Stop Instagramming Everything and Be a Human Being
No-Frills Beer at Apple Jacks
Driving along the winding roads of Highway 84, through the lush green enclosure of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a relic stands untouched by the sweeping wave of modernity brought about by the tech boom in the Bay Area.
If not for a small, red, illuminated sign attached to a rugged wooden pole outside, you might just pass by the moss-covered log cabin that houses Apple Jacks in the small town of La Honda. But for the locals, groups of bikers out on their weekend runs and the occasional tourist coming home from a day near the coast, Apple Jacks is more than just a random stop along the highway. It’s an experience all its own.
With its secluded setting, an adornment of vintage license plates lining the roof, and the reputation for being a resting spot for various groups of bikers throughout its history, Apple Jacks is more of a roadhouse than dive bar. Don’t get me wrong. It has all the qualities that encompass a good dive as well: a rugged pool table that’s missing the cueball, a classic rock-churning jukebox, a food menu of assorted candy bars and chips, and a no-frills beer and liquor selection that is meant to get you drunk, not expand your flavor palate.
It might seem silly to make a trek all the way out to a secluded bar just for a basic drink. But Apple Jacks has a certain trait that the new-fangled industrial gastropubs in the Mission and Financial Districts only attempt to recreate: it has authenticity. The floors squeak from age. The interior looks almost unchanged from when it was built over 140 years ago.
A tight-knit community of bar patrons will immediately know you’re not from around there. But don’t worry, you’ll be accepted if you can adhere to their way of doing things. As my girlfriend tried to take photos of the front of the bar after we pulled up, she was immediately shouted down. “Come in and have a drink first,” yelled a tall, elderly man in a stern and affirmative manner. “Be a human being.”
By the end of the night, the principled veteran had told us all about his adventures riding motorcycles around the country, owning a bar at age 17, and had even invited us over to his house for a two-day party. All we had to do was cut our teeth in a game of liar’s dice.
Apple Jacks is an old soul trapped in an even older log cabin. Where drinking your beer and making conversation with the person on the barstool next to you is favored over taking a picture of it and putting it on Instagram. In the words of the tall gentleman, Apple Jacks is a place to be a human being.