Dive bars by the seashore; there is always one more to explore.
Sometimes you have a rough day on your boat. Maybe it’s an unexpected mechanical hiccup or inclement weather. Boaters get stressed, too, and need to unwind with a cheap spirited beverage and some bar food. But where can one find cheap libations and grub, into the wee hours, and by the harbor? A dive bar.
The term “dive” is a reference to the illegal drinking dens in the 1880s that were usually in the basement of a building, so patrons would dive into them. While the establishments are now legal — and typically at street level — there’s still an aura to a dive bar that often pairs well with boaters’ sensibilities.
So what exactly is a dive bar? Well, it’s loosely defined but — to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart — you’ll know it when you smell it. A real dive is usually an establishment that has been around for a decade or five, serves cheap drinks, and has a floor that is likely sticky. If you plan to patronize one, it’s probably a good idea to bring cash, as many dives do not take plastic. A good dive bar requires a devout following of locals who frequent it. There are many great and infamous dive bars by the seashore. Here are a few you can try out while cruising California.
Pacific Shores is a hop, skip and a jump away from the Ocean Beach Pier and is known for its unique black-light lighting scheme, inexpensive drinks and a cash-only bar. The Kraken Bar and Restaurant is footsteps from Cardiff State Beach and is a total biker bar complete with a pool table and live music. A small kitchen in the back provides delicious tri-tip sandwiches. The Tilted Stick is a few streets away from Smiley Lagoon in Mission Bay. It serves delicious breakfast sandwiches and has plenty of televisions for any game. Tilted Stick is also a dog-friendly bar. Make sure you review the succinct “Stick Rules” sign if you’re confused about any of the protocols there.
Utro’s Café is a hidden gem on Berth 73. You can grab a cold one and watch all the fishing boats pass by in the harbor, but be sure to arrive early, as Utro’s is only open during the morning and afternoon. The Whale & Ale is another favorite of the locals, thanks to delicious traditional English pub fare and suds to wash it down. Try the beef Wellington, one of the most popular items on the menu.
Is there anything better than burgers by the beach? Hinano Café has you covered if you happen to be in Venice. Enjoy a casual dinner with a view as you sip your beer from an icy mug and sink your teeth into the self-proclaimed world-famous hamburgers. Another dive with a killer burger is Ercoles in Manhattan Beach. Known for cheap drinks and daily food specials, Ercoles attracts locals and tourists alike. Prince O’ Whales is in beautiful Playa del Rey. Stop in for a delicious meal and wonderful atmosphere. There are also ping pong tables, karaoke and plenty of seating in this unusually not-cramped dive.
The Rudder Room 9 in Oxnard is a local’s watering hole with a fantastic view. This particular dive has direct access to the beach; you can even see it through the back window of the bar. If the mood strikes, you can even bring your brew onto the sand to enjoy the crisp air with your sunset.
When in Monterey, of course sample all the clam chowder you can on the pier, but when you get thirsty, there are plenty of dive bars around to quench your thirst. Carbone’s is an institution — dart boards, air hockey, pool tables and live turtle racing. What more could you want from a dive bar? Sade’s is also a local favorite and still allows smoking indoors. Sade’s is definitely a place for beer and whiskey and a good cigar.