The Best Bars in Long Beach for a Night Out
Ah, Long Beach: where Orange County comes to slum it, and Angelenos are starting to gentrify ‘cause it’s cheaper and cooler. Case and point -- its bars. The art of drinking runs deep in this city-by-the-sea of a half-million working-class weirdos, and its watering holes run the gamut from historic speakeasies to 6am dives to craft beer halls. They’re also cheaper, cooler, and forever full of more characters than anywhere else around. Here are the best places to drink in town:
Only in Long Beach would Southern California’s oldest operating brewpub also be the city’s best oceanfront bar. Mononymous Brewmaster Blackwell has been cranking out stellar craft beers since the mid-’90s and regulars always come in droves for BBC’s happy hour, where cheap pitchers and pizzas accompany sunset views. Pro tip: try the Beer of the Month!
Yes, name's short for “moustache”, but there aren't as many hipsters at this Fourth Street dive as you might think. Instead, you’ll find a Dodgers bar with a not-so-secret stock of top-shelf liquors (think: Rogue’s Spruce gin and Michter’s rye) at middle-shelf prices and bartenders who know how to use them in your new favorite drink. Alternately, you can order a PBR tall boy or Jack and Coke, and no one will bat an eye.
If you’re into the Second Street scene (i.e. local bros and college kids), Shannon’s is an old-school Long Beach classic. It’s the bar that inspired the intro recording to the Sublime song “Badfish” and it continues to attract locals to its narrow wooden embrace, where the house drink, called “Shoot the Root”, includes a shot of root beer schnapps dropped into a tumbler of Coors Light.
Situated as a buffer between the Fourth Street dive bars (see below) and the Retro Row shopping district, the Pike -- owned by Chris Reece of Social Distortion fame -- is one of LB’s most versatile bars. The schizophrenic decor of retro punk, nautical, and grand-prix themes perfectly matches the diverse crowd of locals who frequent the place. A family-friendly restaurant during the day, the Pike turns into one of LB’s most crowded watering holes on weekend nights.
When you feel like elevating your beer game, head to Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, which was most recently named Best Brewpub in the World (at the World Beer Cup 2016). Located on the Promenade in Downtown, the brewery stocks dozens of its own award-winning beers along with guest taps that would make any beer bar weep. Around the corner, the Blendery is home to Beachwood’s funky, tart and fruited barrel-aging experiments; a more wine-like experience with a mellow tasting room to match.
Fourth Street dive bar crawlPunk-rock dive bar strip
For six glorious blocks between Alamitos and Cherry Avenues, this normal-enough drag teems with a high concentration of actually great, dirty punk-rock dives. Start at V Room on the western end, and crawl your way east through Red Room, Fern’s, and Ashley’s, stopping only to 1) pump dollar bills into the epicly curated jukeboxes, and 2) down $4 well drinks.
Joe Jost’s has been getting Long Beachers buzzed since it began life as a speakeasy back in 1924. Today, it’s a hardcore locals-only spot with time-capsule decor and a pool room unchanged since Prohibition was repealed (snooker, anyone?). Ice-cold beer is still served dirt-cheap in giant, frozen Schooner glasses, and food stays old-school with snacks like The Special sandwich, house-made pickled eggs, and peanuts from the century-old roaster that lives in the back room.
By day, Prospector is a windowless steakhouse with creepy exterior paintings of miners and their wenches. By night, though, the kitchen closes down and it becomes a windowless steakhouse with creepy exterior paintings of miners and their wenches AND a dive bar that specializes in two things: cheap drinks and local music.
A move to Pine Avenue in Downtown didn’t change the popularity of Long Beach’s largest gay bar -- but if you're straight, don't let that designation scare you away. People of all sexual preferences get down on Mary’s famous drag shows, karaoke nights, and epic Sunday brunches.
In the quaint north Long Beach neighborhood of California Heights lies a house of craft unlike any other in town. Latin-inspired food meets pre-Prohibition cocktails, in this classy/casual lounge that has a secret extra bar in the back (just knock on the telephone booth door).
If nothing on Alex’s Bar’s jam-packed concert calendar excites you, fret not, because Long Beach’s most noteworthy music venue remains a bar worth drinking at on non-show nights. A winning combo of quality tunes, quality craft beer, and a quality cocktail program, Alex’s is one big, open room that somehow manages to stay charmingly intimate.
Fourth Street Vine is exactly the kind of wine bar you’d expect from LBC. Found in the heart of Retro Row, this unpretentious adult-grape-juice pushing storefront has a small-but-sturdy selection of wine and craft beer, and is a big supporter of the local music scene. Up-and-coming punkers, rappers, DJs, and more have all performed between owner Jim Ritson’s walls, making it more a de facto community space than a wine bar at all.
Think of all the amenities you could ever possibly want in a neighborhood bar -- 50-cent pool tables, boozy slushy machines, a real CD jukebox, knowledgeable bartenders -- and The Hawk provides them. On top of that, owner and whiskey expert Kyle Flavin stocks an impressive selection of his favorite brown spirits at prices so low you’ll have to do a double take at the menu (and then, maybe buy a double).
Broadway Corridor bar crawlLGBT-friendly dive bar strip
Like the epic Fourth Street punk rock bar crawl (see below), Broadway a few blocks south is also rich with a flurry of sacred dive bars along a stretch between Alamitos and Cherry Avenue. Enter: the Gayborhood crawl, which takes you from Broadway Bar on the west end, past Sweetwater Saloon, The Falcon, Mine Shaft, Brit Bar and Paradise Bar -- all classic LGBT hangouts that prove Long Beach’s gay scene isn’t anything like clubby WeHo’s.
The iconic Koreatown gastropub -- among the first in LA -- dropped its second location in downtown Long Beach with a spin on the original fit for the 562. What’s the same: a tap list built with owner Jimmy Han’s local craft beer connections, along with chef Wes Lieberher’s duck-fat-drenched food sensibilities. What’s new? A full liquor license for craft cocktails and a 1am last call.
With a black-and-white photobooth, cheap well drinks, and a wall covered entirely in painted skateboard decks, The Good Bar is one of Long Beach’s newest... well, good bars. Started by a noted bartender from The Red Room on 4th St., this is a place where all the gritty charm of the city’s original drinking culture gets an upgrade for the next generation.
Ryan Sweeney’s Goat Group empire landed in Long Beach four years ago, and brought with it the LA craft beer bar empire’s signature neighborhood approach to quality libations. Just as at the other Blind Donkey in Pasadena, expect an affordable list of specialty whiskeys and a simple tap list of not-so-common craft brews. On weekends, though, expect a sweaty steaming mess that borders on nightclub status.
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