[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.]
Just down the hill from Newport's Back Bay, where MILFs wearing Lululemon jog while pushing their babies (or dogs) in strollers, hides a watering hole suitable for us working-class creeps. Found under the stairs of a restaurant that just says “Pizza,” you wouldn't even know the Anchor Bar was in this sterile strip mall that's home to the overpriced Irvine Ranch Market unless your drunk pal told you about it.
And, boy, is it a welcome sight in the classy part of Zooport! A large metal anchor on the wall greets you as you walk in, the bar's dim lights shining off it to further illuminate the small, narrow room. Plastic-y booths line the wall beneath tiki wood carvings; Shag-esque lanterns in green and yellow hang lazily from the ceiling. Opposite the entrance sits the bar, with its perpetually bubbling water behind the liquor shelves. A few beers are on tap, and you can order food from Original Pizza II upstairs. It's good, but we usually stick to the sauce, thank you very mucho.
I went on a recent evening with a few friends, one being Sara Escalante, a writer for the local blog Music In Press. She grew up in the area and explained to me this bar has changed several times over the years, with different owners and names. This incarnation is more of the swanky, beach lounge than the seedier environment it has been in the past, she said, the kind of place where it wasn't any big deal that someone was sneaking lines of coke in the corner.
The night we visited, the clientele seemed to keep their noses clean (snorting coke is SO 1990s Metropolis, anyways). The room was full of guys in their early thirties; Sara, the bartender and I were the only ladies. The guys wore Balboa's male uniform: backwards caps, sweat pants, hoodies and Rainbow sandals, with most clothes sporting the logo of Don't Care. “Newport Harbor High burnout brand,” Sara mused.
But it ain't all overgrown boys here. Dano Forte's Juke Joint Freak Show plays every Wednesday; this rompin', stompin' one-man band had howled dirty blues weekly at Avalon for a few years. Happen to catch Social D during their annual House of Blues residency earlier this year? Dano Forte played a bunch of those shows. He sets up with a Gretsch and a harmonica, a couple of suitcases to house tips, a license plate from Mississippi, a hand, prayer candles, and other oddities–don't miss him.
So while the spot itself and décor offer you an escape from the high-priced, rich, plastic stereotypes associated with OC beach living, it remains a bar for locals. And when those strolling MILFs clean themselves up and start flirting with the Sailors alums come Saturday night, that Zooport magic rules the air.
BEST LINE OF THE NIGHT: “I had just bought that car. I had it for a month, and then he made it smell like piss for three weeks!”
BEST FLAIR: The large paintings of topless hula girls. Tacky yet classic!
Anchor Bar, 2675 Irvine Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 574-5141.