From Marengo on the East to Pasadena Ave. on the West, there's no shortage of bars along and within a block of Colorado Boulevard in Old Town Pasadena. They range from really cool, like Lucky Baldwin's on Raymond, to really douchey, like [BAR NOT NAMED SO I DON'T GET MY ASS KICKED BY A DOUCHEY GUY WHO LOVES GOING TO THE DOUCHEY BAR]. I haven't bothered going anywhere other than Lucky Baldwin's for years, but last Thursday night, I spent several hours in this little place that was described by its owner as "a dive bar, behind the Container Store."
"Behind the Container Store?" I thought when my friend Drew asked me if I knew anything about the place, and if it would be a good location for a Fark party. "There's something behind the Container Store? And it's not a dumpster filled with containers of dead bodies?"
I used the promise of dinner at Akbar, a fabulous Indian restaurant on the corner of Union and Fair Oaks, to convince my wife to go with me and scout around. After gorging ourselves on various Masalas and ka Salans, we went in search of the cleverly-named Olde Towne Pub.
We walked up Fair Oaks toward Holly, our bellies full, and my mouth on fire from eating too many Mirchi ka Salan. (As if there is such a thing! Um, actually, there is. It's called "more than two bites.") About halfway up the block, we saw an archway with the number 88 above it.
"This must be the place," my wife said, pointing to a sign that suggested we were just a few hundred feet away from gettin' our drink on.
We walked through the archway and found ourselves in a charming little courtyard that took us back to what Old Town was like in the late '80s: artists, worked on various projects in and out of storefronts, a few moderately sketchy dudes sat around smoking cigarettes behind a restaurant. The whole area was a proud defiance of the gentrification that's spread through the rest of Old Town like wildfire before the Santa Anas.
"88 is an appropriate address, really, because this whole area feels like Old Town in 1988," I said.
"You're going to write that down, aren't you?" She said.
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," I said, jamming my notebook back into my pocket.
Near the back of the courtyard, sitting underneath a fire escape and an unassuming sign, we saw the door for the Olde Towne Pub.
"This is kind of cool," I said. "There could be anything in there! There could be a boat in there!"
It was early, so there was no doorman or cover (there's occasionally a $5 cover that goes to the bands that play there most nights.) We walked down a dingy hallway past a couple of bathrooms and around a corner before we saw the whole place laid out before us in all its divey goodness: a dartboard to our left, an impossibly tiny stage in front of us, and to our right, the bar. A few people who seemed like regulars sat at one end, having a pint. Exposed brick on every wall was decorated with occasional bits of ephemera that wouldn't mean anything to people who don't live in Pasadena, but they tickled the nostalgia centers of my brain quite nicely.
We walked through the place toward the patio, and I was taken aback by how unpretentious and real it seemed. I couldn't wait to come back and see what it was like later at night, when it was full of people.
A few days later, I did go back a little later at night and it was everything I'd hoped it would be. I can't believe it's been just a short walk away from me for pretty much my entire life.
If you want to check it out on your own, here's what you need to know:
The Olde Towne Pub is located at 66 N. Fair Oaks in Pasadena.
The Good: They have a metric assload of beers on tap and in bottles, including Arrogant Bastard, Guinness, and local brews from Craftsman. The people who work there were all friendly (when you could get their attention; the place was packed) and it's about as unpretentious a place as I've ever been.
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The Bad: The bands were really loud. They were so loud, I spent much of the evening on the patio dodging the rain, but that wasn't the bar's fault; I'm just old. Of the three I heard while I was there, one was enjoyable, one was meh, and one was a parody of itself. They were all enthusiastic, though, and I was well outside the target audience for all of them, so take that for what it's worth.
The Bottom Line: It was awesome to be somewhere in Old Town that reminds me of everything I loved about it as a teenager, and it is so well hidden, I didn't even know existed until a week ago. Yeah, it's a dive, but it's not pretending to be a dive, and it's not pretending that it isn't a dive. It just is and that makes it awesome. If the douchey guys at the douchey bars in Old Town are harshing your buzz, and if you can find it, maybe you can take a trip to Old Town the way it used to be.
Why does Wil Wheaton know so much about dive bars in and around Pasadena? Well, he's a writer, and if he doesn't know these things and visit these places, they will kick him out of the club.
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