Orange County has a stretch of coastal dive bars, walking distance from the beach, that are run by local families who cherish and preserve the beach dive’s history and traditions. Dive bars are often defined by omnipresent neon Budweiser paraphernalia, the musky smell of stale beer, and a general disregard for what’s on trend, but there’s also the mutually agreed upon discretion and unwavering sense of community. And while the Orange County beach stretch may seem simply pretty on the surface, this coastal bar scene is deeply embedded in prohibition history, complete with secret trap doors, rum-runners, and concealed back rooms. It’s the barkeep’s job to protect the vibe, and they do so gallantly, ensuring that OC locals always have a barstool to haunt and a cold beer to enjoy.Read More
Orange County’s Saltiest Beach Dive Bars, Mapped
Where dollars hang from the ceiling and sometimes the surfers can get a little bit rowdy
What was once a popular speakeasy for railway workers back in the 1920s is now a favorite among North County locals. The multi-room space has a comfortable, homey feel, owned and run by the Lawrence family for the past 15 years, with loyal bartenders who provide unwavering hospitality. Mother’s is relished for their “Loaded Tecate,” live music nights, dollar bill-covered walls, and a few random undergarments thrown up into the rafters.
Cassidy's Bar & Grill
Cassidy’s is a traditional dive bar in that staff members are adorned in the same logos as the walls, but unusual in that the barkeep opens its classic canned mimosas with a forgotten Platinum Amex someone never returned for.
Blackie's By the Sea
A day drinker’s dream known for swimsuit-clad patrons, highly stimulating gallery wall, and a giant beer tap thermometer — not to mention a plethora of horse and carriage dioramas secured to the walls and ceiling. This bar is a dive bar anomaly in that it’s brightly lit, even after nightfall. However the beer is ice cold, and the bartenders are genial — so much so that even seltzers are served with care and a straw.
Beach Ball is a double-decker bar, with pool tables on the lower level and a wrap-around bar on top. Beach Ball is an intimate space with a warm, worn aesthetic that beckons beachgoers with a cool cave of respite.
The Blue Beet
Blue Beet’s menu, a worn piece of paper taped to the wall, retains a loyal clientele who come in solely for the beef stroganoff and filet. This three-storied bar is subdued on the weekdays, offering bargoers a quiet corner to talk or an open-air rooftop to watch sports. But on the weekends, Blue Beet is packed and lit up by local musicians.
Class of 47
Class of 47 provides reprieve for those in need of a good drink and good company at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday. It’s a favorite watering hole for executives, fishermen, and surfers alike to come together and watch sports, although John Wayne is the only regular former patron honored with a shrine.
The Saloon is known for its Popo Shot, an off-the-menu libation served without label or decipherable ingredients, which can only be ordered by those who know its name. The Saloon is patronized by locals and visitors alike, providing an ideal spot for any and all to intermingle.
The Sandpiper Lounge
Nicknamed by adoring locals as The Dirty Bird, the Sandpiper offers an array of activities including darts, pool, foosball, live music, and a comfortable, musky atmosphere.
Turk’s is an oceanfront dive that encourages imbibers to eat, drink, and be merry at all hours of the day. Originally opened by Turk himself in 1984, the bar is now owned and operated by his daughter, who dedicates this favorite spot as an homage to her beloved father. This is one of the few dives where indulging in the quality food is highly encouraged.
Simply a great neighborhood bar with talented bartenders and a plethora of pool tables. As a bonus, Mulligans recently revamped its menu and now offers a top-tier burger. As an additional bonus, said burger is available late into the night, providing imbibers with the ideal spot to fuel up before turning in.
Previously a bus station, the inside of the space is emblazoned with technicolor signage and red felt pool tables. Its sordid prohibition history is filled with illegal backroom gambling and imbibing, and remained provocative even after drinking was legalized in 1891. Nowadays, Goody’s has mellowed substantially and is revered by locals as an extra special neighborhood bar where everyone is family.
Red Fox Lounge
The Red Fox is a dark den, with a monochromatic, smoky atmosphere, punctuated by red twinkle lights and red leather booths. It’s also a smoker’s dream, beckoning those who partake in cigarettes and cigars with a cozy back patio, and big screen televisions.
Outrigger Tavern is outfitted with all that’s needed for a good time including old school video games, retro cigarette dispenser, green felt pool tables, and a colorful back patio. Plus, on Sundays, bottomless mimosas and sandwiches set the stage for a full day of drinking.
Big Helyn's Saloon
As the southernmost bar in Orange County, Big Helyn’s boasts the cheapest drinks in town and the best-looking bartenders, who you’ll find clad in lingerie on the weekends. Previously a biker bar, Big Helyn’s may feel intimidating, but patrons of all types are greeted kindly upon entrance.