The best bars in Long Beach, California
Courtesy of Beachwood BBQ
Ah, Long Beach: where Orange County comes to bottle it up, and the Angelenos are starting to gentrify because it’s cheaper and cooler. Case and point – its bars. The art of drinking runs deep in this seaside town of half a million working-class lunatics, and its watering holes range from historic sweatshops and 6am dives to craft breweries. They’re also cheaper, cooler, and still full of more characters than anywhere else. Here are the best places to drink in town:
It wasn’t until Long Beach that the oldest working brewery in Southern California would also be the best beachfront bar in town. The namesake Brewmaster Blackwell has been producing exceptional craft beers since the mid-90s, and regulars still flock for the BBC’s happy hour, where inexpensive pitchers and pizza accompany the sunsets. Pro tip: try the beer of the month!
Yes, the name is short for “mustache,” but there aren’t as many hipsters at this Fourth Street dive as you might think. Instead, you’ll find a Dodgers Bar with a not-so-secret stockpile of premium liquors (think: Rogue’s Spruce and Michter’s rye gin) at mid-range prices and bartenders who know how to use them in your new favorite drink. Alternatively, you can order a big boy PBR or Jack and Coke, and no one will blink.
If you like the Second Street scene (i.e. local brothers and college kids), Shannon’s is an old school classic from Long Beach. This is the bar that inspired the introductory recording of the Sublime song “Badfish” and it continues to draw locals to its tight wooden embrace, where the house drink, called “Shoot the Root,” includes a shot of root schnapps dropped into a Coors Light goblet.
Situated like a buffer between the dive bars of Fourth Street (see below) and the shopping district of Retro Row, the Pike – owned by Chris Reece of Social Distortion – is one of LB’s most versatile bars. The schizophrenic backdrop of retro punk, nautical, and grand prix themes perfectly matches the diverse crowd of locals who frequent the place. A family run restaurant during the day, the Pike transforms into one of LB’s busiest watering holes on weekend nights.
When you’re in the mood to take your beer level up, head to Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, which was recently named the World’s Best Brewpub (at the World Beer Cup 2016). Located on the Downtown Promenade, the brewery offers dozens of its own award-winning beers as well as guest taps that would make any beer bar cry. Around the corner, the Blendery is home to Beachwood’s funky, tangy, and fruity barrel aging experiences; a more wine-making experience with a mellow tasting room to match.
Fourth Street Dive Pub Crawl
Punk-rock dive strip bar
For six glorious blocks between Alamitos and Cherry Avenues, this fairly normal drag is packed with a heavy concentration of really awesome and dirty punk-rock dives. Start at V Room at the west end and crawl east through Red Room, Fern’s, and Ashley’s, stopping only for 1) pumping dollar bills into the neatly organized jukeboxes and 2) drinks of $ 4.
Joe Jost’s has been rocking Long Beachers since it began life as a sweatshop in 1924. Today, it’s a hardcore locals-only spot with time capsule decor and a pool hall unchanged from the repeal of the ban (snooker, do you like it?). Frozen beer is still served cheaply in giant, frozen schooner glasses, and the food stays old-fashioned with snacks like The Special Sandwich, homemade pickled eggs, and peanuts from the century-old roaster who lives in the back room.
By day, Prospector is a windowless steakhouse with spooky exterior paintings of miners and their daughters. At night, however, the kitchen closes and it becomes a windowless steakhouse with spooky exterior paintings of miners and their daughters AND a dive bar specializing in two things: cheap drinks and local music.
A move to Pine Avenue in the downtown area hasn’t changed the popularity of Long Beach’s largest gay bar – but if you’re straight, don’t let the designation scare you. People of all sexual preferences love Mary’s famous drag shows, karaoke nights, and epic Sunday brunches.
In the quaint North Long Beach neighborhood of California Heights is a craft house unlike any other in town. Latin-inspired cuisine meets pre-Prohibition cocktails, in this chic / casual lounge that has an additional secret bar in the back (just knock on the phone booth door).
If nothing in Alex’s Bar’s busy concert schedule turns you on, don’t worry, as Long Beach’s most notable concert venue is still a bar to drink on the nights without a show. A winning combination of quality tunes, quality craft beer and a quality cocktail program, Alex’s is a large open room that somehow manages to remain charming and intimate.
Fourth Street Vine is exactly the kind of wine bar you would expect from LBC. Located in the heart of Retro Row, this unpretentious adult grape juice storefront has a small but solid selection of wines and craft beers, and is a big supporter of the local music scene. Punks, rappers, DJs and more have all performed within the walls of owner Jim Ritson, making it more of a de facto community space than a wine bar.
Think of all the amenities you could want in a neighborhood bar – 50-cent pool tables, booze slush machines, a real CD jukebox, knowledgeable bartenders – and The Hawk provides them. On top of that, owner and whiskey expert Kyle Flavin has an impressive selection of his favorite brown spirits at prices so low you’ll have to get a double take on the menu (and then maybe buy a double).
Broadway Hallway Bar Crawl
LGBT-friendly dive bar
Much like the epic punk rock bars of Fourth Street (see below), Broadway, just a few blocks south, is also full of sacred dive bars along a stretch between Alamitos and Cherry Avenue. . Enter: The Gayborhood Crawl, which takes you from the Broadway Bar on the West End, past Sweetwater Saloon, The Falcon, Mine Shaft, Brit Bar and Paradise Bar – all the classic LGBT hangouts that prove Long Beach’s gay scene has nothing to do with WeHo’s clubby.
The iconic Koreatown gastro pub – among the first in Los Angeles – has ditched its second location in downtown Long Beach with a variation of the original fit for the 562. It’s the same: a tap list built with local craft beer connections from owner Jimmy Han, as well as the grease-soaked culinary sensibilities of Chef Wes Lieberher. What’s new? A full liquor license for craft cocktails and a last call at 1am.
With a black-and-white photo booth, cheap well drinks, and a wall completely covered in painted skateboards, The Good Bar is one of the newer … good bars in Long Beach. Started by a renowned bartender from The Red Room on 4th St., it’s a place where all the gritty charm of the city’s original drink culture is upgraded for the next generation.
Ryan Sweeney’s Empire Goat Group landed in Long Beach four years ago and brought with it the signature neighborhood approach of LA’s craft beer bar empire to quality libations. Much like in Pasadena’s other Blind Donkey, expect an affordable list of specialty whiskeys and a simple list of not-so-common craft beers. On the weekends, however, expect a sweaty smoldering mess that borders on nightclub status.
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