[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 newest nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold scribe Dave Lieberman takes over for web editor Taylor "Hellcat” Hamby and stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
“Well, Brian?” asked the barkeep, pointing at Wheel of Fortune on an ancient tube television mounted in the corner.
“Some Kind of Wonderful,” called out a man with a long trail of tip money cascading off the bar.
“You should go on that show,” said another man across the bar. “You could win a bunch of money and buy a round.” He looks at me and says, “Or you. Maybe you could win.”
“I'm not smart enough for that show,” I reply, chuckling. “But if they ever add beer-drinking to the Olympics, I'll get a gold medal.”
Brian chuckles; Angela, the bartender, rolls her eyes.
Welcome to the new old dive bar, a neighborhood hangout straight out of a sitcom set in an industrial Midwestern city, with a strange beer selection, more flavored alcohol than anyplace north of Ladera Ranch, and patrons who actually talk to one another. This isn't some post-college hangout with tampons stapled to the wall, and it's not some sports-mad sawdust joint full of meatheads. It's a normal bar plopped down in a downmarket shopping plaza in that part of Anaheim the City Council tries its best to ignore.
You'd never know by looking at it that Take 5 is a bar that has been recently reinvented; the current ownership has only been in place for a few months, and it's obvious they haven't finished making changes. First of all, it's hard to tell if it's open (it is) because, as with all dive bars, there's hardly a window in the joint. The interior is full of hardware and shelves that are no longer in use; hanging from the ceiling are random baskets and rails, once used by the much-grungier prior incarnation of Take 5. The bar well is closest to the front door, and stools line the long bar all the way to the jukebox, which is on the back wall. The bartop is worn down from years of people bellying up to it. The interior is spotless by dive-bar standards, though the smell of long-banned cigarette smoke lingers.
You can tell just by the way things are set up that the old owners didn't trust the people who worked for them: There were meters on the liquor bottles and locks everywhere, and everything fancier than peppermint schnapps was shut away behind a screen. Now, though, speed pourers cap each of the dozens of bottles (including at least a dozen varieties of schnapps), and the atmosphere is laid-back but friendly.
My Jack and Coke was a very generous free pour, with enough Coke to just flavor it; given the other patrons' used glassware sitting on the counter, shots and beer are the usual choices.The beer selection, though, is odd, or perhaps just ready for replenishment on a Monday night. There's Coors Light and Bud Platinum, Stella Artois, and occasionally some Newcastle.
After consoling the contestant who couldn't get the obvious answer (“Glamorous gown!” shouted Brian), Pat Sajak introduced the crew of The Chew and Angela said, “You ever watch that show? They have some great recipes.” This led to a discussion of Food Network chefs who can and can't cook, and whether Mario Batali is gay. (He's not; he's married and an ally.)
There's no food served on Monday nights, and it's too busy for food on the weekends, but Tuesdays through Fridays, there's food available from the tiny galley kitchen behind the swinging doors. Taco Tuesday means "Staci's Tacos” for $2; other nights, Cindy cooks burgers, hot dogs and fries, all while tending bar. A hanging rack of chips swings every time someone passes by.
Dancing With the Stars came on at that point, which we'd gone out expressly to avoid, and after what seemed like 300 excruciating minutes watching minor celebrities ham it up onstage, it was time to go. The tab came to $6.75. You'd spend more than that on one PBR at some hipster douchebag hangout. Much better to spend it inside Anaheim's little replica of Cheers, where it'll only be a couple of visits before everybody knows your name.