Vintage neon, corner pub vibes.
A loose description of the perfect neighborhood corner dive bar would probably include words like ‘neon’ and ‘friendly’ and ‘unassuming’ to paint a picture of a bar tailored to its neighborhood as an organic piece of the area. Socal’s Tavern in East Sacramento checks all of those boxes, a brightly colored outpost along a neighborhood street corner complete with vintage neon over the door and a family crest painting out front to add a medieval twist to the presentation.
Socal’s Tavern is so-named thanks to original owner Shorty Socal who, according the dive bar’s Yelp listing, first opened the doors in 1970. The story does go a bit deeper than that as Socal’s Tavern sits on the site of The Corner Club, a post-Prohibition Sacramento staple that seems to the origination point for the Socal’s Tavern neon sign jutting out from the building. Though today the twisted neon reads Socal’s Tavern, there is some suggestion that the green base beneath it once served as the foundation for a similar sign with The Corner Club inscribed before it was converted to today’s appearance.
To add another layer of intrigue before walking inside, ownership changed hands in 1995 to the family of Bill Farrell, the namesake and origination point for the Farrell family crest painted on the wall just below the Sacramento dive bar’s storied neon sign. Though the colors are slightly off, at first glance the paint scheme of the building resembles a Mexican flag turned on its side, a welcome pop of color no matter its origin story, especially when it comes to corner neighborhood dive bars.
Socal’s Tavern benefits from its East Sacramento location, the density of Sacramento’s urban core dissipating quickly, giving way to residential-heavy areas like Socal’s immediate vicinity. Neighborhood locations create neighborhood vibes and that feeling permeates Socal’s, the collected clientele clearly made up of locals and nearby residents. The green paint outside extends inside, lining the top portion of the walls throughout before transitioning into warm wood paneling. Carpet under foot accentuates the ‘friend’s living room’ vibe cultivated here.
The walls feature a few bursts of beer sign neon and metal posters befitting a dive bar but with enough space to breathe, letting the green walls, wood paneling and muted carpet mellow out the interior. Small circular tables make up the majority of Socal’s Tavern seating, much of it collected inside the front door connected to one of two rooms that make up the dive bar’s footprint. The main room includes access to the bar itself, a pretty classic looking setup with the requisite mirrored liquor shelving and draft beer list just below the ceiling.
Taking a stroll through the main room reveals a few interesting, if sparse, hints at the dive bar’s past life as The Clover Club, a vintage photo here and there interspersed among the beer signage. An old upright piano anchors one corner of the bar just under a framed, folded American flag. These small hints of dive bar heritage are hints to be sure but welcome bursts of historical context among the more modern decorations throughout.
A small window behind the bar provides access to the Socal’s Tavern rear room that serves as the dive bar’s gaming space complete with two pool tables, dart board and shuffleboard table. The wood paneling here is even more robust but the decorations a bit more minimal, almost like the game room garage to complement the living room vibe of the main room. A few hightop tables are available in back but the space is well proportioned out for gaming-specific activity.
Socal’s Tavern is a corner neighborhood bar striving to be exactly that, an accessible, welcoming dive bar for locals and nearby residents that keeps its presentation simple. Hints at the dive bar’s past, particularly through the neon signage out front and a few preserved photos inside provides a bit of context that only adds to the experience and to Socal’s Tavern’s standing as an East Sacramento dive bar staple.