[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.]
The Huddle is an OC staple, cool enough to attract Costa Mesa hipsters yet unpretentious enough to cater to obvious transplants sporting workshirts with un-ironic cut-off sleeves, cowboy hats and beer bellies. Young, old, shitfaced and composed: All are welcome at the Huddle–if you're brave enough to venture past the neighboring sex shop and through the bar's windowless, concrete façade. But it's such a hospitable, comfy place, with cheap booze and open pool tables, that one of my friends accidentally used the ladies room that night, despite the clear signage. He had only had half a beer at that point.
On one recent venture to the Huddle, we passed a man selling assorted baseball caps, all displayed on the hood of a sedan parked in front of the entrance. The market for drunken sports fans going out for a smoke must be lucrative here. Inside, a block of old-school Modest Mouse spewed from the jukebox, put on by a man with an Anaheim Ducks tattoo on the back of his hand and mutually enjoyed by our bartender, who sported slicked-back hair and a red checkered shirt.
The bartender checked my friends' and my IDs. "I like the blond," he said, referring to my new-ish hair, as he handed back my ID. Thanks! As he filled our pitcher of Blue Moon, I scoped around, noticing the awesome liquor selection. There were the standard well hooches, but also offerings of single-barrel and crafted whiskeys that are not common at most dives.
It's a big facility, with approximately eight pool tables and room to spare. A mini-arcade of dive-bar games and electronic darts sits on the back wall, near the restroom. But the real entertainment is the customers. Not too long after sitting down, what appears to be a lovers' skirmish quietly went down at the end of the bar. A man confronted a blonde who was talking to another guy seated at the bar. He got pissed and stormed off, sitting halfway across the long room at an empty table, his anger stewing as he glared straight ahead. Yikes!
On a lighter note, a man with a backward Patriots hat leaned up against the bartop and yelled back to his friends. "What kinda pitchers you guys want? Pitchahs of bee-ah or pitchahs of naked women?"
I giggled as he walked the beer back to his friends. I went to put my hands in my pockets and realized my jacket was inside-out.
"Hey, ya jacket's on inside-out," came a voice from behind me. It was the Patriots fan. "You see that white tag sticking out? That's a dead giveaway," he joked, as I laughed and put it back on correctly. "There ya go. Pockets ah on the outside. That's how you can tell you have it on right. I'm Al, by the way."
As Al introduced himself, he pointed to my friend. "Hey, Wahlbahg," he said.
"I get that a lot," my pal replied.
"I know ya do. I'm from Boston. You look like Mahky Mahk when he was a kid, still modeling underweah. Not that I know what you look like in underweah. That's on a need-to-know basis, and believe me, I don't wanna know."
Al was funny, a regular, and his Boston accent and boisterous attitude made everything he said funny. He shook all of our hands and walked back to his friends.
Later, the blonde involved in the earlier quarrel sat down next to me. "I'm losing it," she says. Happens to the best of us, I told her.
"You're right," she said, sadly. "I'm one can short of a six pack, man." She put her head in her hands and walked away. I hope her night got better because between jokester Al and the nice bartenders, I found the Huddle to be a happy place.
BEST LINE OF THE NIGHT: "Women get bushy in the winter, man. That's all right, though. I don't mind–I have a weed whacker."
FAVORITE PIECE OF FLAIR: The very large painting of a naked lady across from the bar.
The Huddle, 741 Baker St., Costa Mesa, (714) 540-0966.