Every town needs dive bars, and the Old River Monte Carlo Saloon on Taft Highway was once one of our biggest. My old TV buddy Jim Huntington and I spent a few Saturday afternoons here in the 1980s when his high school buddies from Pacific Palisades came just for the insanely cheap beer and the thrill of seeing Jim waste $ 40 on scratchers. lottery tickets and win $ 4.
I’m not sure the place has retained its status as a dive bar today, however, after extensive remodeling and some work in the kitchen which led to an acquaintance to insist I had to try the pizza here. Pizza in a bar is it good? It seems unlikely. After all, alcohol simultaneously dulls the taste buds and inspires appetite to the point that shoe leather with tomato sauce and string cheese would get an enthusiastic boost.
So we had to check it out and I have to say my memories were messed up. I’m glad Jim now works at a San Francisco TV station. This place looks great. The old place was the kind where you checked your shoes and the seat of your pants after you left to make sure you weren’t bringing any foreign objects into the house.
It’s not exactly romantic date material, but their bar, floor and stools are now clean and comfortable, there is a stage at the back where bands play on weekends, two tables of billiards, three electronic darts, and six draft beer taps include the usual suspects plus 805s and a craft beer.
On the first visit I tasted a small pizza for meat lovers ($ 9.99) and while I wouldn’t rate it as the best in town, it really surprised with a thick crispy crust. , a decent sauce, copious amounts of cheese and a fascinating filling system for meats. There were four quadrants and each had a slice of Canadian-style bacon topped with a slice of salami and a slice of pepperoni, with bits of linguica and Italian sausage found here and there. It looked like something put together by someone with OCD, so precise was the placement of the toppings.
Toppings available include grilled chicken and marinated artichoke hearts. What bars offer this?
And it must be said that even though it was a late Saturday afternoon, there were only a dozen customers at the time and it was a friendly and gentle crowd. I enjoyed listening to Wasco, Shafter, Sheriff’s Deputies and various mishaps while country songs with lyrics like âGod is great, beer is good and people are crazyâ played in the background.
I noticed a TV with views from 16 security cameras visible, which I think is a good idea in today’s world. I have to keep my electronic eyes open at all times.
On a return visit, my companion ordered the “Espanol Breaded Ravioli” ($ 6.99), which our server assured us was stuffed with cheese and vegetables, off the list. entries. I ordered Buffalo chicken wings ($ 6.99) and a cheeseburger ($ 5.99).
The wings had a flour coating, not the bare style so popular these days, but they were crisp and not mixed with the sauce, which was on the side. The panko crusted fries and onion rings, which accompany every appetizer, were ok without being over the top.
We weren’t exactly thrilled with the ravioli, which sounded like an ambitious idea, but it did look like a soft cottage cheese with chopped chives inside, no veg and dull although fried and crispy. It’s the one thing we wouldn’t order anymore.
The burger had the standard sesame seed bread, a hand-shaped patty that was twice as thick on one side as the other but wasn’t undercooked anywhere, and there was a thick slice of raw purple onion just below which was just perfect.
You can see why people on the road would fall in love with the place that seems in the middle of nowhere on the road from Bakersfield to Taft, especially if you’re coming from out of town where a glass of chardonnay for $ 5 ( which is what we paid for) was something from, say, the ’80s.
Alert the usual suspects in the Palisades.
Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @pftittl.