Dive Bar: A dive bar is typically a small, unglamorous, eclectic, old-style bar with inexpensive drinks and may feature dim lighting, shabby or dated decor, neon beer signs, packaged beer sales, cash-only service, and a local clientele. (Wikipedia)
That tradition continues today with the many bars, lounges, wineries, and breweries that are still liberally sprinkled throughout the landscape. One of our passions is to visit the many dive bars in the area where you can share a drink and a chat with some of the friendly locals.
Our tour starts in the north, continues south, and...of course...is only a sampling of the many watering holes in the region.
Way up in the Plumas County town of Quincy is the Plumas Club, which is a friendly Clamper's bar, meaning it also serves as the clubhouse of the local chaper of the E Clampus Vitas Society (click on that link to learn more about that).
Along with all the Clamper memorabilia on the walls, you can sidle up to the bar or squeeze into a front-window table and cool off with a cold brew or a strong shot while chatting up locals wearing their many pins on their vests.
It's a great little place smack dab in the middle of Quincy's downtown.
In Nevada City, keep an eye out for the Mineshaft. Looking a bit like a well timbered mine shaft, you can keep up on the lottery with their self-service machine or the Raiders game on one of their TVs.
On the west end of Placerville's Main Street is one of Tim and my favorites, the Liar's Bench where everyone gets carded, no matter what. It's in a great location where we can pass time with the friendly bartenders and Hangtown locals while Letty gets a dose of retail therapy in many of the adjacent shops.
If we get hungry, we can also get some great food and craft beer at the Main Street Taphouse a few more doors to the west.
Continuing south on highway 49, we pass a couple of bars that are in the past...the Nashville Restaurant and Bar along the Consumnes River...and the Drytown Club which didn't make it through the Covid pandemic (but Feist Wines of Sutter Creek has bought the building and it turning it into their tasting room - Ed).
A 10 mile detour on highway 124 will take you to Tilly's Club in Ione. Here, you can see the old mural on the wall that owner Loretta uncovered during a renovation. You may still rub elbows with miners as there are still a few sand and silica mines operating in this town.
Going back to highway 88 and heading back into the hills on highway 49, you'll find a couple of bars in Jackson. The Main Event and Jackie's Hideaway on Main Street.
The Main Event sits at the spot of an old 1850's gunfight and the bar inside almost looks like it's of that era. Jackie's Hideaway, on the other side of the street, is really too new to be a proper dive bar but it's a good one to find an accessible bathroom.
That's not to say that it's not a worthy stop on our dive bar tour. This used to be the historic Fargo Club that was located down the corner, across from the National Hotel.
Moved in 2019, the old location (above) is pretty much literally falling apart but dates back to the days with Jackson was wide open with casinos and brothels as late as the 1950's.
Crossing into Calaveras County over the Mokulemne River and after a bit of windy road, you'll eventually come to the town of San Andreas, the county seat. At the corner of highway 49 and Main Street, you'll see the old rock building housing Gooney's.
Named for Gooner Everson, who acquired the saloon for $18.60 in back taxes in 1863, the current owners have been operating it since June of 2019.
This popular watering hole also has a nice menu of good food. We particularly liked the steak sandwich we had there. It's also got a talent for making craft cocktails.
Another ten miles down the road will put you in Angels Camp. Mark Twain spent time here in a saloon where he heard a story about a jumping frog. "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" launched his career and the town celebrates it with a jumping frog contest each May and images and statues of frogs all over town.
The tavern that Twain went to is gone (but the building is still there) but at the other end of downtown is My Bar (formerly Gold Diggers), another proper Gold Country dive bar.
While you can buy a three dollar hot dog off of their weenie ferris wheel, it's more about the drinking here. One of the few bars on this list that also takes credit cards.
"We're silly here," the bartender tells me as the locals laugh at another joke and the drinks come easy.
At the southern end of our tour, we end up in the town of Hornitos. You might actually call it a ghost town and, with a population of 75, no one would really challenge you on that.
One thing still hanging on is the Plaza Bar, across the parking lot from the post office.
Looking just like a quiet, dusty saloon from those gold rush days, patrons used to visit and drink with the legendary Manuela Ortiz. Manuela has since passed on but the bar is still owned by the Ortiz family.
We do like to stop in, chat, and have a shot of Hornitos in Hornitos.
There's a sampling of the colorful and varied local watering holes of this historic area. We still have a lot more we'd like to visit before they're just another page in the history of the Motherlode.
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