Revamped and renovated but no less a California corner dive.
If there’s one thing California does well, it is the mass production of tiny strip malls that include a dive bar, a liquor store and some kind of hole-in-the-wall food stop. The Mushroom, or Mushroom Lounge (depending on which sign you look at), is one such lucky tenant, resident of a Sacramento strip mall in the Rosemont area of the city. On one end of the strip, E-Z Stop Number 1 liquor store, on the other, The Mushroom. In between, Sa Rang Bang serves up Korean food and that completes the California trifecta.
And if that description conjures up an image of a simple dive bar with a sign above the door and a profound lack of windows, you’re on the right track when it comes to neighborhood bar The Mushroom. Sacramento is a small big city and The Mushroom sits just outside of the densest neighborhoods, not far from the transition point between suburban Sacramento and semi-rural California. Outside, what looks to be a fairly new sign sits above the door with “The Mushroom” inscribed next to a stylized martini glass. The more interesting sign sits in the parking lot, a blue square with stylized type proclaiming the name of the bar next to a mushroom silhouette or two.
Blacked-out glass on the doors and small windows mix with solid blue paint across siding, brick and tile to create a somewhat intimidating dive bar fortress vibe for first-time visitors. Blue paint outside gives way to almost entirely black-painted interior, grey walls mixing with black ceilings and equally black faux wooden flooring. Light peeks through a pair of very small windows set toward the ceiling, creating only the hint of an outside world quickly absorbed by the bar lights and dark hues within.
The bar itself sits just inside the front door, stapled dollar bills forming a thin line along a ledge above. Because the bills are scattered, the look is a classic dive bar dollar bill mosaic still in progress. Most of the surfaces inside The Mushroom have been refinished or replaced and the bar is no different, a modern counter style with a wide wooden lip. Beyond the dollar bills, decorations behind the bar are sparse. The basics are covered, including a few sets of taps, but that’s about it despite a glimpse of dive bar-standard wood paneling in back.
The Mushroom is dividing into two rooms, the front including the bar and a few low tables in addition to a gaming nook of sorts that includes a pair of electronic dart boards. Wide wooden slats run about halfway up the wall here and throughout this first room, some of it looking a little weathered but dark rather than the typical light brown paneling typical to dive bars. Renovated bathrooms can also be found in this room, dispelling an outdated review or two that can be found online decrying the state of The Mushroom’s facilities.
Though much of the signage is standard issue beer sign fare, a few interesting odds and ends can be found including a Miller Lite sign over the doorway between The Mushroom’s two rooms. This second room features a pair of pool tables and some of The Mushroom’s most interesting visual elements, chief among them a festive, Christmas-themed pair of antlers (our visit took place in July) above a large neon Budweiser sign. Tin signs cover this second room, ranging from liquor to beer to sports themes.
Put together, The Mushroom has the vibe of a classic dive bar location that has been renovated over the years to bring up the amenities and fixtures within. Some of the character of the space has been lost of course in that process but what is left behind is a classic neighborhood pub, a dive bar filled with regulars, all within that classic California strip mall footprint.