Dive Bar + Pasadena = Impossible…I think not!

What comes to mind when you think of Pasadena…?  Caltech, “little old lady from Pasadena” – Beach Boys, palm trees, Rose Bowl, JPL?  All of these are correct.  Bars and more specifically dive bars…nope.  That is not what popped into your head, is it?

Moving here from Boston, with little idea of where I was moving to (I was a little surprised there were tall mountains right next door) – I thought…’at least it is sort of a college town.’  Wrong again.  Caltech does not have ‘college students’ in the typical definition of the term.  There are few crazy parties, no frats or sororities, in fact, most of the time you don’t even see students around campus.  This is partially due to the top-heavy type of institution that Caltech is – 800 or so undergraduates, maybe double that number in post-doc’s and half again as many faculty and researchers.  Undergrads tend to be a little (or a lot) socially awkward, video-game focused and therefore inside a lot, hygienically-challenged, have high-intellects and are frequently barefoot – I can’t explain this last one.

Still, one would think there must be some standard place grad students go to grab a beer…right?  Nope!  My research has shown the following:  this place serves Long Island Iced Teas that are very strong and somewhere in the $2.00 range – but the food is borderline sketchy…or this place is a hip, hidden small bar with quality upscale eats, a magnolia tree in the middle of the bar and drinks that can be upwards of $13.00.  Pasadena lacks a standby, good but reasonably-priced bar for the sake of being a bar without pretensions of being anything other than a bar.  A bar, nothing fancy, a place to hang out, a place where you don’t feel like you have to check your checking account balance before you go in.  And then we found it.

Tucked away in an alley with no signage on the street or parking, lies a bar by the name T. Boyle’s Tavern.  Open space, dark without feeling dangerous, pretzels are free, 20 + beers on tap – PBR to Rogue Dead Guy, and a limited, small menu.  I can hardly even call it a menu.  To me…it is more of an emergency menu…as in…I’ve been having such a great time here, how many pitchers have we had…?…whoooeeee! – I should probably eat something…thank goodness they have_________ (fill in the blank).  Options include and are limited to:

  • Sausage Sandwich
  • Pulled-Pork Sandwich
  • Pickled Eggs
  • Nachos
  • Hebrew National Hot Dog

The essentials are there – meats and breads.  And pickled eggs (not sure about who drinks…and then says…”ya know what I’m craving…a pickled egg!”  This is no gastro-pub.  Nachos are like cheap nachos…squeezable/pourable shelf-stable cheese glop.  There is no garnish to the plates, no piece of green lettuce…in fact, I doubt they keep any produce on hand.  This in fact makes T. Boyles all that much better.  It is what it is.

I should also mention they have the most fantastic bar game ever.  Shuffle board with cornmeal.  I’m sure there is an official name for this…all I know…is I’m good at it.  It involves, sliding a round disk pm a board coated with a dusting of loose cornmeal from end to end trying to land your puck in the scoring area and knocking out your competitors pucks into the alley.  A little like curling without ice and on a small table.

I should also mention that my first experience with T. Boyle’s was around 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon and as I approached the bar…heard quite a crowd inside.  This place must really be popular to be so crowded mid-afternoon…no, no, it was just 2 sweaty local rugby teams.  Many things that I observed that afternoon/evening should not be written about in such a public forum…there might just be some youngsters out there whose innocence  is still in tact.  But if you’ve spent any time around college rugby teams…you’re probably well aware of their shenanigans, and we certainly observed some hazing of the rookies, and many, many shenanigans.

We’re happy to have found such a place and are not afraid to order the pork sandwich.  Cheers!