• 326 : the only open-air dive bar

    June 4th, 2008mr meanerUncategorized

    I am known to frequent The Grove on a regular basis, usually at the weekend and usually to eat and drink rather than just to shop. While there are some very nice mid-tier restaurants there, I usually sneak 100 yards west to the Farmer’s Market and head over to Unit 326, where the creatively-named 326 Bar is located in all its glory.

    326 Bar is sandwiched in between a mexican food stand and a candle shop, which means the ambient smell is a confusing cross between fried beef and Hillary Clinton’s neckerchief. Why, you ask is it like a dive bar? Well, the Mr. Meaner Checklist of bar dive-ness rate card shows as follows:

    Dirty [✔], Cash Only [✔], Smoke-filled [✔], No food served [✔], People eating at the bar [✔], At least two senile old ladies drinking rosé wine [✔], Plastic cups instead of glasses [✔], Plastic pitchers [✔], Serves PBR [✔], Has Coors Lite as a “premium” beer [✔], Has at least one person drinking who has less than three teeth in their head [✔], Has a bartender with visible injury [✔], Keeps the kegs in fridges under the bar [✔], Has illegible beer list on a chalk board [✔], Serves wine from a box [✔], Random kids wander through on occasion [✔], Restrooms less than satisfactory [✔], TV with dirty glass shows sports programs on mute [✔], Strange sticky substance in random places on the bar [✔]

    Yes, indeed, 326 Bar has it all — and then some! But where in LA can you get a pitcher of Bud Lite for $13, have the bartender happy that you tip $2, and get to people watch the entire Farmer’s Market from the comfort of your barstool? Nowhere, that’s where.

    While the beers usually arrive in plastic cups, if you’re sitting at the bar and ask the bartender nicely you’ll get a couple of fairly clean glasses from the fridge. And, by the way, I wasn’t joking about the $2 tip — you can see it in the background of this picture:

    Two cold ones, and two dollar bills!

    The crowd is very eclectic, with mostly normal people, the odd alkie and people who just stop by randomly, usually in utter shock to find a bar in the middle of the Farmer’s Market. I usually go there on a Saturday or Sunday at lunchtime or a little after, and if I was the social type, I know I could make friends out of the varied bunch of people (and many regulars) who are there with me.

    I really like 326 Bar and the Farmer’s Market in general. The crowd is loose, the beer is cold and you can walk 10 feet from the bar and buy fresh vegetables There are some great vegan food options adjacent, and after you drink some beer you can always walk to The Grove and watch the fountains.

    A rare quiet moment at 326 Bar

    You can see the TV mounted on the wall in the picture above, and it’s the source of a strange phenomena when there’s a game on that people want to watch. Basically, people crowd around the bar and watch the TV, so if you’re sitting at the bar (as I always do) you can be 5 people deep if you want to get out. Feels like back in my schooldays with a rugby scrum, only without the hairy legs in your face.

    Finally, if you’re either a smoker or you hate smokers you need to be aware that 326 Bar is open-air, and therefore allows smoking – just like the entire Farmer’s Market. And, nothing goes as well with a beer as a cigarette, so many people do take advantage of this, especially chain-smoking foreigners (and particularly the Brits). Be aware…

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