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Cold Beer, Cheap Food, Level Pool Tables--and No Pretense

November 08, 1990|PATRICK MOTT

Sick of taking heat from East Coasters about how every saloon in Southern California is some effete nouveau fern bar tarted up to look like it might have a pedigree stretching back to ancient times but that still reeks of eau de yup? Take them to Joe Jost's and shut them up forever.

Joe Jost's is the oldest saloon in Long Beach, and it is where hunger, thirst and pretense go to die. The beer comes in frosted 20-ounce schooners, the eggs are pickled on the premises, and the Joe's Special (polish sausage on rye) is a true classic. There is pool and snooker in the back room, and freshly roasted peanuts and cigars are sold behind the bar.

The wooden rail under the aluminum bar has been worn smooth by men who took their sons in for their first public drinks and by the sons who in turn came with their own sons. The booths and tables are dark and wooden and bear carved initials that have been varnished over again and again. The ceiling fans are old and made for function, not show. The walls are cluttered with old photos, foreign bank notes and snapshots of patrons in Joe Jost's T-shirts standing before the Alamo, the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China.

The place started out as a barber shop in the early 1920s, and Joe, a Hungarian immigrant, served root beer and sandwiches to waiting customers during Prohibition. After Prohibition was repealed, the local health department told Joe that he could either serve food and beer or cut hair, but not both. Out went the barber chairs and up went a bar.

Today the place is run by Ken Buck, Joe's grandson. It's not a historical landmark, but it ought to be.

Joe Jost's is no longer male-dominated. In fact, it has become something patrons call a family bar. On weekends in particular, men and women arrive with their kids and share tables with regulars and victorious softball teams.

Sports on TV, good talk, cheap food, cold beer, level pool tables and nearly seven decades of experience and unaltered tradition. Mention "urban renewal," and hundreds of loyal patrons would cheerfully throw themselves in front of the bulldozers.

Joe Jost's, 2803 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. Open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. (213) 439-5446.

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