I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t written an official Gold Diggers review until now…it is, after all, my favorite dive bar in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s a similar situation as telling your partner you love them for the first time and you’re afraid the words will come out all jumbled and retarded. Here it goes:
Gold Diggers is a trashy bikini bar located in the barrio of Santa Monica Boulevard, between Wilton and St. Andrews. It sits nestled between discount markets and donut shops and run-down apartment complexes. Upon entering, you'll be greeted by Herman, the large (and wonderful) bouncer. Don't be fooled by his rough exterior, after a couple shakedowns, you'll see he's a gentle giant. Like a Pitbull, he trusts family.
The collection of dancers is diverse: big ones, small ones, short ones, tall ones...all of varying ages and races. The curvy Latina who dances weekday afternoons is my favorite, so I suggest you throw dollars at her.
Drinks are not necessarily the selling feature of Gold Diggers; they're small and a bit pricey, but you are paying for the live entertainment and overall experience. Being regulars, Chad and I rarely have to order our drinks...a screwdriver, a shot of Jack, and a Budweiser just magically appear in front of us.
If you come at just the right time, you might be blessed with the presence of the Mamasan. She owns the place and she and her daughters frequently play bartender. Although friendly and outgoing, I wouldn't want to get on the Mamasan's bad side. She seems like the type to smack you with a yardstick if you don't play by her rules.
Gold Diggers celebrates their anniversary with an annual party, complete with free chicken wings, egg rolls, and chow mein. Although the party is a must-visit for Gold Diggers fans, it does get pretty crowded. I prefer the venue around 6:30pm on a Friday; it's a bit more mellow.
On our second date, Chad and I ventured over to Gold Diggers after a failed visit to Jumbo's (see post from 3.29.11). The difference in quality is like night and day. Yes, Jumbo's has the notoriety, but trust me on this one, go to Gold Diggers if you need a night of unbridled Asian sleaze. If you were to ask me which bar is dearest to my heart, I would say, without a doubt, Gold Diggers.
Okay, this is going to be a bold statement: Damon's Steakhouse reminds me of a Valley version of Old Tony's. There, I said it.
Yes, it's missing the beautiful 360 degree ocean view, but it has that old-school charm that makes certain restaurants/bars far superior to others. As soon as you step in through the back door, this Polynesian-themed restaurant transports you back to the Golden Girls-era. Seriously, it reminds me so much of that episode of the Golden Girls where Blanche tries to seduce this standoffish guy, so she rents this tiki-themed hotel room that has all these remote-controlled sex contraptions. It's like that, minus the sex contraptions. This place totally feels like Reno, Nevada.
Like Tony's 'Firechief', Damon's also has a famous cocktail: the 'Chi Chi' (however, I don't believe you get to keep the glass). There is also a singer/guitarist next to the bar who plays pleasant listening music. What song do we hear upon entering?? 'I've Got a Name' by fucking JIM CROCE?!?! Yeeeah buddy, you're getting a tip for that one.
I very much enjoyed Damon's. Can't wait to come back and try a juicy, bloody steak!
After splitting a large pitcher of margaritas at La Golondrina on Olvera Street, a day-drunk Chad and I stumble over to Chinatown to visit a favorite watering hole: Hop Louie. Unfortunately, Hop Louie is closed, so we wander around until we find something equally dirty and inviting. From the outside, the Melody Lounge appears to fit the bill: run-down sign, sandwiched between two "nice" gift shops, and desperately in need of a paint job....BINGO! We walk in and are put off by the unexpectedly hip atmosphere. Dozens of small paper lanterns hang from the ceiling, cascading dim light over the young couples cozied up on the PVC cushions surrounding the left side of the bar.
We take a seat at the bar and realize it's a beer-only bar, no problem. We order two beers, then attempt to pay with a card. Cash only. Boooo.
Positive points of interest: the bartender was quiet and the patrons kept to themselves. I think I heard Chad mutter "I hate people" only once during our entire twenty minute visit (I believe in reference to the colorfully-dressed Asian couple canoodling and giggling inappropriately loud in the corner). Also, they have a record player and, at the time, the bartender was playing some bluesy female-fronted music.
I left my pink wooden bird magnet at the bar. I think the species of bird is Toucan. If you find it, please contact me ASAP.
It’s damn near factual that October is the best month of the year. Halloween, the beautiful changing of seasons, crisp autumnal weather, new horror movies (‘Curse of Chucky’ AND ‘Insidious 2’ AND the remake of ‘Carrie’) …I can’t even contain my excitement!
To celebrate glorious October, Chad and I are scouting some reeeeally dirty bars to introduce you to.
Get ready to be spooked Underbelly style.
If you’ve ever had a pervy uncle that made you bounce on his knee while he ran his fingers through your hair, I assure you, this guy was much, much worse.
Meet Edmund Kemper:
When he was 15 years old, he shot his grandmother in the head because he “just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma”. Also, just like any other pubescent kid, he didn’t want to get in trouble for doing something really fucked up so he killed his grandfather in the driveway when he returned home with some groceries. This may be the kindest gesture of his childhood because, let’s be honest here, no man wants to come home and find his wife’s dead body.
Naturally there were signs this was coming: antisocial behavior, mutilated cats and bizarre “sexual rituals” with his sisters dolls. It’s said his mother would often lock him in the basement because she was concerned he would rape his younger sister. If a violent alcoholic with a borderline personality disorder could figure out what was on the horizon, why couldn’t anyone else?
Anyway, this charming little fella spends 5 years at the Atascadero State Hospital before they turn him loose on Santa Cruz in the early 70s. Being built like a brick house at close to 7 feet tall with a high IQ and no social skills or marketable talents, he did what came naturally: abducted female college students; stabbed, shot or smothered them; then had sex with their decapitated heads. Lots of them.
How does this have anything to do with The Underbelly you ask? Fear not, there’s a bar involved.
Being a smart and rather ballsy guy, The Co-Ed Killer starts hanging out the local cop bar, The Jury Room:
Apparently, he made friends there with the local law enforcement and they were more than happy to discuss details of the investigations after a few martinis. In this way, he was able to stay one step ahead. None suspected that the big gallute had anything to do with the murders.
Eventually, he feels the need bludgeon his mother and her neighbor with a hammer and run to Colorado where he turns himself in. He’s currently serving life without parole in Vacaville, CA.
Alyssa and I were in Santa Cruz this weekend for the Eddie Money show and decided to swing by and check the place out on Saturday morning around 10am before hitting the 19th Hole for breakfast.
This is a pretty straightforward dive: standard bar with stools and a handful of small booths. Concrete floors make mopping up the blood a breeze. There’s a fireplace for those cold NorCal evenings and a pool table, if that’s your thing. I was happy to see Guinness on tap. There are some dollar bills tacked up intermittently around the bar as if the regulars (or college students) thought about starting that tradition but quickly realized that’s one less dollar to spend on booze. Can’t imagine it’s legal, but you can smoke here.
Lastly, there’s this tucked away in the corner:
The bloody brain-eating babies were a really nice and appropriate touch.
The Jury Room is definitely worth a look if you ever find yourself in Santa Cruz.
Although your parents (and society as a whole) may beg to differ, there are a few redeeming qualities to Day Drinking:
1) THE HOUSE VIBE - It is next to impossible to get a feel for a bar when it’s packed asshole to belly button with drunken dude-bros on a Friday or Saturday night. Unless, of course, your sole purpose for a night out is to come home smelling like Jagermeister that some jag-off spilled all over you on the road to date rape glory. Or if you’re into karaoke. It’s amazing how many people think it’s still 1992 and Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar requested a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody (this is generally followed by someone singing “Friends In Low Places”. Just fucking kill me…). The arrival of the Karaoke Jockey around 8pm is kind of like the street lights coming on as a kid – time to go home.
2) DRINK SPECIALS - More bang for your buck. ‘Nuf said.
3) THE FREAK FACTOR - Lastly, it’s refreshing to hang out every now and again with a room full of people whose lives are clearly more fucked up than yours. Usually the juke is low enough to carry on a conversation with these folks during the day so you can add to your list of things never to tell a stranger. Also, the bartenders are less busy and more apt to chat. This means that if the crazy guy with one eye and a unicorn tattoo at the end of the bar hasn’t told you about the time he dropped his balls on a nest of fire ants for 20 dollars and a half bottle of Dr McGillicuddys, the bartender will break the ice for you.
Anyway, Alyssa just turned 21 (again) this weekend so we took a quick staycation to Redondo Beach for some much needed R&R at Fusion Sushi and Old Tony’s. [Side note – there is no reason to purchase glassware if you live near Old Tony’s on The Pier. Although not as novel as the tiki glasses from Joe’s Crab Shack, the Fire Chief glasses from Old Tony’s will meet all your needs and they’re yours to take home.] On the way down we stopped at a place we’ve passed numerous times called The Thirsty Club.
From the outside it looks like it may have potential. The inside is really nothing spectacular. Every inch of the walls is covered with beer signs and neon and sports stuff. Whatever, seen it before. The setup at the bar was pretty cool though. The stools are mounted on a brick ledge about a foot and a half off the floor putting you up on a proper kingly stoop from which to look down upon the masses. The far end of the bar hooks around in a horseshoe. There were some biker types and some rough broads at the far end of the horseshoe but we sat next to a guy drinking Coors, alone, at 2 o’clock on a Friday afternoon. I understand why because he was kind of weird.
A couple of sips into our first round somebody buys him a shot but he couldn’t figure out what to order. I don’t drink shots, he says which I find hard to believe because dude was shitfaced and I don’t know how many weeks that would take from just drinking Coors. I suggest whiskey and he orders a Fireball. WTF? He chokes it down and then asks if we’d like to hear some Def Leppard. We answer ‘hell yeah’ in stereo. He makes some good choices at the juke (Dead Kennedys, Van Halen and Def Leppard) and then starts talking:
“I programmed this song,” he says.
“Great song,” I reply.
“Did you program that last one?”
“You better not have put a five in there or I’ll never hear the songs I programmed. I just programmed like ten songs.”
What’s with this “programmed” talk? Over the next hour he must have said it 30 times. He rambled on for a while about how he’s new to the area, all the places he’s lived, how expensive it can get when you buy rounds for the bar, how awesome Van Halen was (this guy really loves Van Halen), and finally:
“When’s the last time you shaved?” he asks.
“I don’t know...8 months, give or take.”
“Your wifey doesn’t mind?”
“I don’t know, wifey,” I say turning to Alyssa, “do you mind?”
“Not at all,” Alyssa says with a pervy grin.
The Juke Programmer turns back to his Coors and mumbles, “Humpf. Beard.”
The Thirsty Club is not a bad place to spend an afternoon. Although not the seediest of joints, it was fun and the tab came to a whole 20 bucks. I’ll give it a double ‘X’ as there was a bar dog roaming around.
For the past three years, I’ve made it a point to visit Santa Cruz every summer, in part to watch Eddie Money’s annual performance at the Boardwalk, but mainly to visit the town I’ve loved and missed since graduating from UCSC in ‘09. Last summer, I brought Chad with me and introduced him to all the dirty bars we could fit into one weekend. Our stops included:
-De Laveaga Golf*
-Monty’s Log Cabin*
-Ye Olde Watering Hole
**I stuck asterisks next to those you NEED to visit, which is essentially all of them**
The annual Eddie Money show is coming up, August 23rd to be exact, and I am dying of excitement! I’m sure we’ll stop by a few of the ol’ favorites, but I wouldn’t be a good girlfriend/drinking buddy if I didn’t take Chad to some new establishments. On the roster for 2013:
-Hula’s – Baby loves a good Scorpion Bowl and Hula’s has the best.
-Moe’s Alley – Latin Funk Jazz band Saturday night. Need I say more?
-The Red Room – A true standby during my college days; will probably contribute to my future diagnosis of emphysema.
-The Asti – I wonder if that hot bartender Seth still works there?
-Callahans – I enjoy a little danger with my drink.
-Brady's Yacht Club - Boner!
-Jury Room – According to Wikipedia, serial killer Edmund Kemper was a regular here in the early 70s…get some!
Have you been to any Santa Cruz bars that need my attention? Recommendations are always appreciated.
It's about fuckin' time...a review of Murray's Saloon & Eatery in Big Bear, CA (our visit from November, 2012):
I fell in love with Murray’s the moment I stepped inside and my love only grew throughout my 30 minutes of being there. Because I have social anxiety, I generally avoid crowded bars, but the atmosphere at Murray’s felt welcoming…aaand there just so happened to be one last empty table for two in the corner.
Our waitress, a weathered brunette with circus tits and a big smile came by to take our order. We ordered two pints of beer, bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, and fried mushrooms. The total tab: about $15(!?). The bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers were incredible. I think my asshole is still on fire.
The ambiance is a hybrid of dive bar and sports bar. Like, the walls are plastered with autographed dollar bills and the wooden tables are so distressed they're sticky, but the waitresses are cute and there are plenty of big-screen TVs so the dudebros can watch their games.
Can you find The Underbelly's dollar taped to the wall? Hint: it's under a TV.
**Check out the 'Resume' page for more reviews of Big Bear's dirtiest bars**
I have lived in Culver City for over three years and although the Cinema Bar's flaking, antique sign come-hithers me each and every time I drive by, I have never actually stopped in...until now.
It's the Sunday after a long holiday weekend and other than contemplating suicide versus going to work tomorrow, Chad and I really don't have much to do. After enjoying a sushi lunch and running the standard weekend errands, we decide to find a new destination to write about and tantalize our loyal readers. As far as I know, the Cinema Bar is the only dive in Culver City that Chad and I have not visited, so we (finally!) decide to give it a go.
We park on the street and walk through the open front door, surprised to discover the very tight quarters inside. The space is well-utilized with wooden paneling from floor to ceiling, walls plastered with beer posters, a tiny stage in the corner, a spacious outdoor seating area complete with fish tank, and to my excitement, a classic compact disc juke box.
We take a seat in the corner and order two Budweisers, assuming we'll only be staying for a short while. I start bantering with the bartender about his overpriced wedding, and become smitten soon thereafter. He reminds me of an adult version of the curly-haired boys I went to elementary school with, except with teeth likely demented by childhood metal capping. I become mesmerized by the movement of his mouth when he speaks and the delicacy of how he pushes his serrated knife into limes and lemons to prepare garnishes.
The stuff you care about:
-Beers are about $4 each. Drinks a couple dollars more.
-Local bands play almost every night.
-The juke box is filled with classic rock CDs, including a Mötley Crüe greatest hits
I sure had a lot of fun playing DJ, although it completely cleared out the ones and fives in my wallet. All two of the women in the bar complimented my music selections...and women rarely compliment other women, especially cute, young ones invading their bar.
Ooh, and look! I got a t-shirt.
Can you tell I'm not wearing a bra?
We enjoy a few more drinks, discuss the news and thin-patty hamburgers with the other patrons, then continue on our merry way.
What could one possibly do to top a bar experience this filthy? Maybe watch a movie about guys farting in girls’ faces. No seriously, we ended our night with a bowl of rocky road and this…
We hit the Underbelly of Ventura for Chad’s birthday and wow, what a spot for seedy bars and people.
Most impressive, probably the Vagabond Inn. And when I say impressive, I really mean that I couldn’t sleep because the Hell’s Angels next door were having really loud sex.
Check out the ‘Resume’ page for brand new reviews of the bars we visited:
-Eric Ericsson’s Fish Co.
-Gigi’s Cocktail Lounge
-Paddy’s Cocktail Lounge
-Sans Souci Cocktail Lounge
I can’t wait to come back and check out the places we drove by, but didn’t have time to visit. Definitely send me a message if you have any recommendations.