Burrowing Into the Burro Room

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Matt Coker
[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold reporter Matt Coker stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

Which came first: Costa Mesa or Mi Casa? It seems as if the Mexican cantina has been on 17th Street forever. That also describes how long it's been since my last visit. On a recent afternoon, I ventured inside its Burro Room, where I found a crowd of presumed regulars darkening the stools in front of the medium-length bar, as well as people waiting to join the restaurant's lunch crowd at tables ringing the rectangular room.

If you're facing the bar, you'll be looking into a large-screen television hanging from the east-end wall. If your back is to the bar, three more big-screens hang from each of the three surrounding walls. Tall bar-lounge tables with stools run down the middle of the room. The west-end wall facing the bar has an extra-long padded booth seat that appears to hold about 30 people (or 15, if they are from Iowa). Small tables are positioned every few feet, with seats on the other side to allow smaller parties to portion off the long booth. Four-person tables make a U-shape to the entryway leading into the main restaurant.


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The Corner Pocket Is Stanton at Its Finest

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Gustavo Arellano
[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold editor-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

Is it possible to do a story about a business in Stanton without making it all about . . . you know, Stanton? The answer, of course, is no. No other city colors everything and everyone within its limits like OC's most-ridiculed town. Run a fancy business such as Park Ave.? People inevitably mention the miracle of it existing in the Colton of Orange County. Own a sorta nice place? Critics will mention the city's frizzled masses, its excess of Breaking Bad scenarios playing out daily on Beach Boulevard, the sadness that is the City Council closing the parks a couple of years back because of a lack of funds to maintain them. And if a crazy crime occurs? Well, it is Stanton. . . .

Even this review of the Corner Pocket is all Stanton. The lowslung dive is a glorious time capsule of the 1980s, down to the shitty country music, cottage-cheese ceiling and cutouts of naked Playboy models in the men's room that find all the Bunnys shaved down to a wispy landing strip per the preference of yuppies. It's in an industrial area just down the street from Orco Block's headquarters and a block away from the awesomely named Standustrial Street. Right next door is the ever-growing Bethel Romanian Pentecostal Church, who'd no doubt try to save some souls at the Corner Pocket if they knew the fun going on inside. For here is rollicking beauty, the type of place where hipsters stay away in terror because this is working-class Orange County at its gnarliest. In other words? Stanton.

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The Pump Room is a Bikini Bar You Can Take Your Mom To

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Gustavo Arellano
[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold editor-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

"This is my favorite time of the night," said the cute Latina in a neon-orange bra and ass shorts as she poured me my third Jameson on the rocks. And what could she mean by that?
I was at the Pump Room in Orange, the legendary bikini bar I have passed almost weekly since my days at Chapman University in the late 1990s but only recently begun to visit. Her Eastern European colleague, wearing even tighter, skimpier clothing, purred at customers. Guns N' Roses rocked on the jukebox. Men played pool. Drunk couples embraced with increasing friskiness. It was 11:45 p.m. on a Saturday, and the place was hopping.

"What do you mean by that?" asked my best friend, Art, as he nuzzled a gin and tonic. The Latina didn't answer; she left to wash some tumblers. Art and I wondered whether a favorite customer was coming. Maybe her boyfriend, to pick her up? Were the girls going to do something skanky? Mysterious patron traditions about to ensue? Stuff even more bizarre, absolutely unprintable in this family paper?

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Jaspers Is a Slice of Santa Ana's Past, Present and Future

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Gustavo Arellano
[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold editor-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

Santa Ana (or SanTana, as we like to call it to annoy people who prefer nostalgia to having a life) will forever remain the most polarizing city in Orange County. Most of the county still thinks of it as a reeking cesspool of Mexicans, proof that OC is no longer the bucolic wonderland of yore. Hipsters see it as a no-man's land worthy of gentrification; yaktivists aim to keep it in a sort of strange stasis, wanting not business development but community centers and more resources for young people given the city remains one of the poorest, fattest, most crowded big cities in America.

The truth, of course, is more complicated. I've loved the city ever since the Weekly world headquarters moved into town a decade ago (unfortunately, we're now in boring old Costa Mexico) for all the reasons above, because SanTana is tough, rundown, luxurious, electric and endlessly providing great copy. But as a native Anaheimer, I always love to discover remnants of the city's past, when working-class whites still roamed and lived an uneasy existence with Chicanos, while Mexican immigrants kept coming and coming. It's that SanTana where my father first lived in the U.S., in the 1970s in an apartment complex off Standard and McFadden avenues. And it's that SanTana that's still alive at Jaspers Bar.

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Crashing With Father After a Night at J. King Neptune's

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Taylor Hamby
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 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.]

Let me start by apologizing to my mom. I can already hear her lecture about how I should know better. Sorry, Mom, just doing my job.

It was a Friday. I had just finished eating chicken fried steak at Harbor House when I decided to stop in at Mother's Tavern solo for one beer. There was just one stool--at the corner of the bar, right by the door. As fate would have it, it was next to an old dude with a white horseshoe mustache that would make Sam Elliott quiver. He's the type of guy next to whom I prefer to NOT sit unaccompanied. I counted down the moments it would take for him to strike up a conversation. Five . . . four . . . three . . .

"Hey, dear, so is this your first time here?" he asked.

"Uh, no. It's my second." I took a swig from my Mason jar.

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Swing Low, Sweet Cleavage at Deva's

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Gustavo Arellano
[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold editor-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

"You know," my best friend Art told me, three gin-and-tonics into our night at Deva's in Tustin, "bikini bars are pervier than strip clubs."

Five Jamesons in, I had to agree. It wasn't just because the bartender for the night, Devin, was a tall blonde with a strip of black sequins barely covering her mons pubis and a length of white T-shirt holding back her fabulous D cups ("They're not triple-Ds," she asserted to a customer). It wasn't because the walls next to the restroom were wood panels out of a Mitchell Brothers porno, or that said paneling had cartoon stickers of women eating each other out. It wasn't even because the men's restroom had a coin-operated "Shocking Erotic Photo" machine (which really was just two topless photos and a flier for Adam and Eve--fuck you, I want my 50 cents back!).

"You know what it is?" I slurred. "The whole point of bikini bars is to keep looking at the bartender and hope for a nip slip."

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The Devil Inside the Balboa Saloon

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Nate Jackson
[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold music editor, Nate Jackson stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

Even though the Clippers have been ousted from the playoffs, it's never too late for a drunken Donald Sterling rant. Especially in the bowels of white-collar Newport. As I enter the Balboa Saloon one recent afternoon, the sinking sun paints brick alleys and sidewalks a mellow shade of gold. The following salty chatter is the first thing I hear:

"He spoke his mind in the privacy of his own home," says one guy, slamming the bar top. "Does that make him a war criminal?"

"No," says his friend. "But trusting a hot 31-year-old makes him a fucking idiot!"

Usually, the opportunity to be just as crass and offensive as Sterling himself is the prerogative for many dive-bar day drinkers before scattering home to their wives. In this dated green watering hole--decorated with dusty long boards, mounted swordfish and various nautical flotsam--it's no different.

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El Fracaso Is the Most Famous Bar You've Never Visited

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Gustavo Arellano
[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold editor-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano takes over for web editor Taylor "Hellcat" Hamby and stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

For almost 15 years now, I've howled in laughter every time an out-of-town reporter filed a dispatch that mentions El Fracaso in SanTana. Dozens of local and national papers have given the bar a shout-out in that time--but only as an aside, and only to elevate their cheap prose. See, most of these stories usually focus on Lupe Gomez Income Tax two doors down, home to a Mexican immigrant who pioneered a remittance program that pushed Mexico from Third World status into First. And to show from what a bad stretch of Harbor Boulevard Lopez's little miracle originates, the reporter inevitably drops this literary bomb: El Fracaso translates as "The Failure" in Spanish. DEEP . . .

Not once have any of those scribes ever bothered to actually step into El Fracaso to see if it lives up to its fatalistic name. Why should they? Mexicans are naturally failures, after all, according to the Associated Press Stylebook. Who cares if El Fracaso is actually one of the cleanest-kept paisa bars in OC, with restrooms that don't smell like stale piss, crisp flat-screen TVs tuned in to soccer or boxing, and a gorgeous long bar with "Bienvenidos al Fracaso" lit above it? Or that the women lord over the room on an elevated walkway behind the bar, the easier to fetch beers from the multiple coolers and titillate the clientele with their chichis and nalgas à la Coyote Ugly?

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Fern's Cocktails Transitions From Crusty Classic to Gentrified Booze Lounge

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Charles Lam
[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold reporter, Charles Lam stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

Here are the most-retold stories about Fern's Cocktails in Long Beach: Parts of Sublime's "Date Rape" video were shot in the back. The bartenders, whose tattooed beauty and disinterested service break hearts the world over, once fed a rat alcohol-soaked cherries until it died. The bathrooms? Witness to more sex than your local casting couch (not to mention a few pregnancies). See a pizza? Better be careful: You don't know when it'll be topped with magic mushrooms.

Fern's is all about its past, one of the remaining jewels of the city's punk history, an anchor of Fourth's lovely street of dives, and it shows--sort of. Google Fern's, and the first thing that'll pop up is its MySpace. Walk into the bar, and be astounded by the kitsch-lined walls. But if you're looking for the dive of legend? Well, I've got some bad news.

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Semper Thirsty at the Pub at Fiddler's Green

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[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 nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold editor-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano takes over for web editor Taylor "Hellcat" Hamby and stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]

"Oh, you're here for some fun!" the beefy man in sunglasses, military fatigues and a bulletproof vest said with a laugh after I showed him my ID. Then he got serious. "Don't have too much fun."

Sir, no, sir! He was guarding the gates of the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base (JFTB) as I explained my final destination was Fiddler's Green, the last military bar left in Orange County. With the El Toro and Tustin bases long gone, and those swabs at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station severely limiting access to the public, the Los Al JFTB is the final accessible reminder of our military past. And jarhead bars in San Clemente notwithstanding, here is the best place to get faded with the men and women who fight for our right to get faded.

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