Blue Beet in Newport Beach, CA
Hidden Saloon from 1912
Don and I had a mighty memorable night at The Blue Beet, in October... when we finally found it on Balboa Peninsula.
The 110 year old brick building stood just yards from wharf. We could see it on the map, but we still drove in circles. The skinny, 3-story structure was sort of tucked into an alley.
Stark's in 1912
We were greeted by a narrow hall when we stepped inside. If it had been a century earlier, (when Henry Stark owned the saloon) I probably wouldn't have been allowed inside. Unless my name was Dollar Dolly. She was an older "Lady of the Night" who searched for customers at Stark's. This may just be folklore... not sure.
I was not nearly as bold as Dolly, so I let Don lead the way. Actually, I was just moving slowly as I studied the walls and thought about Mr. Stark. I'd read up a bit on the internet. He evidently ran the rough and tumble saloon, in a pretty relaxed manner, back in the day. He managed to keep the bar open, even through prohibition days. He also allowed a never ending poker game to continue throughout his ownership. When the bar closed at 2 am, the game continued right into the morning, when the bar re-opened at 6 am.
Sid's Blue Beet in 1960
If we'd come in the 1960's, when Sid Soffer took ownership, I might have felt a little more welcome. I assume women were allowed, in the sixties. If they'd felt uncomfortable though, they could have put a dime in the payphone near the door, to call a cab. Not sure if that phone is actually original.
From what I've read, the owner Sid was even more of a character than Henry Stark. He served food, but refused to offer condiments. He got himself on the city council where he stirred up trouble... enough trouble, that he fled to Vegas to avoid arrest. He died in Vegas, in 2007.
The Bar Today
I believe The Blue Beet has been owned by a father and son, since 2015. I know nothing about them.
We didn't see the owners, but met Manny the bartender (manager?) when we arrived after 6 on a Monday evening.
We had heard that singer/guitarist Mike Hamilton would be performing that evening. Don and I became quick fans when we enjoyed his music in Laguna Beach, back in 2012. Manny said Mike wouldn't be performing till closer to 7, so we had time to kill.
I looked around the cozy-dim space and wondered about other performers in the saloon's past. I'm sure there were many musicians over the years, but evidently in the sixties you could also enjoy entertainment like flamenco dancing or poetry readings. At some point Steve Martin did stand up here!
After peeking around a bit, we decided to head outside to see if we could catch the sunset.
We didn't have to walk far. The Pacific was lovely and we caught the sun just before it disappeared.
We wandered near the pier and studied some of the businesses facing the water. The older bars reminded us that this area was once a working class seaport. In the early 1900's buildings stood yards from the wharf, offering food and drink... and brothels.
I'm sure "Blackies By the Sea" and "Beach Ball" have some stories to tell. Who knows how old they actually are, but they now stay open more hours than Blue Beet! Blackie's opens daily at 10. Beach Ball appears to have the same hours that Blue Beet had long ago. "Closed 2am to 6am"
Back to the Beet
It was a little darker (than my photo) by the time we returned to the Blue Beet. The window to the kitchen was open, sharing some pretty good smells.
Luckily no smells of burning food... or burning building. Evidently there was a huge fire in 1986, that destroyed most of the interior. Luckily, enough of the brick exterior was spared, so the building could be renovated.
Peek in the Kitchen
Once inside, I had another view of the kitchen.
Under the Prime Steaks sign, I could catch a glimpse of the bright room, that made our dinner later.
Mike & Guitar
Don and I headed for the back room, where Mike was setting up, beneath a neon Blue Beet sign.
I've kept up with with Mike on Facebook, since seeing him perform in Laguna. He knew his fans from 10 years ago, were coming that night, so if was a fun reunion. We chatted casually while Mike dealt with all his equipment.
Mike and Don continued to gab, while I explored. I climbed upstairs to check out all the levels.
There was even a roof terrace, on the top level. I took a quick peek and headed back down, checking out all the framed posters and photos, on my way.
There was an odd assortment of framed celebrities, from Jackie Kennedy to sports players. And then there were images that clearly had stories behind them.
There was a lot to wonder about. What was original from the old saloon, besides the brick?
But there was no time for questions. Mike was tuning up and I was thirsty and hungry.
From Beatles to Bach
Don and I grabbed a table in the cozy back room and spent the next few hours enjoying Mike's mellow voice and acoustic guitar. He started with Simon and Garfunkel's, "The Boxer" Good choice.
I requested Cat Stevens and heard an old favorite, "Moon Shadow". Perfect! It was fun to hear some Kenny Loggins tunes, knowing that Mike toured with him back in the seventies. Another nice surprise was hearing Mike's guitar doing a little combo of Bach and Pachabel! What an enjoyable evening.
We hadn't come for the food but we did have a decent dinner with our drinks and music. The salad with grilled chicken, goat cheese, candied walnuts, beets, apples and and balsamic dressing was very tasty!
The house Pesto Flatbread with mozzarella and baby arugula was surprisingly yummy.
So I mentioned the food, because this is a Dining Blog. But the tasty food was just a part of the enjoyable evening. The other guests and laid back atmosphere, made it feel like we were in someone's living room, hanging out. Mike chatted through his mic, introducing us to to each other and telling stories... experimenting with different requests and thanking us all repeatedly. We hadn't intended on staying until his last song, but we did and enjoyed every minute.
Last to Go
I guess Don and I acted like Groupies. We lingered, until only Mike and Manny were left.
Manny took our picture and we 3 grinned, kind of like we did 10 years ago when we took a photo at The White House in Laguna. Yay for a good mix of music, food and historic atmosphere!
Food Search in Jefferson, TX
April in Jefferson
Last April, Don and I spent one night in this north Texas town.
Jefferson is a cute place, with lots of historic buildings and a lovely brick Main Street.
I really wanted to have a dining experience in the General Store.
We at least knew they had Jams and Jellies!
We stepped inside and I spotted the candy right away.
I could have dined on Bit-O-Honey and peanut brittle!
There actually was a cafe in the back!
More candy at the dining counter! I believe we could have ordered a microwaved hot dog, or something. But we gave it a pass.
Cowboys and Bikers
We browsed around the vintage store before heading off. We spotted some interesting people hanging out and walking along the sidewalks of Jefferson.
We headed across the street to check into our hotel. Who might hanging out there?
We knew the Jefferson Hotel was going to be an entertaining place. That's why we booked.
There were lots of dolls waiting for us in our guest room. We were amused by our bizarre hotel for a while, but then we needed a break.
We love eccentric hotels. We seek them out. But this was a little overwhelming after a while and there was nowhere to sit and relax. We needed an escape!
Just a block or two away, we found this charming little building with a cute patio and couple iron balconies.
The pre-Civil War structure seemed pretty isolated on the edge of town. But back in the 1850's, Dallas Street was lined with saloons and bustling with activity. Big Cypress Bayou was just steps away, with lots of riverboat activity.
Over the Years
James McGarity was one of the first owners of the building. He and his partner got into a little trouble with booze and gambling and sold the saloon in 1868. In 1916, the building became home to the Jefferson Masonic Lodge.
There were numerous other businesses in the building... a confederate hat factory and a brothel and some point. All the buildings on the street dealt with fires, but somehow this one survived. The most recent owners have done a nice job making the place feel welcoming to locals and tourists.
I didn't get a great photo of the impressive bar, which is really the focal point.
But the brick walls, high ceilings and spotless tables were inviting.
There were lots of nice little perks, like our complimentary basket of homemade potato chips. And a fresh carafe of water. And pretty dishes.
And packets of disinfectant wipes, along with our utensils. All very un-saloon-like!
Don ordered the Cali Grilled Chicken Sandwich, which was insanely good. The crazy huge chicken barely fit on the brioche bun. It was smothered in Swiss cheese, tomato, avocado and ranch!
Since I had big plans to eat half of Don's fries, I ordered a house salad which was pretty deluxe, with shaved Parmesan, avocado and cucumber. We soaked in the good flavors, while we enjoyed a nearby singer, performing on guitar. No saloon honky tonk at McGarity's.
This wasn't exactly a dining adventure, but it was a dining escape. There was something truly odd about our hotel stay (written in my 90 Nights blog) and we needed this little getaway, before we faced the night.
Just like our hotel, the saloon was full of knickknacks and treasures and oddities. But there was something absolutely okay about the moose and the buffalo watching us eat. We said good-bye to them and headed back to our hotel... where nearly 100 sets of doll eyes watched us sleep!
Colorado Road Trip
Lunch at the Saloon
This June, we were traveling through Glenwood Springs again. It was lunchtime and we were in luck. The saloon opened at 10 am.
The entrance to the saloon looked a little eerie with Doc's piercing eyes. But we headed inside anyway.
At noon on a Monday, the saloon was pretty tame. There were no whiskey drinking gamblers or beer guzzling bikers. The old place was about as calm as it probably was in the 1880's, when it was a mercantile store.
Don and I took a seat at Doc's bar... which of course was not Doc's bar. Doc died down the road, in 1887. He may have entered this space when it was a store, but he never got to see this beautiful bar, which was built in the east, in the 1870's.
Beer at the Bar
Don and I split a beer... since we were on the road. I offered up a toast to the famous gambler/gunfighter/dentist.
It was a little sad to picture Doc in 1887, dying from tuberculosis. I'm sure he would have preferred to have gone out in a dramatic gunfight, rather that a hospital bed, in Glenwood Springs.
Admiring the Bar
I allowed myself to look like a tourist, when I pulled out my cell phone to snap a few more photos. I loved the old cash register, tucked between the liquor bottles and beer taps. The arching backbar and mirrors glowed, with more neon.
Some history in the menu, said the antique bar traveled from the east to a bar in Leadville, Colorado. It didn't come to this location until the 1920's. Maybe Doc did have a drink or two at this bar. He lived in Leadville, before his final days in Glenwood!
Don and I chose this place for the iconic sign. Even though the bar caters to tourists, we did not assume we'd get good food. I always keep my expectations low.
But our grilled ham and cheese with waffle fries was actually pretty tasty... served on a china plate, for about $5. Our somewhat frazzled bartender/food server was also very sweet. She seemed to be the only one on duty to serve the bar and tables.
Before hitting the road, I gave myself a quick tour. The stone fireplace was a good reminder of the tavern's age.
I was glad to have daytime lighting, to help me explore with my camera.
Big Nose Kate
My trip to the restroom was interesting. The large photo near the door, showed a bloody face. (Glad I'd already eaten) The Ladies Room door was titled "Kate" with an image of her, on the door. The woman known as Big Nose Kate, evidently tended to Doc, in his ailing last days. The restroom itself was curious. The stall had swinging saloon doors.
We finished up, just as the lunch crowd was thinning out. I glanced at a few more displays behind the round booth, as we headed out.
I'm going to try to forget that grisly info and focus on that fine, neon pistol. I love a good sign and this one lured us in and gave us a nice road trip lunch break. I'll drink to that!
Holman's Bar & Grill
Nothing delights me more than a retro neon sign. Especially when the neon sign includes the word cocktails.
Bonus points for decorated windows! These were painted with holiday greetings and clinking martini glasses!
This past summer, Don and I spotted this wonderful place. Our daughter and son-in-law had literally just moved to SW Portland, into an apartment around the corner.
The sight of this neighborhood bar might scare some parents. But Don and I didn't worry. Instead, we joined the "newlyweds" and celebrated with drinks.
The front door opened to the original bar, which has been serving customers for over 80 years... first, as a lunch counter, then a bootleggers saloon during prohibition.
The Holman's sold the bar to the current owners in the 1970's. Last summer the bar stools were empty.
The Game Room
The game room with its slanted linoleum floor was practically empty, too. But the walls were full of entertainment!
Last summer, it was a lovely day when we shared drinks on the patio bar. It didn't look quite as inviting, when we returned on December 26th.
But even in the cold drizzle, the little area behind the bar looked a lot better than it did years ago... when it was an old used appliance graveyard. I learned that from some menu trivia.
December 26, 2018
We ended up having lunch at Holman's, on the day after Christmas. We were just finishing a festive holiday celebration with our kids and their spouses in Portland.
What better place to dine, before heading to the airport!
The North Dining Room
I tried not to intrude with my camera, but there were quite a few people seated at the dark bar, at 11:30 am.
We headed to the dining room, which was added in the '70's. It sort of felt like we were sitting down for a meeting at our round table, with rolling task chairs.
As it turns out, we were lucky to get this prized dining spot.
Holman's opens at 8 am and Heidi said the table is usually occupied, by older gentleman, when she walks by in the morning.
I ordered a BLT with fries. That seemed like the kind of food I might have ordered years ago, at the lunch counter.
They would have surely delivered my beverage with a straw, back in 1933. The sign on the table was a reminder that it was 2018 and we were in Portland. (Too bad the metal straws that Santa brought me, were packed!)
While we chatted and ate our fairly decent meals, I took in all the fun decor.
The dining room had once been a Rexall Drugs and I tried to picture that. I doubt the Cigar Man was part of the drug store decor, but the lit up Rudolph and Snowman could have been.
Shoes and Socks
Before noon, the Game Room was very quiet. I checked out the slanted floor again and the pinball machines and the square windows, that let me peek in on the bar. I
smiled to see the wooden shoe display, that I remembered. I was glad they had added some felt socks for the holidays!
We didn't have time to play Pacman or pinball, but our very nice server did invite us to spin the Meal Wheel, before we paid up.
She watched from the bar, while we took turns, hoping to match up the arrows for a free lunch.
This photo makes the wheel look like it was spinning crazily fast! It wasn't.
Luckily my wimpy attempt was strong enough to make one revolution... before finishing with the red arrows pointing at each other! Free Meal!
My BLT was free and I got to write my name on the Winner's Chalkboard! This was my first dining adventure, involving a free meal!
Elbow Inn Bar and BBQ
Devil's Elbow, Missouri
I remember my parent's talking about Devil's Elbow when I was a kid. They had stories from their youth about the winding portion of Route 66 that lead to the tiny resort town. I pictured an evil and eerie place, but really the town got it's name because of a dangerous bend in the Big Piney River.
Today, only a couple of the original buildings remain. This small restaurant/bar still sits beside the road, not far from a bridge that crosses the Big Piney. The wood framed building looks much as it did in 1929, except the quaint windows are covered with bold, beer and "Bike Night" advertisements.
In Search of Devil's Elbow
The next day, we took the old scenic 66 out to Devil's Elbow.
Elbow Inn Biker Bar
We arrived at about 11:30 on a weekday, so things were pretty peaceful. I had seen pictures on the internet to know the place isn't always so peaceful. I was glad, since it was easier to imagine what my parents might have seen in their youth, without any motorcycles parked in front.
Munger - Moss Sandwich Shop
Back when my parents were babies, a Mr. and Mrs. Moss began selling barbecue in Devil's Elbow. Mrs. Moss married Mr. Munger after her husband died and they used both names for their sandwich shop in the early 1930's. I love this image with the sign in front, making you hungry and thirsty for Old Kentucky Barbecue and Orange Crush!
Picturing my Mom
When we stepped inside I took one look at the old counter with the stools and pictured my mom as a little girl. Maybe she never came in here at all, but I distinctly remember driving through Missouri and listening to my parents talk about Devil's Elbow. My mom said she remembered being very small and stopping with her parents, to experience her very first soda pop. "I remember how it stung and fizzed!" Maybe this was the actual place my mom sampled her first pop!
A New Addition
In the 1930's, this was a sandwich shop, not a bar. I'm also pretty sure the very fine tradition of hanging bras from the ceiling had not been introduced. This was quite a colorful assortment.
There were a few locals dining when we arrived. Kimmie welcomed us and invited us to sit anywhere. I commented on the balloons, "Looks like you're going to have a party." Kimmie chuckled and said the party had already happened. "Oh, we had a baby shower. Don't know why, since the baby was born 5 months ago. Always looking for an excuse to have a party!"
No Soda Pop
You'd think I might have felt uncomfortable dining under a ceiling of bras, with a few men smoking and drinking beer at the bar. (It's been a long time since I've been anywhere that allowed smoking) But the folks were all pretty welcoming. After I ordered my chef salad, I told Kimmie about my mom's story of drinking her first soda pop. She was so sorry she didn't have any bottled soda. She thought that would have been fun to have had an ice cold soda pop in honor of my mom.
Don and BBQ
The outside of the Ladies Room was curious enough to make my Memorable Bathrooms list. First of all, SOFTTAILS is a pretty weird name for the Ladies Room. Then just getting to the door was an adventure, with all the balloons. Once I got them batted out of the way, I had to tug on the door. Part of a bra was wedged in at the top!
As we got ready to depart, two friendly fellas dining nearby wished us safe travels. Then one stood and insisted we pose for a photo before leaving. "That's what all the bikers do." He said. I didn't notice till later the words "Legalize Freedom" above the white letters. Hmmm? I'm not sure I'd want to talk politics on a Saturday night here. But we had a great visit!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.