Smitty’s on Caledonia Street in Sausalito was an easy choice for our Marin Dive Bar round up; it’s been around for decades and it has the classic look and feel of a dive bar. Since I only had about 150 words to tell the story, the interesting tidbits that didn’t make it in about the current ownership is that three of the partners Chuck Keller, John Larkin and Peter DiFrancesca (original partner who passed away in 2000) grew up together in a Chicago suburb and headed west after graduating from college and landed in Sausalito. Smitty's was where they hung out and when the opportunity came up to buy, they couldn't say no. Mr. Bill was a bartender at the time and they brought him in as a limited partner because he was the only one with bar experience.

For the Magazine

The last bar in Sausalito to retain its original construction, Smitty’s has been a popular watering hole in Marin for decades. But the location has a history dating back as far as 1925, when soda pop bottler John Bettencourt started also bottling beer and moved his operation to Smitty’s present location on what was then the main thoroughfare in Sausalito, Caledonia Street. Prohibition reared its head and put Bettencourt out of business, but in 1938, railroad man Frank “Smitty” W. Smith came to the rescue, leased the space and turned it into a bar and Chinese restaurant. While there have been numerous owners over the years, Chuck Keller, John Larkin and Bill McDonald have been running the two-room game-filled establishment since 1992. And if you are a Bloody Mary fan, you have to try one from Nancy the bartender. Her signature “Bloody Good” mix, which she says is “to die for,” is so good she’ll even sell you a bottle of the stuff to take home.

What They Say: Carol Keller, first wife of co-owner Chuck Keller

Is Smitty’s a dive bar? Yes.

Your definition of a dive bar? A dive bar is an unpretentious establishment with no-nonsense bartenders, where patrons feel comfortable enough to be themselves and have a great time. It's a “back in the day” fun place to be. 

Define Smitty’s. A dive bar.

Dive Bar Checklist:

Games? Four pool tables, shuffleboard, darts, foosball, pinball, Pac-Man video game, six TVs and a jukebox that does just about everything including play every song imaginable.

Celebrity photos? Some patrons act like they are celebrities, so we’ve got their photos hanging.

TV is always on? Yes.

PBR available? Yes.

Muddled cocktails? If you want to see a Smitty’s bartender roll his/her eyes, ask for a muddled cocktail.

Fake fireplace? No, it’s been covered over with fake wood paneling.

Food is served in bags (chips, nuts, etc.)? Lay’s regular and barbecue, pretzels, Fritos. And if you look hard enough, an assortment of nuts.

Smitty’s T-shirts? When we have them. And hoodies, too.

Categories: Food and Drink, Mimi Towle