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Crustiness Presides in This Boared Room

Growing up in Tustin in the ‘60s forced a kid to do three things: see G-rated movies ad nauseam (only Disney and saccharine musicals made it on screen at the city’s only theater), take shortcuts through acres of orange groves, and be infinitely curious about the goings-on inside the Tustin Inn.

This drinking establishment seemed to pervade our well-walked turf. It sat in the middle of a crumbling strip mall, which was niched between the post office and a Thrifty.

As kids, we weren’t allowed to enter the Tustin Inn, but that didn’t stop us from wondering who did go inside and what they did in there. We even pondered the darkest question: What if our parents did?

This ersatz “inn” still has its bright yellow pitcher-of-beer logo, pumpkin-colored awning and faux shingle roof (like a building on the Universal Studios lot, the shingled part of the roof only goes back five feet, just enough to fool the eye--Tustin’s attempt at trompe l’oeil ) . There has also always been a back door that led to a wide alley used by post office and doughnut shop patrons. Who, we wondered, escaped through that door. And why?

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I passed the age of entrance long ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I ventured into the inn to discover that it’s not the center of all curiosity in the universe but a comfortable, crusty corner bar, the kind that some cities don’t issue permits for anymore.

This all-stools, beer-and-wine-only bar squeezes in 51 patrons, according to manager Waylan Day, who adds, “everyone who comes in here is a regular because that’s all we have room for.”

The cross-section clientele ranges from judges to the judged, lured there by the 32-degree draft beer and the 32,000-degree homemade chili. On tap are Bud, Bud Light, Bud Dry, Coors and Coors Light. Keeping patrons popping for $1.25 glasses of draft are the five TVs, two satellite dishes, two pool tables, a shuffleboard, two pinball machines, a video game, and--maybe--the four frozen-in-growl-position boar heads on the wall behind the bar.

The bar’s walk-in cooler stacks kegs and bottles of domestic and imported beers and carafes of Chablis and blush wines.

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Everyone’s invited to the Tustin Inn’s 10th anniversary party today, commemorating not its original opening (that was a childhood ago) but when Jessie Dawson bought the place and brought in the boar heads.

The Tustin Inn, 440 E. 1st St. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sunday, till midnight. (714) 731-3446.


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