[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 weekly nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read as our bold web editor, Taylor "Hellcat” Hamby, stumbles into the dive bar scene every week to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
Downtown Fullerton is the place we young, hip drinkers love to hate. This was made apparent by an infamous, 2012 online photo essay, in which Weekly photographer LP Hastings and I made some observations on what happens to its bars when the daylight disappears. The horror, the horror: public urination, straight girls making out with one another, guys mercilessly showing off their practiced cat-calls and pickup lines. Does this happen around all of downtown Fullerton, in all the bars and restaurants? Of course not. But to pretend the area doesn't have a reputation for debauchery is akin to pretending the Catholic Church doesn't hide pedophile priests.
Yet for all the flack we hipsters give downtown Fullerton, our peers go there in droves every weekend, filling the bars and crowding the crosswalks in epic migrations that would've impressed the buffaloes. It can get overwhelming, which makes all the more welcome those bars in the area close enough to the epicenter of Commonwealth and Harbor to be included in the conversation but far enough that a girl in a tube dress and 5-inch heels is a rare sight because she physically can't walk there. One of those places is 2J's Cocktail Lounge, just a few blocks south of said epicenter, offering Fullertonians a bar to breathe in and out-of-towners a stiff drink and the luxury of NOT having to hear Daft Punk and Robin Thicke 10 times in one night.
See also: Top 15 Orange County Dive Bars
The liquor selection at 2J's is ample (my friends and I enjoyed its new shipment of Dickel rye), as is the beer selection: nine on tap and more bottled. It touts itself as the “swankiest dive bar in OC,” and though I've seen swankier, it does have a red-vinyl-cushioned bar, black-and-white-checkered floors, and red mood lighting. It's a large space: the bar, a billiards section with four tables, and an enclosed smoking patio complete with a barbecue for when the mood strikes.
The couple of times I've been to 2J's, the crowd–while large–has been pretty calm: no parking-lot shootings at the Shell station in the front, as had happened last year. The wildest thing I've witnessed was a guy and gal in their 30s trading stories about kids, including the gal having a kid with a guy she'd only been dating for a few months and the guy having had four kids in four years. WILD.
The most recent time I was there, it was a weeknight, and I was with a couple of friends and my boyfriend. My guy is a Ducks fan (you'll find out why in a bit), so I called first to make 100 percent sure there were TVs on which he could watch the game. “Do we have TVs?” the bartender asked. “We have a shitload of TVs.”
And she's right: I counted 13 DirectTV remotes behind the bar–haven't the staff heard of Logitech? So my friends were able to watch their sacred Ducks no matter which way they turned their heads. The team played a great game, beating the Phoenix Coyotes 5-2. Fans might be familiar with the Ducks' victory song played at the Honda Center after every winning home game. You know, the one that goes, “Whoohooohoooooo. . . .” That song, “My Baby,” is by Orange County's own Jeramiah Red, which happens to be my boyfriend's band. I was just about to ask the bartender if he could turn up the volume a bit so we could hear it better when the bar's live music started. It's okay, though; the Ducks are winning frequently this season, so we get to hear the song a lot–such a proud gal I am!
Musician Brett Cain took over, playing his country-fried covers, as he does most Wednesday nights. Sitting on a stool, Cain more resembled a bouncer than a singer/songwriter with his thick build and bald head. His tunes and voice were enjoyable–perfect for the Zac Brown Band fans in the house. And it was fitting, as 2J's is a relaxed place to shoot pool and drink on the cheap, a fun escape from the nights when downtown's watering holes get too crazy–except when people talk about babies making babies.
BEST PICK-UP LINE: “Yeah, the only bills I have to pay for are my insurance and my cell phone. My parents pay the rest.” Dude knows how to impress a lady!
BIGGEST MYSTERY: How did such a cool little place end up next to a Shell station?
2J's Cocktail Lounge,
120 W. Houston, Fullerton, (714) 871-9665; www.2jslounge.com.