You can visit every winery and pet every redwood, but you won’t truly understand Northern California until you frequent its dive bars, which attract the full spectrum of locals, from camo to tie-dye. Here you’ll find your wealthy growers, your stoned surfers, your van-dwelling tweakers, and your dudes with Sublime tattoos. Yes, everyone grows weed. Even the rednecks.
The Ocean Grove Lodge, Trinidad, 480 Patricks Point Drive, Trinidad, California 95570
Tucked away just off Highway 101, this place is about as NorCal as you can get. The back deck looks out over a Redwood grove, and the dingy décor is representative of the region’s distinct mash-up of hippie and redneck. A surfboard is propped behind a wood stove, and a few dusty Jamaican flags hang on the wall next to a poster that makes the chilling announcement that Dancehall Monday is coming up. Meanwhile, the regular looks like an extra from the Dukes of Hazard and the bar sells t-shirts that say: Trinidad: A Drinking Village with a Fishing Problem. Bonus: if you get too ensconced, you can always stay at the attached hotel.
The Brass Rail, Redway, 3188 Redwood Drive, Redway, CA 95560
The Brass Rail was originally a bordello, a legend that’s supported by the decor: a grand old bar backed with red flocked wallpaper. Because the area attracts migratory workers who come to process or “trim” weed, the clientele tends to be a mix of camo-wearing locals and “trimmigants” from Germany, Australia, and Portland.
The Blue Room, Garberville, 747 Redwood Drive, Garberville, CA 95542
Garberville is the classic weed boomtown, and the main drag is choked with growers in muddy pick-up trucks, trimmers in vans, and hapless hitchhikers begging for dog food, beer money, and “kind nugs.” The Blue Room offers a welcome retreat, a dim oasis with stiff drinks and taxidermy.
Everett’s Club, Arcata, 784 9th Street, Arcata, CA 95521
Everett’s is surprisingly clean for a dive bar, but has the rest of its credentials in order, including a veritable herd of elk and deer heads, an old school jukebox with a crappy selection of CDs, and a truly impressive collection of commemorative ceramic whisky decanters. Lest you forget where you are, the front door affords a view of the Arcata town square, which will no doubt be populated by dready trimmers in yoga pants.
Pat’s, Guerneville, 16236 Main Street, Guerneville, CA 95446
Guerneville is an up-and-coming vacation spot, but Pat’s hearkens to the town’s trashier roots. The decor is a mix of weird paintings and beer paraphernalia, the bartenders are entertaining, the drinks are extremely stiff, and the CD jukebox has a good selection of classic bar tunes. As if this wasn’t enough, the attached cafe serves Korean fried chicken that’s addictive like crack. (The restaurant is only open till 2 p.m. and closed Monday and Tuesday.)
The Casino Bar and Grill, Bodega, 17000 Bodega Highway, Bodega, California 94922
Located in the remote town of Bodega (home of the church from The Birds), The Casino is the kind of spacious old-style roadhouse that makes you feel like you’re stepping into the wild west. A pool table, an old-fashioned jukebox, and tasty rotating dinner specials make this 135-year-old establishment a local favorite and well worth a foray off the beaten path.
Turtle Rock, Napa, 2000 Capell Valley Rd Napa, CA 94558
Here we move from weed country to wine country. If well-heeled wine snobs dining on overpriced farm-to-table appetizers make you crave a light beer and a greasy egg roll, Turtle Rock is just the place. A rural roadhouse located near Lake Berryessa, the dollar bill-spangled bar doubles as a store that sells beer and bait. When we arrived at noon for egg rolls and bloody marys, a drunk regular insisted on buying a round of tequila shots for our group of five. It’s that kind of place.