Who knows where dive bars come from? Like thoughts (according to the movie Empire Records), they just appear. This is especially true on Fourth Street in Long Beach, where decades of young, cool bartenders have turned a crawl’s-worth of 6 a.m., old-man bars into the city’s punk-rock home for $3 well drinks and grimy, no-Journey-please jukeboxes.
Blake Wytock is a serious vet of Red Room, the smallest and most well-loved of these Fourth Street dives, a famous skateboarder hangout that on weekends gets sardine-can full. With a cast of regulars and a savings account full of tip money (some of which might have once been mine), Wytock set out on his own late last year and opened the Good Bar and Eatery in the former Bull Bar space on Seventh Street.
In many ways, the Good Bar is a dive bar in the grand Long Beach tradition. There are stiff-and-cheap well drinks, two pool tables, $6 shot specials and – in the backroom, where the bar is – no windows to tell you when you’re technically day drinking. But in so many other ways, the Good Bar is a major upgrade from dive status, just as was Alex’s Bar before it (Alex Hernandez was also once a Fourth Street icon).
There are several dozen taps of thoughtful craft beer, board games and Jenga sets to keep you occupied when the big-screen TVs don’t, and lots of custom art around, including a wall of skateboards that most nights serves as a backdrop for DJs and local bands. And don’t forget the photo booth in the corner, crucial for remembering the times you won’t remember.
Also setting the Good Bar apart from most of its dark, dank brethren is an all-day food menu, which has drawn me up to Seventh and Redondo for many a hungover lunch (I’ve also just stopped by for a quick bite as I fly down “Highway 7” on the way in from Orange County). A recent menu revamp eliminated a sad wedge salad and all-meat chili bowl in favor of classy takes on basic bar food, from burgers to wings.
Not too many dive bar kitchens make their own kimchi and gochujang aoli so they can offer a Korean take on the LA danger dog! And the Good Bar might be the sole purveyor in Long Beach of stewed chicken tinga so good it deserves to be put on $3 tacos and piled-high nachos with not-so-nacho-cheese sauce and lime crema. You definitely can’t eat a sourdough bacon-egg breakfast sandwich with one hand while playing Big Buck Hunter with the other anywhere else in town. In fact, we didn’t even know it was a human possibility until we landed at the Good Bar.
So, thanks, Blake, for the heavy-handed pours at Red Room all those years and congrats on finally getting your own space, where you can freely be a jukebox Nazi and serve your famous Joe Jost’s-inspired pickled eggs to the masses.
In the process, you’ve done the unthinkable and created Long Beach’s best new dive bar — with a menu to match. Now all you have to do is get the crawlers to move off Fourth Street.
The Good Bar and Eatery, 3316 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 433-6282.