2565 Franklin Boulevard – Sacramento, Calif.
Words & Photos by Anthony Giannotti
How would you define a dive bar? A recent article in Playboy (yes, I read it for the articles) describes a dive bar as, “A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows–bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities. It’s a place that wears its history proudly.”
After years of hanging out in so-called “dives” or “holes in the wall,” I have become something of a self-proclaimed expert of dive bars. My definition of a good dive bar is a softly lit, well-worn, cozy neighborhood bar slinging cheap, stiffly poured drinks and is accompanied by the airs of desperation, redemption, comfort and camaraderie. It is a place where you run into old friends, make new friends or just drink alone. It is a place any seasoned bar fly would proudly call home.
My love for these dingy places led me straight in the door of well-known downtown bartender Mariah York-Carr’s new joint, The Hideaway. Dive bars have become a little bit of a trendy movement, leading to some of the best bars being overrun by no-neck suburbanites and college bros. This has forced out some of the neighborhood customers, aka “the locals.”
“I wanted to make our place not a punks’ bar or rockabilly [bar] but an underground place,” York-Carr said. “All the stuff in here came from my house or friends. I think Sacramento needs a place like this.” The underground vibe was very apparent when I glanced around the dimly lit room. The walls were lined with old punk rock flyers, car show flyers, Sailor Jerry-style tattoo art and the staples for any dive: large neon beer signs. Although it is a rather large place, the dozen or so high-top tables, half-dozen booths, two pool tables and a jukebox gave it a nice homey feeling.
The Hideaway has gone the extra mile in the jukebox department, forgoing the soulless, download-any-crap-you-want flashy modern jukebox for an older model that requires manually installing the CD sleeve so the track titles are visible. In your average bar room jukebox, you’ll find classics such as AC/DC, Hank Jr., Rolling Stones and maybe Pasty Cline. Not only does The Hideaway’s jukebox have these beloved classics, but it is also stocked with anything from Flogging Molly to The Aggrolites to Reverend Horton Heat–as well as many other artists from the punk, hardcore, reggae, honky-tonk country and rockabilly genres. “This is the music we like,” York-Carr said. “This is the music we want to make memories to.”
I understand that the point of a dive is not to serve mixologist-level drinks–a shot and a beer will do for most dive bar frequenters. As I bellied up to the bar, I was a little disappointed they did not have a recommended drink list, and I was even more disappointed when I saw orange juice coming out of the Wunder-Bar soda gun. It’s the little things in the drinks that makes patrons feel like the bartender cares about their drinks and, in turn, them. However, our bartender Roxanne was very much obliging with drink recommendations. I decided on a shot of Jameson and Miller High Life, because, when in Rome…
Then, as I looked over the bar menu, I rapidly came to the realization that this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill microwaved then deep-fried greasy pub food. The entire menu was chock-full of mom’s comfort food but with a distinct flair. “We wanted to make a thoughtful menu with thoughtful technique,” said head chef Drew Boyce. “We want everything to be familiar but twisted. Bar food can get stodgy and dull. We wanted different but familiar.”
After much deliberation I settled on the “Hot Cock” sandwich and truffle fries. The sandwich was a breaded and deep-fried chicken breast smothered in a spicy but sweet sauce topped with onions and blue cheese. The blue cheese mellowed some of the spiciness and the crunchy chicken breast added a nice texture. I thoroughly enjoyed the sandwich. It’s a perfect blend of modern culinary technique and deep-fried comfort food.
As much as I dug the sandwich, the fries were ingenious. You probably don’t expect such a strong statement about fries, but these fries topped with salt, cracked pepper, shredded Parmesan cheese and truffle oil, were simple, fresh and a perfect complement to another shot and beer.
I made fast friends with some of the other customers that had some very high praise for the mac n’ cheese, Buffalo shrimp and sliders.
After a few more rounds I ventured out to the Tiki-themed back patio. Upon inspection of the very spacious patio I spotted a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Thus, The Hideaway fulfilled the final bit of qualification for a good dive bar.