hand-craft cocktails and microbrews. But The Stache is one of the best bars in Long Beach, and you won't find a yuppie sitting around drinking a martini and running his mouth about Paul Ryan or a single window that lets in dreaded natural light -- unless it's the beer by the same name. And like every great dive bar, you'll find a pool table -- the sweet blue felt is like the skin of the Na'vi from Avatar. Though the best part of the Stache Bar is the quality of craft cocktails you'll get for $8. They make amazing drinks with ginger beer and absinthe, but the drink that probably defines The Stache is the Old Fashioned. Plus, it's served with one giant ice cube.
Outsiders Beware: Don't wear a tie.
3. Joe Jost's
It's impossible to talk about bars in Long Beach without mentioning Joe Jost's
. This dive bar is an institution in the LBC with so much history they have a BC and an AD. Plus, it's basically a movie studio. The Bodyguard, License to Wed
, and The '60s
television series were all filmed inside of Jo Jost's walls where dead animals and old-timey Long Beach photos hang. But this is really a man's bar -- a place where the husband sneaks away from the nagging wife. They have a collection of old beer cans and a 19th century German rifle on the wall -- a mauser -- and a 100-year old peanut machine. Don't forget the pickled eggs and the polish sausages tucked in between two pieces of rye bread. Wash it all down with the house drink -- Busch in a schooner.
Outsiders Beware: This really is an older "guy's bar." Probably about 95% men. If you're a woman, be prepared to turn heads. And not in the good way -- the what-the-hell-are-you-doing-here kind of way.
2. "World Famous" Reno Room
On Broadway attached to Coco Renos
, there is a bar that has been world famous since 1950 -- the Reno Room
. Surrounded by tinted windows and strange naked portraits of women that look like they were painted by Van Gogh if he was on Prozac, the Reno Room is a staple of the Long Beach dive-bar scene. Here's a great story that pretty much sums it up. One night, Sydney was bartending, when a man opened the front door. In his hand, there was a severed goats head. He was holding the head by its ears, and the blood was dripping and the entrails were dangling like spaghetti. He asked, "Anybody want to buy a goat?" The bar is also famous for wandering poets, including Bukowski. Their bar defining drink: Milk of Amnesia -- a combination of Fireball, rum, and milk.
Outsiders Beware: The pool tables are warped. Don't get hustled by a local who knows how to play the greens.
This 4th Street bar is probably the "diveyist" of them all. Their defining drink is a Budweiser tallboy, which is sold for $2.75. And the strange part is that it's actually cheaper than a bud light regular can. That's because Fern's
is one of the few bars in Los Angeles County that still sells the retro Budweiser cans. That's not even the best part about this bar. (It does smell kind of like an old basketball shoe.) It has a huge connection to the LBC punk scene, and the jukebox plays classic punk -- Iggy Pop, the Pogues, and Bad Religion. Plus, Sublime used to hang out here, and they filmed one of their music videos in the back. Honestly, someone could probably write a book on Fern's, and the bartenders have been keeping notebooks about all the crazy stories. For instance, one guy took a shot of vodka through his eyeball; they used to feed a rat booze-soaked cherries until it died of alcohol poisoning; and Big Booty Judy won a wet T-shit competition with a series of ass claps. This bar is the quintessential (though it was a tough choice) dive bar, because it's drenched in nostalgia and stories of local legends. And the fact that they serve Busch for $1 on Monday and Tuesday pretty much put them over the top.
Outsiders Beware: Don't ever eat someone else's pizza. There's a story about a local legend, he goes by Regan, who brought in some pizza. Unaware of Regan's hijinks, Ranae, the manager, started handing out the pizza to the people sitting at the bar. All of a sudden, the bar became extremely weird. Turns out, the pizza was covered in shrooms.