You Can't Light Up at the Iron Mule Anymore, But the Beer Still Flows
[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.]
Taylor Hamby / OC Weekly A lone bike gaurds the beer supply at the Iron Mule
"This used to be a smoker's haven," a young man in a paperboy cap named Ryan told me. "I know people from out-of-state who've heard of the Iron Mule just because you could smoke inside." He recalled this excitedly, with an electronic cigarette in hand. In what was a completely unsubstantiated story (what else is bar gossip?), he and his former Marine friend (whose name I've forgotten--sorry, and Semper Fi) explained to me this was the main draw of the Lake Forest bar up until about six months ago, when the bar came under new management.
The bar gossip continued. The new boss supposedly went to the sushi restaurant and Subway next door and told the workers there to complain about the smoke so he wouldn't look like the bad guy when he told the bartenders and regulars to stop lighting up inside. Whatever the case may be, there was no smoking inside when I went to the hole-in-the-wall one Saturday at about 9 p.m., save for several patrons with e-cigs.
Looking around the L-shaped room, I thought to myself how dissimilar it was to those few OC bars left that still allow smoking inside (which I won't name 'cuz I ain't no narc). The Iron Mule isn't straight outta the Golden Age of OC Bars, with red-vinyl chairs, mini-chandeliers and regulars stolen from an All In the Family episode.
The decoration here is minimal, unless you count exposed insulation on the ceiling as décor. There are four pool tables, two dart boards and one long, L-shaped bartop. A few televisions were tuned to the LA Kings game that night, and a patron a few seats down had an issue with the female sportscaster. "Women have no place in hockey," he announced to the room, and isn't that a nice thought? Womenfolk were sparse that night: me, my mom, a lady pool player and a girl wearing a get-up reminiscent of Julia Roberts' in Pretty Woman.
The bartender that evening was a young man in a hoodie. Questions were answered with a small hint of 'tude. Dunno if that was just his South County accent or the fact I was a first-timer. This is a beer-and-wine bar, though no one seemed to be there for the wine, with most folks drinking giant mugs of draft beer--12 on tap and 17 bottled. No Blue Moon here, so I had to drink Dos Equis and Coronas dry. "We don't serve cocktails, so we don't have any of that stuff," the bartender explained when I asked for a lime.