Off The Record is a recurring feature here on the Drunkard that marries two of my greatest interests; music and travel. Having a locals perspective when visiting a new locale is the difference between experiencing it through the lens of a tourist and of that of a native. Off The Record gathers some of my favorite artists, asks them to reflect on their city of residence, and choose a handful of places they could not live without — be them bookstores, bars, restaurants or vistas.
Dios are back. Not that they really ever left, but back in the sense that have reverted to their original name (lost the Malos bit), are teamed with a new label, and have been releasing free singles and EPs in preparation of their new full-length. In addition to the new LP, I’ve been extra excited about today’s OTR installment as Dios call the South Bay home, an area of L.A. I know little about, and has never been featured here in the past. Further proof how enormous this city is. Below, Joel Morales takes us on a tour of some of his hometown haunts. I clearly need to try this Prontos taco joint.
So when I got asked to put together a list of my favorite spots in the South Bay I kinda went blank for a second cause there’s not really much to do here that you can’t do anywhere else. Same old bars, no real place to see a show, nothing special that would make you wanna come down here. But like all places we’re from, there are those spots we’ve stumbled upon throughout the years, places we’ve built memories from that may be worth checking out if you’re stuck here with nothing to do. – Joel Morales
Prontos Tacos (1432 S. Pacific, San Pedro CA) :: This is absolutely some of the best Mexican food in L.A. Yeah, yeah, I know, EVERYBODY says this about someplace they know about, but I say this because no one’s ever heard of this place outside of San Pedro but im positive if you love Mexican food you’ll LOVE this place. This spot’s a few blocks from my house and it’s the motherfuckin BOMB. Yum. The killer for me is two things: the hand-made tortillas and the tomatillo salsa. Everything on the menu is above average to great, the cheap breakfast, the lunch and dinner plates all the way down to the basic sides like rice and beans (which in my opinion is the tell tale sign of a good Mexican food spot). But those tortillas. Those wonderful thick, hand-made from masa delivered that day tortillas. SO good. They keep me comin’ back even if I know I’m not hungry enough for their very generous portioned meals. I really wanna know where they get their masa from cause I wanna start making that shit at home, with every meal, like grandma does. Those tortillas are great by themselves but have em with some carne asada and tomatillo salsa and MY GOD. (i’ll be right back, gonna go pick up some tacos). Ok. Sooooo good. Like I was saying carne asada tacos with those tortillas are masterful, and you put some of that tomatillo salsa on it and I swear you’ll bust a nut. That tomatillo salsa is some of the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve had many. Not necessarily spicy but it has tons of flavor and you’ll wonder what they put in it so you can make it at home. I’m seriously thinking of aproaching them to bottle it and make myself a million bucks or at least get a free lifetime supply. I put it on whatever I order there, ALL over whatever I order there. And they know I love it and give me plenty. They used to have the salsa bar in front where you could help yourself but rumor has it some dipshit from some touring band came in with a jug and filled it up with salsa and that was that. They moved that shit behind the counter and limit what you can have for free. Some fucking dipshit from San Francisco. I hate San Francisco.
Redondo Beach Cinema 3 (1509 Hawthorne Blvd., Redondo Beach CA) :: Also known as the good ole “three dollar theater”, located across the way from the South Bay Galleria (a place I avoid like girls with black eyes). Up until a few years ago it was actually two bucks or two-fifty but goddamn inflation got me there too. I think it’s now $3.25 which kinda blows but whatever, they still have dollar drinks and food, though I wouldn’t recommend the dollar hot dogs cause I just wouldn’t. Like 7up with caffeine, never had it never will. But hell, there’s nothing I like less than paying twelve-bucks-plus to see a movie in a theater with a bunch of morons and having it end up sucking balls. If you wanna see a movie that came out a few months ago on a big screen in an empty theater with plenty of parking than this is the place for you. Roll a pinner, fill up a water bottle with some Jim and settle in my friend. The folks working there are nice and probably just got fired from Big 5 or Rite Aid, but you know they get in for free whenever they want. Jealous. The movies they choose to screen there can be a roll of the dice, but I’ve seen pretty much every movie I’ve ever wanted to see there so it’s cool. It’s especially nice when I want to see something again (rare, but it happens) and I’ve already indulged when it first came out. All in all, it’s a good way to start off a night or spend a hot or rainy day in. You can probably sneak in to see other shit and make it a double or triple feature, but they rarely have more than one movie you actually wanna see at a time. But hey in a couple months if you wanna go see Invictus, Final Destination 8, and wrap it up with The Princess and The Frog give me a call. As long as you supply. But there’s no way I’m seeing Youth in Revolt or anything with George Clooney in it. Sorry.
The Mermaid (11 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach CA.) :: Now let me just say this. This place can be really cool or really shitty. It always depends on when you go and who’s working. For the most part it’s an older person’s place. Which is fine. Yes they can be grumpy and weird if they don’t know you but then again so can I. Once they get used to you it’s all good and no matter what they like making some money so as long as you tip normal whatevs. The bartender I’m familiar with “mike” looks like my dad but only white and way older, but its the kinda place I coulda seen the old man workin at if he would’ve made it to his golden years. You can really smell the cheap cologne and denture cream mixing in with well whiskey. The waitresses can be real flighty and just forget shit, but like I said its an older persons place and that includes the employees. The customers can be some salty dogs and dogettes which can be funny to watch when they interact but don’t bother talking to em, just sit back and enjoy the moderately priced food and block out the moderately racist convo. The place is dark and definitely OLD SCHOOL. Tons of your normal old school bar shit like: old photos everywhere, old ass black leather booths, red glass votive holders, fireplace, and a couple of windows. But man the view from those windows are surreal, cause one minute youre in this crusty VFW hall bar sippin on your coors light and the next you look out the window and see those california post card views of bikini clad skanks playing beach volleyball and rollerskating down the strand. I take quick looks now and again to check out the beach crowd poseurs ridin around on their lame ass overpriced beach cruisers and longboard skateboards and hope they eat shit and then return my attention to my coors and bomb ass club sandwhich. The food is ok, pretty good sometimes. Basic American fare, with steaks and fish and chips they claim are their specialty. But that’s not why I go. I go for the 80′s afternoon beach bar vibe with a splash of elks lodge. Some place Jack Tripper would hang out in nowadays if he wasn’t dead. It’s relaxing and a great place to watch a sunset.They have a baby grand in there, and I once saw some ninety-year-old dude play the fuck out of it, trying to impress his 40 year old date old which was pretty rad. And like I mentioned earlier there’s a fireplace in this tiny lounge section with some small bookcases and a motherfuckin Mrs. Pacman. That’s right, not Pacman but Mrs. Pacman, the kind two players sit at and use as a large coaster. The action’s still good and its in the corner aways from the locals. The last thing is actually the most amazing about this place; it has its own free parking lot. Now I know you might be thinking, “so what?” but you don’t understand. You wanna go anywhere along the strand you’re gonna hafta pay some bullshit to park. Or scrounge around for enough change to eat a meal comfortably without looking at your watch every few minutes. As long as you’re going to the Mermaid they have no problem with you parking there. Now the last thing you need to know, and this is VERY important, only go in there during the week and only until sundown. Any other time and you’re guaranteed to walk into a west coast episode of Jersey Shore. This probably goes for the entirety of Pier Avenue. Enter at your own risk.
Apparently the dude that owned it died a couple years back and now his money grubbing kids are looking to sell the property along with a couple of others that are connected to it. Fuck it, I would too for 30 mil.
Redondo Beach Pier (100 W. Torrance Blvd, Redondo Beach CA) :: Piers normally suck, and I’m not gonna go outta my way to try and convince you this one’s cool, but it’s the one I used to go to sometimes to smoke some shwag and walk around after pounding some Brickhouse in the parking lot. Those weren’t the days. It’s your standard pier, just a little more decrepit, with the usual bars and shops and places to eat just more low rent. Not really anymore charming just way less crowded AND I know a spot where you can park for free.
Although I don’t really know what’s gone and what’s still there, these are some spots that I know to still be around that I would recommend checking out:
Redondo Beach Fun Factory :: This place is weird. The whole pier’s a fucking ghost town during the week and this place is more so. it’s a good place to take some mushrooms and pretend you’re playing video games. You probably don’t wanna actually waste money on the machines cause half the time they don’t work right, but you can still play skee-ball or quarter coin pusher games if you have a hard-on to play something for reals. It’s got your standard prize booth to buy some bullshit with those 3 tickets you won from your two dollar skee-ball game and I think I remember there being some janky carnival type games as well. If the shrooms haven’t totally kicked in and you’re not drinking you might wanna try the tilt-a-whirl, but you’ll never catch me on that death trap no matter how fucked up I get. In my opinion the real fun is trippin balls and watching all the weird characters come in and out just staring at the games for a while. Like you but stone sober. (I think) This video pretty much sums up how cool and hip this place has become. Notice how busy it gets.
Old Tony’s :: This bar has been around since the ’50s and is actually kinda cool though a bit out of my normal price range. What makes it nice is the 360 panaramic view. It’s on the second floor in a round crow’s nest shape, real nice to stare out into the water or watch a sunset, you might even see a body wash ashore if you’re lucky. If you got the cash I hear the foods good, or just go for drinks in the afternoon, it’s two bucks off till 6pm. They sometimes have live music I guess but it probably blows, I don’t stick around long enough to find out. Which brings me to…
Starboard Attitude :: Yup, that’s the name of the bar. There’s not much to say about it, the pitcher prices are decent, the karaoke can be cute and they have beer pong. I don’t know what beer pong is but it says so on their website. This is probably like every other mid-life crisis bar except its on a pier, near the beach. Actually that probably goes for everything on this broke down pier, but hey whatevs.
Mr. Lucky’s/The Zebra Room (21020 Hawthorne Blvd.,Torrance CA) :: I like playing pool. It’s something I’ve moderately been ok at and it relaxes me. I don’t like playing at bars, I like going to billiard rooms. This one’s looks like any old mini-mall dive bar but it has regulation tables and old fucks who go in there every single day for hours. Real regulars. Daytime pool playing regulars. The kind that have memberships and shit (not mandatory). So me and my buddy Jimi (original dios member) still like to hit up the place every once in a while, during the day when none of the jackass community college kids are there. The same regulars have been going there since i’ve known about the place and there’s even the world’s last Japanese WWII vet who plays with one arm (still has the other one but it’s probably shot, heh), good old one-armed Johnny. He’s gotta be about a 100 and is as small as Yoda, but he will destroy you if you step to him. The place is chill, usually has plenty of tables open, and sometimes there’s some dude there that’s waiting to kick your ass at chess and talk really fucking loud while doing it. The pitchers are ok, they have tons of shit on tap, but I usually go for what’s cheap. There’s a cute mural on the back wall of Magic and Bird and various other 80′s and 90′s athletes flying through the air doing their thing. The jukebox has some hits, but a lot of crap too, especially when its community college drop out night.
I mention the Zebra Room cause it’s right next door and unlike Mr. Lucky’s you can get some really stiff mixed drinks there. It’s customary to go in and out for a shot or two in between games. I’ve actually been to the Zebra Room sans a trip into Mr. Lucky’s cause like i said earlier the drinks are stiff and they’re fairly priced. It has a chill vibe most of the time, but at night it definitely goes off. Like I-just-dropped-off-the-kids-with-their-mom-and-I’m-gonna-put-on-these-beer-goggles-and-try-to-fuck-the-first-big-boned-girl-under-55-that’ll-talk-to-me going off. It’s a straight up workin’ mans dive bar, no rock n roll kids really which is cool. Back in the day we were the only people under 30 that would go in there and we’d sneak in bottles of beer in my buddy’s wheelchair (sup Quin!). There used to be some super friendly Asian dude that would hang around in the afternoons and go around offering back massages to people. My girlfriend at the time would get creeped out but i dug it, he was gentle, yet firm. I think he liked massaging me better than her anyways.
MP3: Dios :: I Feel Finite