East Sacramento

Sacramento, California

East Sacramento transitions quickly from urban core to residential zone, a ripe setting for neighborhood dives.
Beck Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Interior
Every major city has that neighborhood just off to the side, a place that was once far enough from downtown to develop its own vibe while close enough to the core of the city to still feel urban. East Sacramento fills exactly that role for the city of Sacramento, a neighborhood, you guessed it, just east of downtown that captures the transition between Sacramento’s urban and residential zones. The population density here is just high enough to ensure that businesses have a shot at staying afloat while still low enough that these places feel like neighborhood secrets.

The itinerary suggested below captures some of East Sacramento’s best bars and restaurants with an emphasis on divey, neighborhood drinking spots that can fill in the gaps between on-the-go, unassuming meals. The priority here is on experiencing the richness of the neighborhood, one dive bar and one diner at a time.

The Stops

1. Cheaters Sports Bar

3221 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95816
Google Map
(916) 736-0563

As the name suggests, Cheaters Sports Bar is just that, a sports bar packed with memorabilia, TVs and various fan groups who call Cheaters home base. As a first stop on a bar crawl, Cheaters Sports Bar makes a lot of sense to catch an afternoon game of some variety before venturing out into East Sacramento. This particular bar crawl features some of the best dive bar signage in the city, Cheaters Sports Bar no exception with its boardwalk airbrush-style depiction of angry looking eyes on a splash of blue something with a martini glass perched overhead. Keep an eye out for a quote of mysterious origin that runs along the top of the bar in the style of a Renaissance fair decree.

2. Club Raven

3246 J St, Sacramento, CA 95816
Google Map
(916) 447-8142

Sometimes and affectionately referred to as the Dirty Bird by locals, Club Raven opened in 1946 under one of the great Sacramento dive bar neon signs. The sign features a raven, naturally, that is animated over a couple of frames of burning neon, adding a little life to the bar’s exterior. Inside, recent renovations have smoothed out a rough edge or two, but this is a neighborhood bar at heart and has remained that way across owners. As the sign on the brick wall out front says, parking is available behind the building. Keep an eye out for events as Club Raven has been known to set up a nacho bar or something like it when the mood strikes.

3. La Trattoria Bohemia

3649 J St, Sacramento, CA 95816
Google Map
(916) 455-7803
Web Site Link

La Trattoria Bohemia and neighbor Bonn Lair provide a European one-two punch unique to Sacramento. Though online listings sometimes peg La Trattoria Bohemia as a purely Czech restaurant, the combo here is actually Italian and Czech, the menu pulling from the rich culinary histories of both regions to create a unique blend of options. This place is a little ritzy by Scoundrel’s Field Guide standards, but the availability of pizza, pasta and schnitzel in one place is hard to pass up, especially with a nice little outdoor drinking patio as an appetizer before visiting Bonn Lair next door.

4. Bonn Lair

3651 J St, Sacramento, CA 95816
Google Map
(916) 455-7155

East Sacramento doesn’t scream “you’ll find a great British pub here” necessarily, but here lies Bonn Lair, a faithful recreation of a British-style drinking establishment. And that is no easy feat given how many bad impressions of British and Irish pubs exist in America, but Bonn Lair nails the visually dense, plush environment of a British pub floorplan complete with a wide array of ‘snugs’ that provide private drinking nooks and crannies throughout the space. Opened in 1993, Bonn Lair takes its name after owner Dave Boyet’s wife, Bonnie, the kind of romantic gesture that potentially provides the right kind of inspiration to keep a bar crawl going after stop number four.

5. Nopalitos

5530 H St, Sacramento, CA 95819
Google Map
(916) 452-8226
Web Site Link

Be warned first off that Nopalitos is cash only and holds hours that come sometimes be incompatible with a late night bar crawl, but if there were ever a reason to adjust a little bit of timing or priority, a trip to Nopalitos qualifies. The vibe here is neighborhood corner diner serving Mexican-inspired staples, opened by husband and wife team Dave & Rose Hanke. The pancakes and muffins receive rave reviews, but on a bar crawl, the combination of meat, tortilla and spicy red or green sauce is hard to beat and Nopalitos stocks a fair share of spins on that theme no matter the time of day. Nopalitos is closed Sundays and stays open until 8 PM otherwise, so plan accordingly.

6. Club 2 Me

4738 J St, Sacramento, CA 95819
Google Map
(916) 451-6834

Planning a bar crawl sometimes involves a delicate balance of when to start, where to start and what time things open. Club 2 Me erases many of those concerns with an opening time of 7 AM that accommodates all itineraries. The looping shamrock neon sign out front is unique among Sacramento dive bars and sets an accurate expectation for the string lights, mirrored surfaces and lamps inside that create a pretty dazzling atmosphere by dive bar standards. One bonus here is neighboring Pasty Shack, opened in 1952 and a nice day drinking pitstop that serves up, you guessed it, English pasties (crispy dough pockets packed with savory fillings) that no doubt make a good drinking foundation for further East Sacramento exploration.

7. Socal's Tavern

5200 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95819
Google Map
(916) 455-1646

The word that comes to mind when Socal’s Tavern comes into view is ‘classic,’ a fitting description given the East Sacramento bar’s roots in the 1920s, named The Corner Club back then. Original owner Shorty Socal opened this incarnation of the space in 1970, ownership eventually shifting to Bill Farrell, whose family crest can be seen on the outside of the building. On a crawl full of pretty epic dive bar neon, Socal’s Tavern is another impressive entry, a classy martini glass perched above the name of the bar. The vibe inside is corner, comforting neighborhood spot, the perfect place to land after a meandering trip through East Sacramento.

Related Bar Crawls To Explore

Downtown Sacramento

Old Sacramento and beyond.

Midtown Sacramento

Epic dive bar signage off the beaten path.