Gaynor's Lounge: The Last White Bar In Little Saigon
[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 Mexican-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
In the middle of refugees and second-generation kids, of boba shops and pho palaces, of advertisements for the latest Paris By Night is the sight of a middle-aged white man smoking outside Gaynor's Lounge on a weekday afternoon, resting in a plastic chair and looking as if he just completed a shift at a Bakersfield oil well. No one acknowledged him; he did the same. Taking one last drag, the guy flicked the butt toward the parking lot and walked back into his time warp.
I wanted to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Little Saigon at the bikini lounge in the heart of the enclave, off Bolsa Avenue and Moran Street in Westminster, a bar with a turreted red-shingle roof out of The Hobbit that was the area's last remnant of working-class white Westminster before the Vietnamese exodus transformed it. But it's gone: Construction workers have removed the roof and are busy excavating the interior, no doubt to put another Vietnamese business in its place.
Instead, I headed to the last working-class white bar left in Little Saigon: Gaynor's, located in a Garden Grove shopping plaza off Westminster Avenue and Brookhurst Street most famous for hosting Brodard Restaurant. Its sans serif sign gets lost in a sea of neon diacritics at night; other than a worn door and the plastic chairs that host smoking regulars, the only outside indicator that a bar exists here is a neon sign, lit even during the day and behind glass, that screams, "COCKTAILS," the last four letters drooping, each more than the other, hinting at the anomaly inside.
From the walls that alternate between fieldstone and mirrors to the comfortable couches, from the stucco ceiling so low you can punch it to the beat-up Megatouch gaming console at the corner of the counter, from the no-frills cocktails to the long, swooping bar, Gaynor's acts as if Little Saigon never happened.