Shanghai Kellys – San Francisco
Ok, it’s a Dive Bar, CAPITAL “D”, but a great and cozy sports bar too. Imagine this – You’re a sailor on shore leave in 1855 to 1870’s. You are invited to a big free party on a paddlewheel steamer, named the “Goliah”, by local Nautical rascal and Bon Vivant – Shanghai Kelly . So you and 90 others show up for free booze and food. While you are singing bawdy ballads and sloshing around a bottle of party booze with a chicken drumstick in your hand, when suddenly you suffer a ‘black out’, due to the drugged party drinks. You wake up on another ship with a new captain and a new destination heading away from a ever distant Golden Gate….
Well that’s part of the legend of Shanghai Kelly’s in San Francisco.
They don’t drug the drinks there any more, but they are heavy handed with the pour and and they have lots of discount drink specials. If you go during Football season they are heavy on the Steelers fans and of course the 49ers. They serve food, a cut above dive bar food.
Take a cab and then dive in!
Legends Sports Bar – Long Beach, CA
They call themselves the “First Modern Sports Bar in America” and they may well have been one of the first of what is now a dying breed. I say that because the Sports bar chains make it hard for an independent to open and build a crowd to sustain a long run with sports as the main attraction. With the Commercial satellite subscriptions rising with each sports player contract negotiation and the relative modest residential fees coupled with the usual near impossibility of running a successful Food & Beverage business, heavy on the alcohol and its liabilities and extreme drunk driving laws.
But back to Legends: Great layout, better than average food, tremendous memorabilia, it’s party central for many major events, they have a great in house events calendar including comedy nights and Miss Grand Prix contests, and have a very loyal following for many different teams and niche sports. It was started in 1979 by Dennis Harrah, former LA Rams (remember the FIRST time the Rams were in LA?) and local businessman John Morris. It is still a great place to roll into while rambling around Long Beach business district and the range of memorabilia goes from rare to outrageous including Bobby Rahal 2001 Indy Car!
Padre Murphys – Phoenix
“Go and Sin No More!” is their motto!
They are an institution in north Phoenix that opened in 1992. Currently with 56 beers on tap, Daily Food Specials, OTB Horse and Dog racing, PPV events, Special menus for St. Pats/ Easter, etc. Part neighborhood bar, part Irish Pub, part OTB Parlor, part super sports bar, really a unique place that strives to keep up with the times and competition. They always seem busy, food is chef driven and a cut above, but it is still very comfortable during the slow times, when you can peruse their memorabilia or bet a race.
Lefty O’Douls – San Francisco
Opened in 1958, this place has been though many phases and reincarnations over the years, but continues to be a unique and enjoyable place to visit. Named after Lefty O’Doul a former New York Giant (Baseball!) who was born in San Francisco and batted .398 in 1929 and was a 2 time batting champion of the NL. He is credited with starting the Major League Player tours across the Pacific to Japan and in his career also managed the San Francisco Seals baseball team. Blessed with a friendly outgoing manner, he led a colorful life and was friends with most all the Baseball and Hollywood stars of his era which he invited to his bar & restaurant Lefty’s.
They’re renowned for their Corned Beef and with good reason – it’s delicious. They have an extensive menu and are a popular spot near Union Square for tourists and business crowd. They have a cocktail lounge and piano bar, and not anything like the new cookie cutter sports bars you see in suburbia. They do have enough TV’s to watch the game of choice, but is really cool just to hang out. This place reeks of good times and tall tales. I recommend you go in and eat some of their Corned Beef and then hang out with the locals and get your drink on, you will hear some memorable stories and meet some new friends.
Two Honorable Mentions, if for no other reason, their names:
Bub’s @ the Ballpark – San Diego, CA
Opened 1996 “Another Man’s Stupid Idea of Fun”
Lumpy’s – Salt Lake City, UT
Current Downtown location opened in 2005 – A 3 story Fun House in Salt Lake City