In Pasadena, at least, the fabled Nessie has a reputation for being downright friendly. Of course, folks there are talking about a bar, not a beastie.
The Loch Ness Monster pub was established in Old Town Pasadena by two Scotsmen, Ian McKinnon and Hal Law, in November, 1973, and for almost 15 years has maintained a decidedly Scottish ambiance. This is in no small part due to its manager, Willie Bowman, another Scot who, for special occasions, is in the habit of showing up for work dressed in a kilt and tartan sash.
Willie is well-known locally, and leads off the annual Pasadena Doo Dah Parade every year, and has twice been grand marshal of the event, which is held the first weekend after Thanksgiving.
The interior of the Loch Ness Monster, an old brick building that was originally a livery stable for the Pasadena fire station, is high-ceilinged and roomy. There is a stand-up bar (one with a brass foot rail, the way a bar should be), several tables, a stage and, in the back, the requisite dart board.
The bare brick walls are festooned with photographs, license plates from Glasgow, coats of arms, snatches of Gaelic aphorisms and other Scottish memorabilia. There's plenty of Irish stuff in evidence, too.
Across the courtyard from the main building--a sunny, cobbled area where patrons can enjoy their brews in the outside air with a grand view of the mountains--is the pinball machine and electronic game room. Nice of them to put it somewhere away from customers who prefer to socialize.
This smaller building was once a tack room for the horses in the stables. Inflammatory rumor has it that the old firehouse itself burned down some years ago, but there seems to be no evidence to support this.
The Loch Ness Monster is a hopping place just about every day of the week. Besides its informal atmosphere and friendly bartender, Joe Knight, the pub offers live music every night except Mondays. Sunday afternoons and Tuesday and Wednesday evenings it's jazz--good old get-together-and-jam gigs. Friday nights are for Irish folk music with the Train to Sligo band.
For rock 'n' rollers, Thursday and Saturday nights feature a popular local band with the inventive sobriquet Snotty Scot and the Hankies. And you don't have to pay through the nose to hear them. Excepting for the Sunday afternoon jazz, the music begins at 9:30 nightly.
Besides an excellent selection of bottled beers, imported and domestic, the Loch Ness Monster serves draft Bass and Courage ales--both very fresh and not at all bitter (which is a good thing because bitter is a different brew altogether).
Getting to Old Town Pasadena and the Loch Ness Monster is easy. From California 134 (Ventura Freeway), exit at Fair Oaks and go south to the public parking lot on the east corner of Union Street. You will see the sign for the bar diagonally across a private parking lot, next to the "Old Towne Pasadena" sign.
The Loch Ness Monster, 66 Fair Oaks Ave, Old Town Pasadena, (818) 795-2160 .