I spent some time in Newport Beach with my visiting parents on Friday and stumbled across a bar just around the corner from the Newport Pier. Stepping into the dim bar from the bright, beach street, you get a sense of the bar pretty quickly. It’s old school, without being too heavy handed. On one wall, deer antlers hang above a photo of the bar in the 1930s, which also features hanging antlers. On another wall is a quote that’s been widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Granted, we ended up in the bar at 1P.M. on a Friday afternoon, so I assume they get a bit busier, but this bar was so chill.
Stag Bar + Kitchen, est. 1908, is the oldest bar in Orange County, according to the plaque outside the door. The focus of the menu nowadays is pizza, with choices like Another One Bites the Crust (white sauce, mozzarella, herb chicken breast, pancetta, mushroom, & leek) and Meat Coma (tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto, pepperoni, capicola, & sausage). And they serve brunch on the weekends!
My parents and I split a couple of pizzas: The Dirty Hippie (habanero pesto, mozzarella, fresh red pepper, artichoke heart, mushroom, olive, heirloom tomato, & arbequina olive oil) and the Hot & Bothered (tomato sauce, mozzarella, sausage, jalapeño, olive, & wild mushroom). Both were delicious.
As cool as this bar is overall and as good as the food and beer was, my favorite part of my experience at Stag and one of the only reasons I’m posting about it is their crazy-amazing 21st century take on a jukebox. It’s called TouchTunes. And I love a real vintage jukebox as much as the next person, but there is something to be said for a digital jukebox that allows you to choose from an almost unlimited selection of songs.
As soon as I realized what the shiny screen on the wall was, I was standing in front of it stuffing in dollar bills to play “Magic Man” by Heart, “One of These Nights” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by Eagles, and “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne. When the songs I had chosen weren’t playing, the playlist was still solid. Mötley Crüe got the most plays, but Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide” was playing as we walked out.
Despite my impending move to Long Beach, which I am incredibly excited about, I’m planning to get back here as soon as possible. I honestly loved this bar. How mad do you think they’d be if I paid to play every Jackson Browne song in the catalogue in one sitting?