The reigning dive bar king of downtown Sacramento.
As far as downtown dive bars go, Sacramento’s Chambers Room is about as pure an experience as it gets, an almost hidden doorway on an urban street that feels about two blocks away from where the real action is. Of course, proximity to a state and in this case federal courthouse never hurts a dive bar’s appeal, downtown Sacramento featuring a host of such buildings only a block or two from the Chambers Room front door.
Dating back to the mid-1970s, the sign has been updated over the years but the 70s-era origination is clear in the classy cocktail logo above a red door that provides one of two indications a Sacramento dive bar is nearby. The second indication that Chambers Room even exists feels a bit like an Easter egg in real life, a tiny, narrow sign at the intersection of J Street & 7th Street that points to the dive bar’s front door.
But what might be lacking in curb appeal is more than made up for the intensely divey Chambers Room interior, a textbook example of how to pack as much visual appeal into a small space as possible, ideally without moving anything around for a handful of decades. There are certainly new touches found throughout, including the handful of relatively modern art pieces that line one wall of the space, but those fresh touches are complemented by framed photos and mounted souvenirs that look like they’ve been permanently bolted to the Chambers Room walls. Keep an eye out for one such picture of a Vlade Divac-led Sacramento Kings lineup.
The main bar runs along one wall, anchored by lottery-related machinery at one end satisfying that deep primal need to drink and gamble at the same time. Live keno drawings can be seen and scratchers purchased here. The rest of the space is devoted to drinking, a long padded rail running along the bar counter, Halloween decoration-style cobwebs covering a fair amount of the decorations behind the bar. Interspersed with the bar’s liquor selection and available snacks, an exceedingly eclectic display of knick knacks includes sealed Star Trek memorabilia, an old-school camera and what looks to be a double decker ceramic piggy bank, just to pick out a few favorites.
Below foot, a faded rug adds to the appeal of the space, a series of small tables with white, padded chairs making up the balance of the space not taken up by the bar itself. Overhead, a vaulted corridor has been carved into the ceiling and painted black, seemingly to create the illusion of the night sky over head. A skeleton and bird sculpture can be found here to add to the appeal of gazing up into this overhead crack in the Chambers Room space. In back, a makeshift art studio seems to be the source of much of the artwork seen throughout Chambers Room, much of it on display and some of it still in progress.
Needless to say, a downtown Sacramento dive bar just off the beaten path and filled with fading memorabilia is a magnet for a steady stream of locals. The drink of choice is clearly the PBR tall boy, the perfect drink to complement the vibe inside. On this reviewer’s recent trip, the midday crowd included a handful of regulars arguing over the best live music show they’ve ever seen, which is exactly the kind of argument that should take place in a dive bar of this caliber around 3 PM.
As dive bars go, Chambers Room is among the divier of Sacramento’s options, a space that benefits from the energy of its downtown location but balances that with an off-the-beaten-path vibe that comes with sitting closer to downtown courthouses than Sacramento’s nightlife. Those dynamics converge to create the vibe felt within Chambers Room that unsurprisingly draws a steady stream of regular, sometimes grizzled locals sipping PBR tallboys on a Tuesday afternoon.