Granted, there are a number of great restaurant bars in Laguna Beach (i.e., Rooftop, K’ya, Lumberyard, The White House, Nick’s, 230 Forest, etc.) but there are only three REAL bars in Laguna Beach, all with personalities of their own.
Together, these three long-standing Laguna Beach bars are a veritable triumvirate in our little town, having dominated and outlasted hundreds of other tries over the decades. They are, The Marine Room Tavern (Ocean Ave.), the Saloon (PCH right in the middle of town), and The Sandpiper Lounge (PCH toward the south end of Central Laguna Beach).
Today, we discuss the Saloon, the only standup European pub in the entirety of Orange County. (To be sure you don’t miss out on our other two “personalities,” and insider tips and secrets to each of these renowned bars, be sure to subscribe, above).
Established in 1978, Laguna Beach’s Saloon has been owned these last five years by Bobby Doerr and Mike Byrne. Step in the place and you feel you’ve been immediately transported to some pub in Central London or Dublin. Aside from a couple of small benches and one teensy table in the corner, this is a stand-up bar. Don’t be asking for one of those foo-foo blender drinks – they don’t own a blender. DO feel free to peruse one of the finest single Scotch menus in town, and enjoy 100% juice in any mixed juice drink you try – they refuse to go the way of “juice from a gun.”
While the Saloon certainly offers above-average wines by the glass, this is primarily a mixed drinks, straight shots, and mighty beer kind of bar.
The Saloon opens its doors at noon on weekends and at 2:00 on weekdays, but the real action begins after 9:00 p.m. Packed with both locals, nearby town regulars and people who come from all cities and countries to this renowned bar, just take a deep breath and worm your way through. (Come on, that’s half the fun.)
Local, Insider Tips to the Saloon
The Saloon is famous for two drinks:
1. The Pine-O Cranikazi. See that big ol jug of fresh cut pineapple rings soaking in vodka there on the Saloon’s back bar? That’s the foundation to this drink. A pineapple-infused top-shelf vodka Cosmopolitan served up or on the rocks, it goes down extremely easy.
2. The No Name shot. Primarily a coffee liqueurs shot, this gizmo was first invented by a Filipino bartender at the Saloon years ago and was initially named after him. When he eventually retired, the shot became the “NO Name” shot. This either occurred because of some kind of strange politics OR a reverence for retiring the name, much like they do a Michael Jordan jersey number. (I prefer the latter story.) Whatever the case, this is a no-nonsense shot made up of 5 liquors (yes, I said FIVE) and mixed on a weekly basis by just one, long-time bartender at the Saloon. If you know the actual name of the shot, the Saloon treats you like a V.I.P. You’ll see the clear, unnamed, unlabeled bottle there on the back bar, too.
How to Find Laguna Beach’s Saloon
Remember the cobblestone path I told you about in the Gelato Paradiso article? Well the Saloon stands right on PCH at the front of that cobblestone. From Main Beach (Broadway and PCH), travel south just 3 blocks past Park Ave. About halfway up the block, you’ll stumble across the Saloon. (If you hit Watermarc, you’ve gone too far.)
Hours of Operation for the Saloon
Weekdays, 2:00 p.m. to last call (usually around midnight on week nights)
Weekends, noon to last call (usually 1:30 a.m. All drinks are out of hands and off the bar at 2:00 here.)