24 Palm Avenue, Imperial Beach
Located beyond I.B.’s historic surfboard silhouettes at the end of Palm Avenue, Ye Olde Plank Inn looks innocuous enough. Its cartoon mascot — a turtle in a captain’s hat — raises a beer mug next to a life-size Captain Morgan statue, which grins down from the tiki-thatched roof.
It’s 4 p.m. on a Thursday and six patrons sit around the inn, all of them very drunk. The bartender mixes a drink from his station adorned with the customary nautical detritus — coconuts, miniature diver helmets, some blowfish. A brass placard on the wall reads, “Now serving you from the most South-Westerly bar in the U.S.,” though the designation is also claimed by the two-decade young I.B. Forum down the street.
“I’m the Asshole of the Month,” says a bearded man who resembles a middle-aged Bukowski. “My picture’s there on the wall. Just look under the toilet seat.”
I lift the wooden seat and my own face gawks back in a mirror. Bukowski has a chuckle with his cocktail as a ragged man stumbles up to him and slurs, “See him?” — gesturing vaguely in my direction — “Put me and him in a room and place bets — and you know every man in this room would bet on me — and you know what? They’d win. Shit, I’ll take any man in here, no problem.”
Consoled by his masculinity, ye olde drunkard slouches into a stool as I examine the photos in the adjacent billiard room depicting the bar’s enclosed patio flooded by a saline deluge in ’83 and again in ’88. The large patio is vacant today but sees its share of day-drinking Navy dudes, sun-wizened cougars, and blundering beach bums on margarita Mondays ($2.50/$10 pitcher), $5 domestic pitchers Tuesdays, $2.50 rum and coke Wednesday/Thursdays, and weekends with $2.50 bloodies till noon.
The bar’s uninspired microwave cuisine is best avoided in favor of El Tapatio a few blocks down Palm. Either way, don’t show up at the Plank without cash. You may just end up Asshole of the Month.
Capacity: 42 inside, about 50 on the patio
Prices: Pitchers, $9 domestic/$13.50 craft and import
Happy Hour: Specials most days ‘til 6 p.m.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily