MODESTO – The sharp screeches of an old jukebox.The clanking of glasses. The hum of conversation and the occasional outburst of laughter. There’s really nothing like a good night out in a bad bar – well, dingy bar actually – where the beer is cheap and the friends are plentiful and the insults and the banter fly around like the smoke-filled air that used to consume the dive bars that dotted the landscape in and around Modesto.
Yes, there are trendy upscale places to grab a drink. There are places that you can dress up and find other people that are dressed up and listen to the latest music and pay through the nose for drinks that contain the same liquor you’ll find at any other bar.
Then there are the dive bars. The regulars don’t like it when you call them this, and those that are dressed up and expecting to find the latest music either stick out like a sore thumb or upset the apple cart. You don’t want to upset the apple cart. It kills the entire vibe.
And Modesto has a few of these legendary nightspots to its credit if you’re looking for a good time away from the button-down crowd.
Check ‘em out.
• The Running Iron – This is probably the epitome of a dive bar, and it makes no qualms about it either. There’s no pretentiousness, and aside from the sign out front on McHenry Avenue, you’d miss it completely while driving by if you didn’t know it was there (the entrance/exit situation is still kind of a mystery). A lot of bars have pool tables and use those as a way to attract customers. The Running Iron goes with the shuffleboard table – a much more relaxed and social game for people to tackle while they’re drinking. Dartboards sit against a wall. Pictures of famous people – some present but most of them past – adorn the wall behind the bar. ADDRESS: 516 McHenry Ave. 209.579.9209.
• White Hawk Longue – This fine, cash-only establishment (the mark of a true dive is the unwillingness to adapt to changing societal standards, like a credit card machine) attracts a wide array of people on the opposite end of McHenry Avenue. Across from the Regal Cinemas on the north side of the thoroughfare, this cheeky little dive has what one online reviewer referred to as “Russian roulette” of patrons – sometimes the chamber is empty and other times its full. Live music is occasionally on the docket and a pool table adds to the divey ambiance that has kept this out-of-the-way joint hopping for years. Supposedly the jukebox is quite respectable. ADDRESS: 3848 McHenry Avenue. 209.521.6343.
• The Glo-Worm – Sometimes you can just see the outside of an establishment and know that it’s seedy. Welcome to the Glo-Worm, where its seediness is all part of the charm and its ability to provide a steady, stable stream of patrons all willing to enjoy their drinks in the same place that their parents did. And the people come in droves. Pool tables help are there those that are interested, and the bar serves up stiff drinks for those who came not for the ambiance but the fuel behind the bar. ADDRESS: 117 Phoenix Ave. 209.577.9916.