The waterhole-seekers of Long Beach shouldn’t be remotely shocked that Kyle Flavin and his team from The Hawk decided to open a second bar, Darlings, at the western nexus of Long Beach Boulevard and 14th Street.
When Flavin first said he would be leaving his well-known post at The Blind Donkey in order to take on his own libation-centric endeavor, he was met with eyebrows raised. After all, he was opening a bar inside the former Nugget space at the northwestern-most edge of Willmore where Anaheim Street nudges into the 710.
“It’s a dangerous neighborhood!”
“Really? Guess people want to get shot.”
Yes, that last comment was one of many I received when I originally wrote about The Hawk, a space that defines the pleasure of The Dive Bar. Birthed at some point between the late 60s and early 70s, filled with kitschy, haphazard hints of the Vegas’n’gold-diggin’ life, a floor lined with pink and gray checkered linoleum, its only nods toward any type of connection to the contemporary world are promotional additions from Bud, a handful of electronic games between the two pool tables…
These are the spaces that Flavin understands, where reflections of down-to-earthness and simplicity supersede any misconception about working-class neighborhoods. He doesn’t see a dive; they’re working-class bars, often misnomered as trash or unsafe because outsiders come from the safety of a sanitized suburbia.
Much like the bars of the midwest that Flavin is so enamored by—”There’s a hospitality, a groundedness you find at these places,” he told me—and influenced the creation of The Hawk, the same goes for Darlings: dark woods are paired with both intimate and open spaces.
For those in need of intimacy, a small room with handmade chairs, booths, and cubbyholes; a beauty of a design where a lack of tables is replaced with little offshoots of mini-shelfs and drink-holders, all under walls adorned with art that could be a treasure or a thrift store find.
And yes, the obligatory pool table and jukebox.
“I just fell in love with this space,” Flavin said. “And it just kinda oozed this history… We went to the Historical Society, we discovered that next year, the space will be celebrating its 100th birthday—so it’s been through a ton of iterations. When it was an auto loans place, it had this neon sign that we attempted to mimic with our own.”
If there is anything to say, certainly one thing is clear: A Kyle Flavin bar has a distinct Kyle Flavin flavor, where low-brow-meets-high-brow vibe makes his spaces so wonderfully captivating and worthy of the trip. Aperol rosé spritzes and Hamilton blonde rum negronis meet makeshift kalimotxos—for only $5, they’re made with boxed cab’n’coke—and Miller High Life. A love of history meets an appreciation of the present.
Where The Hawk is wonderfully High-End Midwest, Darlings is Makeshift Art Deco: Frank Lloyd Wright-like hand railings around the pool table are met with dark woods and finishes; a 1940s pink toilet is surrounded by fish scale tiles in an asymmetrical pattern. It’s fancy in some ways but not to the point of discomfort; it is relaxed in many senses but not to the point where you won’t enjoy Flavin’s take on the classic Tuxedo cocktail.
Along the growing stretch of Anaheim that includes Trademark Brewing around the corner, it’s a Kyle Flavin bar. And that means it’s Long Beach.
Darlings is located at 1351 Long Beach Blvd.
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