In the county that introduced craft beer to California, it stands to reason there would be great places to drink it.
And so there are in Mendocino County, two hours north of San Francisco up the 101 Highway.
But it’s also a haven for dive bars and one legendary live music venue that’s known throughout Northern California as a destination to hear bands.
PubClub.com has been to those places and presents this review of the bars in the two main cities of the area, Fort Bragg and Mendocino.
The area is also a huge wine-producing regions, but there are not any true wine bars. There are, however, tons of tasting rooms in Hopland and most of the wineries are located on Highway 101 north and south of Ukiah and Highway 128 between Boonville and Navarro.
• FORT BRAGG BARS
If you happen to be in town on a Friday, then take part in First Friday. This is a stroll through the art shops downtown (balloons identify participating businesses). Some of them serve wine, so this is a great warmup to the evening. It goes from 5-8 p.m.
Fort Bragg also has beer, and it’s home to the North Coast Brewing Company, a craft brewery that brews its own beer right in town.
It’s bar/restaurant (455 N. Main Street) is so popular you’ll have to wait on weekends if you want a table in the restaurant area. Of course, PubClub.com prefers the bar section in places anyway, and it’s there you can also converse with the bartender about the selections of beers.
The Red Seal Ale is the original and there are 11 other selections, as well s seasonal brews. A dozen beers always on tap at the bar, including Scrimshaw Pilsner, Old No. 38 Stout and PranQster Golden Ale.
The restaurant is quite good and steaks are a prized specialty. In the mood for something else? Consider the fact that the beer-batted fish and chips are the original menu item.
In the rest of town, there are a fine selection of dive bars. Locals like to start at the Golden West. It appears this bar has been here since the actual Gold Rush, perhaps with the addition of shuffelboard, pool, bumper pool and a vintage juke box.
It is no long walk to be welcomed into the Welcome Inn. This is a bit brighter bar than the Golden West with shuffleboard tables popular among the regulars. These bars are on Redwood, just a couple of blocks from Main Street.
For later at night, say midnight until 2, there’s the Tip Top Lounge around the corner on Franklin Steet. It this sounds like a classic dive, then that would be a correct assumption – standard pool table, longtime bartender and longtime crowd.
One of the best places on the entire north coast is in the area, but it’s not actually in Fort Bragg. It’s five miles away in Casper. The Caspar Inn is a live music venue that brings in bands such as English Beat and the Young Dubliners.
It’s a former brothel that is known up and down the coast as a destination all into itself. Above the stage, on an old railway section, is this slogan, “Respect All, Hurt None, Love 1 Another.”
The Caspar Inn is on a remote stretch of highway sitting all by itself, distinguished by a martini glass neon sign. There’s a $10 cover. The lone Fort Bragg taxi driver does not work past midnight but there are rooms at the Inn for those who can’t pull themselves away from the place.
• MENDOCINO BARS
The beauty is breathtaking, but even in Mendocino you need to plop down at the end of a day and have a few beers. To handle that task, Mendocino offers two selections.
One is Patterson’s Pub, a quaint place in the middle of town full of character (and local characters).
It has sports on TV, a popcorn machine in the back, pub food (the clam chowder, served only on weekends, looks particularly enticing but PubClub did not sample it due to other dinner plans) and a long line of taps at the bar.
The other bar is less, er, refined. It’s down by the water and is the place for local activity later at night.
There’s not much to Dick’s Place other than the fact it’s a place that serves cocktails, and for many, that’s plenty. The name on the window of this small bar is hard to spot, so either look for the crowd in front or the hanging sign that says “Cocktails. On and Off Liquor Sales.”
• CALIFORNA’S ORGINAL MICROBREWERY
If you want to visit California’s original microbrewery, it’s the Mendocino Brewing Company and it has a bar in Ukiah. It’s the Mendocino Brewing Ale House in Ukiah.
It has pool, darts, a TV for sports and hot dogs and sausages on the menu. Well you didn’t come here for a gourmet meal and to watch a bunch of games on the tube, you came here for the beer, right?
And that it has, serving it up from in Park Falls Plaza (1252 Airport Park Blvd., 707-HOP-BEER.) Happy Hour is 4-6 M-F.
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