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THE CORNER BAR

Turk's Dana Wharf Namesake Is the Big Man on the Marina

November 05, 1992|T.D. SMITH

People go to Turk's Dana Wharf for a variety of reasons. Some go for the wharf atmosphere--a 24-stool bar that overlooks Dana Point Harbor's fishing boats; some go to view memorabilia-covered walls highlighting surfing legends, movie stills and local historic landmarks. But many go just for the chance to meet Turk.

That's Turk Varteresian, a 6-foot, 4-inch, title-holding body-builder and strongman-movie extra, now crowding in on his 70s. He has owned four bars in his 45 years in the beach area. Turk's Dana Wharf has been at the marina for eight years, and his daughter Candy runs it now. But the big guy still visits now and then, and when he does he almost always attracts a crowd.

A veteran of about 60 films and TV shows, including "Get Smart," "The Man From Uncle" and films such as "The Ten Commandments" and "The Road to Zanzibar," Varteresian was also Ronald Reagan's bodyguard in 1946 and won the Mr. Los Angeles, Tall Man Division, at Muscle Beach that year as well.

Of his bar, Varteresian says: "It's like a person. It has a pulse. I can feel it when I walk in."

The human pulse consists mostly of locals and fishermen, although the crowd can at times be pretty eclectic.

The narrow room holds eight booths, a few hardwood tables covered in glass and a stand-up bar. There are just enough nautical touches not to make you seasick. Everything is jammed in, and it's a bit on the noisy side, but it's a place where people seem to watch out for each other.

The jukebox is always playing, probably because the music is on Turk. Leave your quarters at home and punch up any of 250 selections ranging from Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller to Joe Cocker.

On tap are Bud, Bud Light and Miller Genuine Draft. Bottle selections include Bud, Coors Light, Heineken, Miller Light and Corona. But the specialty of the house is the Bloody Mary. Even if you don't like tomato juice, this Bloody Mary, rumored to be an old Armenian recipe, will convert you. Even the bartenders claim not to know the ingredients--the spicy concoction is mixed by Turk's daughter, they say.

Turk's also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you're lucky, you'll find a Sunday when Ali, the chef, is preparing the prime rib hash for breakfast. Get there early because by 10 a.m. on weekends there's a waiting list. Great hamburgers are also served, and each night three dinner specials are added to the menu.

Turk's Dana Wharf, 34683 Golden Lantern, Dana Point. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. (714) 496-9028.

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