Orange County and bikers may not go hand-in-hand at first glance, but dig beyond the scenes and you will find a host of biker-friendly bars all waiting for your hog to pull in. Usually located at resting places along a stretch of road, bars that provide front-door parking for their customers’ choppers and a sense of camaraderie inside the tavern have what’s needed to make a biker bar great. Here’s a look at some of Orange County’s best haunts for California’s bikers.
Being more than 100 years old is a sure-fire way to get yourself at the top of a “Best Biker Bar” list. Established around the turn of the 20th century, Cook’s Corner is a bar converted from a cabin and turned into an old-fashioned biker roadhouse. The weekends usually feature a house band, and if you ride in on Saturday or Sunday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Whipz Hog Wash will be around to clean up your ride. The charm, character, and history is what will really get you to stop by; the food, service and prices are what will bring you back.
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While Mugs Away Saloon is probably busiest around the time of the annual “mooning of the Amtrack” every July in which thousands gather around the tracks in Laguna Niguel to drop their pants and turn their bums toward the train, it’s also a great biker bar. Bikers will feel right at home with the giant bar and live music at Mugs Away Saloon. The happy hour prices will make a poor man feel rich with a ten dollar bill in his pocket and a gullet full of brew. The blue collar atmosphere and wall of topless photos is enough to make any Sturgis veteran feel comfortable, but really, what’s more biker-friendly than mooning a train in the summer?
With a lively comedian and rotating bands, Starting Gate in Los Alamitos offers a huge amount of entertainment along with its cheap (but effective) drinks. Wednesday nights are “Bike Nights,” so bring your hog, but don’t try and turn the TV from anything but the Steeler’s games on Sundays––you will be denied! Starting Gate stays open until 2 a.m. every morning save for Country Sundays, where live bands are followed by hours of karaoke and some great country tunes.
Very few things will give a biker bar high ratings when it has a fairly high noise level and no happy hour, but Mother’s Tavern manages to charm its customers in other ways. The amount of underwear hanging from the rafters and amateur photos on the walls will test your sensibilities almost instantly, and if you like what you see, sit down for a stiff, cold drink and a guaranteed lively night. Feel free to park your bike right out front too, as this place lets bikers rest easy after a windy drive up to the bar.
Swallows Inn is often described as a “real bar,” due to its dedication to strong drinks at low prices and providing plenty of space to dance to the live music. Yet another bar on this list to feature bras hung from the ceiling, Swallows Inn caters to the rough and tumble crowd, so you’re sure to fit in if you ride a hog or a horse to the bar. They don’t mess with fancy technology, as the “cash only” policy enforces an old-school tradition of honor and trust.
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Jesse Seilhan is a writer, editor and photographer from the California Bay Area. After moving to Long Beach, Jesse continues his passion for writing and music by covering concerts, interviewing top artists, and giving a dose of wisdom in a crazy, mixed-up musical world. His work can be found at Examiner.com.