About 30 years ago, when I was in the Marines, another Marine and I were to meet a group of people for dinner on a Saturday night. Our chosen restaurant was Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse. We left the BOQ (Bachelor Office Quarters) at what was then known as MCAS(H) Tustin to drive to the restaurant. As we got close to the restaurant, we realized we were running quite early. We decided to stop for a drink at a little bar that we came upon. Like the Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse, the bar, Cook’s Corner, is still in business.
Keep in mind that we were two Marine officers. We were dressed in civilian clothes. We were probably wearing khakis and golf shirts. We most likely had on what would pass as dress shoes today. But this was also 1984 or so. The military was not as highly regarded then as it is today. We were still suffering from a somewhat low level of prestige due to the hangover of the Vietnam war. While the Reagan administration was changing the profile of the military and things were improving, Gulf 1 had not happened yet, let alone 9-11 and the “Global War on Terror” that has been beneficial to the status of the military in certain social circles. Also, most civilians had a hard time telling enlisted Marines apart from officers when were were dressed in civilian clothes. It was obvious to all of us Marines, but others really had a hard time noticing, or in some cases, understanding the difference.
The parking lot was pretty empty as it was still early on Saturday night. We walked in and sat down at the bar. We had the bar to ourselves. Down at one end of the room were several bikers. Really rough looking characters. There were maybe six or seven of them. When we walked in they all stopped talking and just watched us take our seats at the bar. We were somewhat amused by their behavior. We weren’t looking for any trouble, we were just looking to kill a little time before going down the road to dinner. The bartender approached us and asked what we would like. We told him we would each like a draft beer. His response was, “Draft beers are $5 each. A six pack to go is $3.”
My friend and I looked at each other, we both looked down the room toward the pool table and the bikers, we started laughing as we turned to the bartender and said, “We’ll take a six pack to go.”
It would never have crossed our minds to start trouble with the guys in the bar. It is not clear that whether the bartender thought we were there to start something, or if he was attempting to protect us from the bikers at the pool table. It didn’t really matter, we just scored a cheap six pack and were on our way to meet some girls for dinner.
The Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse looks much the same as it did 30 years ago. In the 28 years since my time in the Marines, Orange County has grown in population and wealth. The restaurant and the bar used to be out in the country. Looking at maps, I can see that they are now on the edge of the wealthy exhurbs of the area.
I implore you to go spend some time on the Cook’s Corner web site. Look at how gentrified that place has become since my trip there. They have become a haven for wannabe bikers. Going through the photos you can see that it’s full of dentists, lawyers, small business owners, etc. that put on their weekend biker costumes and go out for showing off. The fake boob seems to be a big player with the current clientele at Cook’s. Back when we visited, I doubt the women had enough money to buy the big boob.
I imagine if two Marine officers walked into that place on a Saturday night these days they would have trouble even buying a drink. The other patrons would probably take care of them.
I think I prefer it the way it was.