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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Pack a Bar at 9:30am

Chants of "What's a' matter with Rooney?!" bounced through the Britannia Arms (656-9543). ("He's a bum!" came the response.) In the back of the bar, away from the open windows along the Alvarado, the swarm of flag waving and face-painted fans generated a sweltering heat. One man draped in an American flag fired a cap gun. A soccer fan in a wheelchair sipped a Guinness through a straw.

The place was stuffed on a Saturday morning—with dejected fans being turned away at the door every 30 seconds or so—and the U.S.-England game was still more than a half hour away. In fact, the bouncers told me, they'd hit capacity at 9:30am, two hours before opening kick.

If soccer's the beautiful game, the World Cup is a beautiful thing. One group told me anxiously awaiting the tournament since 2006, despite a remedial understanding of soccer.

"We've been looking forward to this for a while," said twentysomething CSU Monterey Bay alum Sam Wallace. "What does the U.S. need to do to win? I'm a true American soccer fan—I don't know sh**. They gotta score more goals than England."

The costuming alone beat any sporting event in recent memory.

Brit owners Paul Whitecross (left) and Steve Rodhouse represented their native England, who scored in the fourth minute, touching off a celebratory boom that was audible a block and a half away.

But U.S.A. fans—one sporting tea bag earrings, which made sense, another an eye patch, which didn't—would ultimately have the more satisfying day, as a Clint Dempsey goal in the 40th minute carried the Americans to a tie, a big upset given their five-to-one underdog status.

Meanwhile, spots like Peter B's Brewpub (649-4511) and the Bulldog (658-0686) in New Monterey were equally plump-to-capacity with pint-swigging World Cup crazies. The tournament continues today, with games pretty much daily into July. For the big weekend matchups, get to your favorite watering hole early.