If you can get to the ceiling, you can staple a dollar bill up there.
Nothing quite captures the spirit of a Route 66 bar like Screaming Sally’s Saloon in San Bernardino, one of the first stops on the long Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive. The dive bar’s former name, Screaming Chicken Saloon, captures the spirit of the atmosphere well, the highway-adjacent complex complete with sagging, ex-gas station shelter and a surprisingly expansive, stadium-style back patio.
The terrain just outside of Los Angeles heading east transforms quickly, the density of the city traded for rolling hills and sparse surroundings in a sweet zone between city density and desert desolation. San Bernardino occupies that ideal zone, Screaming Sally’s Saloon a hidden, easily-missed dive bar gem off of a modest highway exit. This reviewer’s first visit to Screaming Sally’s Saloon took place during a particularly cloudy, foggy day, causing the bright yellow sign scrawled with “SALOON” outside of Screaming Sally’s to feel more surprising than usual.
And that sign can be found atop what looks like it was once a gas station shelter, a massive piece of metal I probably wouldn’t recommend standing over for a prolonged period of time currently sheltering nothing from the California weather. The bright yellow building next to the makeshift carport includes a pair of large windows clearly once used as garage bays during the property’s car service days. Out front, this pair of bright yellow icons is certainly eye-catching, but fails to convey the lush California dive bar environment found inside the front door.
The soaring floor plan inside Screaming Sally’s Saloon makes for a pretty grand introduction to the hundreds of stapled dollar bills that paper almost every inch of this first room. As the height increases, the dollar bill density fades a bit, but impressive are the bills affixed to the two-story ceiling and those above the extensive row of televisions near the top of the space. The garage door windows do indeed roll back, making for pleasant day drinking when the weather allows, but these modern touches only serve to complement the non-nonsense vibe suggested by the dollar bill-heavy décor.
California houses its fair share of divey and upscale lounges that feature a fireplace as centerpiece, but few rival the authentic, wood-burning model found in the center of the Screaming Sally’s Saloon main room. The ancient contraption is fenced off for drunken burn protection, the recipient of real wood hand-fed throughout the day by the bartender or server on duty. The fireplace looks a bit like a steam engine’s coal furnace in a movie, another element adding to the general appeal of Screaming Sally’s Saloon.
Beer here is provided both through the long line of taps behind the bar and in a giant, ice-filled tub that houses domestic favorites at the coldest possible temperature. The room wraps around to a renovated space lined with corrugated metal that houses the bar’s pair of pool tables. An additional rolling garage door can be found here that opens up onto the gem among gems at Screaming Sally’s Saloon, a sprawling back patio experience complete with stadium seating for live music events and an unimpeded view of rolling California hills.
By any standard, the Screaming Sally’s Saloon patio is an attractive drinking destination, but to find it along a relatively unpopulated stretch of Route 66 highway heightens the experience considerably. A wooden patio perch extends off of the main structure, hanging just above additional patio space down the gentle slope behind the Route 66 bar. A wooden stage complete with sun screens and scaffolding that looks like it could handle a decent lighting rig can be found here, paired with a concrete dance floor.
Patio chairs and small tables can be found along graduated step-like platforms stretching up from the dance floor, creating great sightlines throughout the Screaming Sally’s Saloon grounds. Of course, why stop at two patio areas when three is possible, a third seating option found here in the form of a separate bar area just off to the side of the dance floor. Fair to say, the scale of the patio operation here is impressive, part of what is truly a Route 66 hidden gem on the Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive.