Monte Carlo Bar Sign

They say, (whoever the hell they are,) that the Monte Carlo Bar is a dive bar that gives fuck-all about anything. Or anybody. But that’s not true. Come on, go there yourself. It’s not a scenester-hipster joint but sometimes, well, most of the time, that’s not what you need to drink at a dive bar. Squatting like a fat, aged-out whore named “Pebbles” (with a hernia procedure in her near future) and taking a piss on the corner of 3rd & Vermont in Koreatown, the Monte Carlo, for decades (1950s? nobody could give a straight answer) has entertained the unwashed, the uncouth, and writer-beasts alike. I love it.

Very much locals. And Japanese bartender “Mari” (who knows your name, your drink, and is filled with so much energy and kindness and genuine joy at being there, serving, tending), you can’t help but feel immediately at ease. I mean, the joint is as big as a large living room, or almost the size of the common room in the K-Town hostel I’m staying at, and so you get friendly fast.

Monte Carlo Bar Pool table

TVS showing local sports are focal points to begin conversation and the drinks are always cheap, no need for a ‘Happy Hour’. $5 well drinks. Beer & whiskey/teq shots $8.

Monte Carlo Bar

True Monte Carlo is musty, no frills, and the one beaten-down-by-life- pool-table is surrounded by ratty chairs that you dig out of your aunt’s garage after she’s passed away (never married, no kids) and you’re there to divvy up what’s left of the old woman’s life. Nothing matches. Definitely a vibe of dying alone. Not that that should deter you from going. Fuck no. The booze prices are amazing, a chill vibe, and an even sweeter bartender. What more do you want? This is a bar. Not a club.

Monte Carlo Bar Ron Fernandez

But funny, the entrance is sooooo close to the street, the sidewalk, that if you sneeze you’d probably splash somebody shuffling past. So, as you’re ordering your 3rd whiskey-Coke you can plainly see and hear the people. Mostly families. Latin. Mother and kids, a Father and kids, or older kids on  skateboards, a homeless man, a proper thug or two, but nobody enters, they’re fast-walking, gots places to go, gots things to do. Tons of honking traffic, Ubers, the bus line that brought you crawls by, and occasionally you see a parent pointing out to their kids about “the bad people” in the cantina. In Spanish you hear Mom or Dad mutter, “You see? You want to be like them? You want to be there all your life? That’s why you go to school. That’s why you study. Don’t be like those pigs.” And they yank their kids faster on by, tripping, almost losing grip of the 24-roll family pack of toilet paper, their 36-bottle pack of water, their sack of Big Macs and fries from the McDonald’s around and the corner, back to their homes, back to their families, protection, love, and about as far away from the bad people as you could possibly get.

Monte Carlo Bar Chairs

Ah, but then the 22-year-old kids come crashing thorough after 9pm, hooting and hollering and snapping their fingers in the air and shaking their asses. Four, five girls, one or two dudes, you always see that, the men with the least amount of threat, I guess, because nobody fucks at bars anymore, or goes into the alley behind the joint, or fucks in a parked car; sadly. And the vibe changes. Life anew. Screaming after just one drink, hollering at a song you played on the box 25 years ago (but they seem to have been the sole discoverer of such things), and the mood is considerably lighter. People smile. Look at the girls dancing (it’s always the white girls, right? Hell, I don’t mind), and you find yourself ordering another drink, thinking, ok, this is interesting, maybe one of them has a daddy complex. 

Many do. 

3514 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Google Map

Author: Jim Marquez
Photos: Blaz Gallegos

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