39 of the best things about the next 104 days

Photo by Keith Mayby CJ Bahnsen, Eric Greenwell, Victor D. Infante, Steve Lowery, Arrissia Owen, Anthony Pignataro, Rebecca Schoenkopf, Will Swaim, Ken Widmann and Dave Wielenga BEST CHEAP VIEW Yeah, Las Brisas is nice, and the view can't be beat. There's something thrilling about watching the sun sink into the Pacific while you dine, the sky flickering in shades of pink and orange until finally it's gone, leaving only a deep black. It's edifying. It justifies why we live here. But Las Brisas costs real money, so we wholeheartedly suggest the budget version down the street a bit: the Greeter's Corner, where instead of sitting by the window, sipping margaritas and feasting on Alaskan halibut, you sit on the wooden back porch, drink coffee and munch delicious, juicy cheeseburgers. Trust us. The sunset's pretty much the same. 329 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-0361.

BEST BONFIRE Nothing says "summer" like staying out late and burning stuff while the police watch pensively nearby—and nothing says "summer" this summer like the Democratic Convention in downtown LA. Closer to home, try Bolsa Chica Beach. An ample supply of pits makes this the perfect place to sit around the fire, toast marshmallows, strum an acoustic guitar, bang on bongos and make out by firelight. And remember, kids: in the event that the beach is crowded, share your fire with the scraggly hippie kids who turn up late; odds are they'll—ahem —pass along the karma. On Pacific Coast Hwy. between Golden West Street &Warner Avenue.

BEST FISHERMAN'S DIVE BAR The smell of stale beer and fish. The sight of grubby fishermen, skin leathery from decades of exposure to the sun. Forty-year-old women in revealing, skintight outfits. Men crying in their Budweisers, recounting heroic tales of "the one that got away." The distinct sense that making eye contact may indeed be hazardous. The boisterous camaraderie born of a common love of the sea. Turk's doesn't register on the tourist's radar in Dana Point Harbor. And you get the distinct impression the regular patrons like it that way. 34683 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, (949) 496-9028.

BEST ALCOHOL-BASED TONGUE SPANKING There's something consoling about the polished fermenting tanks that stand just behind the handsome bar in the Newport Beach Brewing Company, like the holding tank for Brewhound Red Ale, aggressively hopped and heavy enough for stout lovers but light enough for pale riders who appreciate its ruby-red, malty richness. Ahhh, but the John Wayne Imperial Stout: a two-time silver-medal winner at the '97 and '98 Great American Beer Festival, it's a mouth spectacle with its rotund-bodied flavor, a paragon of dark craftsmanship. As far as stouts go, this one is a roasty meal in a pint, surpassing others with raw, badass bite and the taste of blackstrap molasses: an unforgettable tongue spanking. Thank you, sir, may I have another? 2920 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 675-8449; 60-ounce pitchers, $10; 16-ounce pints, $3.25; 5-ounce pilsner, $2.75; 5-ounce taster, $1.

BEST OCEAN-VIEW BAR It's common on warm summer nights to find the bar at the Blue Beet Cafť jammed with sunburned tourists and the rooftop patio completely empty. Take advantage of these moments—there is no better place to sit in the ocean air, have a drink and watch the sun set over the Pacific. 107 21st St., Newport Beach, (949) 675-2338.

BEST JUKEBOX Sometimes you want to go where absolutely no one knows your name, particularly when the tourists have flocked to the beach and turned PCH into a parking lot. Go to Knuckleheads. Order a beer. Put Agent Orange, the Clash, Social Distortion and—for variety—James Brown on the jukebox. Drink heavily. Wait patiently for autumn. 1715 El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 492-2410.

BEST PLACE TO FIND KNUCKLEHEADS We hear the Young Americans for Freedom hang out at Hurricanes Bar &Grill. 200 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 374-0500.

BEST PLACE TO MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS I'm not saying a lot of fights break out at Cassidy's, the venerable Balboa bar. I'm not saying that sometimes the fights break through the back door into the street. I'm just saying that if you drive past Cassidy's around closing time on a Saturday night, you might have to change lanes to avoid running over a couple of guys fighting in the traffic lane. I'm just saying. 2603 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 675-8949.

BEST POST-SURF GRUB FOR HEALTH-CONSCIOUS SURFERS On the corner of Warner and PCH on the border of Sunset and Huntington, amongst the sushi bars and head shops in a strip mall, there is Juice for You, a vegetarian restaurant disguised as a smoothie joint. Even the chicks who work at Mother's sneak off for lunch to fill up on the stuff. And word is Layne Beachley, Jodie Nelson and gobs of other pro surfers fuel up there regularly. And their smoothies are unrecognizably dairy-free. 3801 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (562) 592-4494.

BEST POST-SURF GRUB FOR NON-HEALTH-CONSCIOUS SURFERS By far the best little taco stand in South County, Pedro's Tacos adds the magical lard that makes it oh-so-good. And it's cheap, which is usually the deciding factor for surfers anyhow. The rice is scrumptious, their beans are sinful, and I've never tasted a better egg burrito in my life. A quick drive from Trestles, T-Street, Old Mans and San Clemente Pier. 2313 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 498-5904.

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