Why not sample a beverage in each of the bar's five drinking areas?
The dive bars that dot Los Angeles’ near-suburbs feel a bit more like lounges than true dives at times, a dynamic quickly remedied by heading toward the coast. Less a dive bar and more a complex, Playa Del Rey’s Prince O’Whales sprawls across a handful of buildings and multiple patios, striking a perfect blend of classic dive and beach town bar.
Opened in 1955, the Los Angeles dive bar originally operated under the name ‘Bowsprit’ in reference to the long structure typically found protruding from the front end of a sailing vessel. Owner Steve Mayer purchased the Bowsprit in 1972 and changed the name to Prince O’Whales, establishing the drinking establishment largely as it exists today. Said to be either one of or the oldest sports bar in Los Angeles, the space certainly holds the square footage and TVs to qualify, boasting 17 screens distributed across multiple indoor and outdoor areas.
Prince O’Whales is hard to miss, a bright blue building part of one of Playa Del Rey’s busier streets capped by an immense, vertical sign proclaiming the name of the bar and a few of its signature amenities including “cocktails” and “darts.” Tinted windows run the length of the exterior wall, ushering in more light than might be typical of a true, dingy dive bar, a shift that takes advantage of the areas obvious beach vibe. Blue paint, blue window trim and a giant blue sign provide a solid drinking beacon among a string of businesses leading to the beach.
The space inside is divided into multiple distinct drinking areas, the foyer of sorts an indoor-outdoor hybrid that is actually more of a dive bar courtyard than anything else. A handful of hightop tables can be found in this dive bar waiting room, the blue paint scheme replicated inside to complement a massive whale mural along one of the area’s walls. Entrances to two bars can be found here, one a bit more television-intensive, the other a bit more minimalist. Whether both bars are operating at a given time depends on the density of the crowd.
To the left, a long bar occupies a narrow room underneath, you guessed it, an actual bowsprit as homage to the Playa Del Rey dive bar’s original moniker. A handful of beer taps can be found here, as well as some limited seating mostly limited to the chairs that line the bar and a few hightop tables. The dive bar decorations in this first bar consist of rusted license plates, framed posters and a few odds and ends found set against the wood paneling that lines the space.
Across the courtyard, a second bar is uncovered, this one a bit wider, anchored by a short bar in the front of the building that seems to be the more frequently operated of the two main bar areas. Here, tap beers can also be found, as well as a robust selection of televisions that line almost the entirety of the interior walls in this room. String lights hang above to add a little ambiance and the sloped roof with exposed wooden beams makes the space lean toward the cozy side of the dive bar spectrum. On this reviewer’s last visit, the bar was well populated with Loyola Marymount students, a typical occurrence given the proximity of the university.
Two back patios can be found down a long corridor that stretches off of the Prince O’Whales courtyard, one a partially enclosed patio that includes a ping pong table and the other a collection of open-air picnic tables. Well-weathered metal signs line both areas, the enclosed patio outfitted with a window that looks out onto the rolling, undeveloped landscape that borders Prince O’Whales. A second patio features the same, fence-ringed view of the city’s surrounding landscape, the seating area separated from a slender bit of parking by a low lattice fence. The enclosed space offered by the ping pong patio offers a bit of shelter for the ocean wind that is very much in play for outdoor drinking in Playa Del Rey.
In addition to an always enjoyable Rolling Stones pinball machine found inside, entertainment can be found in the form of regular trivia and karaoke nights. An extensive food menu that includes breakfast on weekends when opening hours are earlier serves sandwiches, burgers and typical bar appetizers until a pleasantly-generous last call time of 12:45 AM.