Pocket Pooj ponders for peanuts.(July 2013)
For the better part of the last century, Joe Jost's tavern and pool hall has anchored the port city of Long Beach. Joe Jost the man (pronounced "Yost," though Joe himself essentially said in a 1972 interview that even he pronounced it "Jost" for those who don't speak Hungarian) was born in 1890 and immigrated to the US when he was 16. Though he arrived on these shores trained as a barber, he was really a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. After a stint as an Army infantryman in WWI, Jost trekked from New York to Long Beach by way of Chicago, Denver, and Upland, finding work as a barber at each new location before eventually setting up a small ice cream, candy, cigarette, and sundries shop (with a pool and poker hall in the back of the store) in nearby Balboa in 1920. What stands as Joe Jost's today came to be in 1924, combining everything the Balboa location had been with the addition of a barber shop. When Prohibition was repealed, Jost also started serving beer and sandwiches at his shop-of-all-trades until the Lords of Barberdom (i.e., the Barbering Commission) (honestly, I never knew such a thing existed...) took issue with barbering occurring in such proximity to alcoholing, at which point Jost ditched the shears and focused on the beers (and sandwiches) (sources: 1, 2).
Of course we're interested in Joe Jost's primarily because of the large neon-lit root beer mug on the sign:
Can't go wrong with that combination, if you ask me.
And as the sign advertises, Joe Jost's has long been known in Long Beach as the place to go for a root beer from the tap, as well as pickled eggs and Marmion's Peanuts (another Long Beach institution), amongst other things. I discovered upon arrival that the root beer is not made by or specifically for Joe Jost's, but instead is Death Valley (back in 2009, they were serving Surf City, according to another blogger -- more on Surf City coming soon) -- still, it was on tap, it was frosty, and I like Death Valley Root Beer, so no reason to complain. The Marmion's peanuts are fat Virginia peanuts roasted in this old coffee roaster, just like William Henry Marmion did it back in 1907:
Giving new meaning to Chock full o'Nuts...
Current Joe Jost's tavern owner (and past, present, and future Joe-Jost-the-man's grandson) Ken Buck purchased the roaster from the Marmion family in the late 80s after they closed their own shop, and keeps it alive and running here. The peanuts were still warm in the bag when I got them, which made for a nice contrast to my cold Death Valley. And although Joe Jost himself isn't around any more to see what's become of his place (he passed away in 1975), I'm sure that he would be proud to see that it's still what it always was -- no frills, packed full of customers (even at 3 in the afternoon when I was there), and still the neighborhood's favorite bar.