[Dive, Dive, My Darling!] The Shanghai'd Room Is a Cool Bar, Just As the Sign Says
Taylor Hamby / OC Weekly
[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 weekly nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read as our bold web editor, Taylor "Hellcat" Hamby, stumbles into the dive bar scene every week to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
Huntington Beach's greatest cabbie is always good for a history lesson. Ace from Fat Taxi has been driving home drunks like me in this city for 30 years, so he has seen bars come and go--and knows the good dirt on them, too. One night about a year ago, I told Ace to drop me off at Bar Hookup off Beach Boulevard. It was recommended by Drak, the scratchy-voiced owner of Vinyl Solution record store down the road.
"Oh, that place isn't Bar Hookup anymore," Ace said. "It's now called Shanghai'd Room."
Ace then recalled the pedigree of this location: It used to be a shady massage parlor that got raided by the cops years ago. You don't get these choice background tidbits from a Yellow Cab ride, that's for sure.
The roadside sign for the place doesn't say, "Shanghai'd Room," instead announcing, "COOL BAR." Sure, it may be cocky advertising, but it certainly isn't false. The space is pretty tiny and lit by a dark, red hue. The décor features Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling, vintage opium posters and a couple of bottles with dead snakes stored inside--creepy cool.
The televisions don't play sports, but rather foreign films with ludicrous fake subtitles and the whimsical alien cult-classic cartoon film Le Planete Sauvage. The bar only serves beer and wine, making do with its limited license by hosting an ever-changing selection of import and craft beers and clever cocktails made from rice-based liquors. Among the tasty concoctions is the cilantro-and-chile margarita--both spicy and savory.
One night at the Shanghai'd, I was sitting with a group of friends when a skinny guy with a thick beard and curly mop announced to the crowd there was going to be a standup comedy night. My friends and I looked at one another and quietly groaned, as amateur comedy nights can be particularly painful.