Cardiff-by-the-Sea has gone through some major changes in the last few decades. Just 20 years ago, it was nothing more than a laid-back surf town with no sign of sidewalk lighting or manicured landscaping.
Before Pipes Cafe and the Cardiff Kook, this seaside paradise was known for little more than good surf breaks and friendly people.
Over the years many of the favorite local staples have slowly been pushed out to make way for more upscale and trendy replacements. Miracles Cafe, Jenny’s Place and Yogi’s Bar & Grill, once hotspots, are now long gone.
But the one part of Cardiff that has held strong, clinging to the good old days, are the epic dive bars.
Somehow this beach community, now one of the most popular places to live in the entire country, has managed to keep its collection of “leave your class at the door” dive bars intact. From the Shanty to The Kraken — this beach town knows how to have an old-fashioned divey good time.
The Shanty: Oh, the Shanty. This local dive has been the home of bad pickup lines and “I can’t believe I did that” moments for over 60 years.
Nestled between Patagonia and the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Lodge, this old-timer is taking up some prime real estate just blocks from the beach with it’s dark and divey appeal. The Shanty is the best Cardiff destination for a not-so-classy Halloween. Just be sure to smile for the camera when it comes around (or avoid it at all costs) because there’s a good chance your sloshy mug dressed as the male version of Miley Cyrus will spend the better part of a year thumbtacked to their walls.
The Kraken: In typical Kraken style — this dive won’t go down without a fight. Surrounded by upscale restaurants and located literally across the street from the ocean, the Kraken is an old Cardiff biker bar that has stood the test of time. Known for it’s brash staff, nightly live music and weekend BBQs, the Kraken is still going strong. Some nights attract the barely 21 crowd and others you’ll find nothing but 40+ locals taking tequila shots — either way, it’s always a good time.
Duke’s Cardiff Office: Having grown up in Cardiff, I was always told to avoid this place like the plague.
As a kid, I’d head down to VGs Donuts for a Sunday morning maple bar and watch people walk in and stumble out of The Office as early as 7 a.m.
But, once I reached legal drinking age and took my first trip to this local Cardiff stomping ground, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, there were your typical “don’t make eye contact” kind of patrons and a serious lack of windows, but there was also a fun Cheers-type appeal. Plus, it has pool tables, shuffleboard and even allows dogs.
For a midday whistle-wetter, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Carli Leavitt is a Cardiff native who spends her free time surfing, blogging, and enjoying all San Diego has to offer. Follow her on Twitter @CarliLeavitt.