With the lights of downtown still lit up in expectation of the holiday season and a storm brewing overhead, the time seemed right to head out with some friends for a few drinks. Before chaining myself to the desk for finals week, I decided to check out Pixels, a small dive bar located off of University Avenue in Downtown Riverside.
Walking down the empty sidewalks of downtown, the sound of someone struggling out a screech through a Fleetwood Mac song on karaoke let us know we were drawing close. Pixels is in a small, unassuming building with a dim sign over the front door. The inside decor is very simple, with plain concrete floors and plain white walls, save for the occasional beer sign or piece of folk art. Inside, there is a small stage in one corner, the bar against the back wall and several tables scattered around the inside of the room. My friends and I set our things at one of the open booths and headed to the bar as I tried to block out the terrible sounds coming from the stage.
Pixels truly stands out in its price. The specials of the night were all Mexican imports for $3, and all tequila for only $5. While I’m not much of a tequila fan, I opted to get a Tequila Sunrise with Patron Silver. Anywhere else, this would probably be a $15-plus dollar drink, and I appreciated the fine taste compared to my normal choice of bottom-shelf cocktails. My friends chose Dos Equis and Corona, and we headed back to our table to take in the atmosphere.
It may have been due to the fact that my drink was extremely strong, but I really started to warm up to Pixels as I sat in the booth, joking and laughing with my friends, occasionally laughing at some of the more “unique” karaoke participants. We weren’t alone, as almost all of the other tables were full of various groups of other 20-somethings enjoying the atmosphere and the cheap drinks. There seemed to be something for everyone, as many people were there for the karaoke, others were watching some Spanish soap opera playing on the big-screen TVs around the bar — while my group sat in a corner and talked, the dim lighting and chill atmosphere putting us all at ease.
My only complaint is that Pixels’ beer selection, especially for beers on tap, is quite paltry compared to many of the other places around Riverside. There were only five beers available on tap, the only one I liked being PBR, and it was served in a plastic Solo cup instead of a normal pint glass. While it was only $5, which is standard for most local bars, the small size and cheap serving style annoyed me. Regardless, it was still cold and delicious, and the kind staff and surreal hilarity of the decor and atmosphere made it hard for me to stay mad about my small complaint.
What really makes Pixels stand out above many of the other bars around Riverside is its unabashed shamelessness: It understands it’s a small bar that fully embraces its identity. There’s no pretense of snootiness, nor any sense that the bar is trying too hard to be cool or have some sort of gimmick to draw a crowd. While the selection is a bit limited, the cheap prices and strong drinks more than make up for it. If karaoke doesn’t appeal to you, there’s a DJ every night of the week except Sundays, when live bands perform, and Tuesdays, which are for karaoke. If you’re out for clubbing or want something upscale or trendy, Pixels certainly isn’t the place to go. Nevertheless, if you want to find cheap drinks and a relaxed atmosphere on a starving student budget, Pixels is the perfect place.