If you've only driven past this bar in the industrial section of Commonwealth Avenue in Fullerton, it's likely you thought the name was misspelled. The sign reads, “Trop'cs Lounge,” the stem from the “i” in Tropics having dropped long ago, and no one bothered to replace it. Pair the dilapidated signage with the cobwebs chillin' in the corner of the parking lot, and you know you have yourself a bona-fide dive.
There's a rusted mini camper, a luxury car and a midcentury sedan that probably looked really nice when Kennedy was in office but now sports graffiti and a cockeyed bumper and is perched atop a rusty trailer with a flat tire.
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The Tropics Lounge's outside may remind you of the Rainforest Cafe thanks to the wide, sagging leaves of the overgrown trees in front of the bar. But you only have to walk down the incline to this working-class bar to realize you are very, very far from Downtown Disney.
Inside, the bar is lit mostly by neon beer signs and a Bud Light lamp above the single pool table. Everyone else there was strictly lit by alcohol. While you're ordering, take a look up: Beer caps have been pushed into the ceiling in cute designs.
The only bartender working that night didn't know what was on tap. That would be a permissible sin for most new bartenders, but Tropics Lounge has only two beers on tap. She also wasn't sure of any of the drink prices. As she brought over my draft, she said she wasn't sure whether she charged the two gentlemen I was sitting with for their brews. She told them she would check her notes. I hate to bash the girl–she seemed really sweet–but in all honesty, she was two shells shy of a peanut.
The after-work crowd–all 11 of us–on this Thursday was all white guys and gals, mostly in their late 30s. Later, this place gets packed for punk shows. There's a low stage in the back, which is cool, but who decided to put a pool table in front of it? With all the bashings that thing probably gets from the pits and crowds, there's no way it's is even close to level.
Tropics is in various states of disrepair, but nothing too off-putting. The cushioned lining of the long bar in the middle of the room is flaking off from wear; the beer pong machine game looked pretty fun, but it was jammed. The ladies' room door doesn't lock, and there's only one stall, so there are likely plenty of games of pee-time peek-a-boo.
I wish I had wild and crazy stories to tell you, but the working-class crowd was pretty tame. Guess I'll have to come the next time my guy's aging punk rock buddies Riotgun play. Nothing like drinking with middle-aged rockers to get the party started…
Come for: An escape from the college kids at the bars in downtown Fullerton.
Favorite Piece of Flair: The suit of armor, for sure!
The Tropics Lounge, 1842 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-1977. More info here.