By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
BEST SURF SHOP We've seen bumper stickers reading "Where the Hell Is Killer Dana Surf Shop?" as far away as Rhode Island. The entrepreneurial brainchild of surfers Gary Wright and Chris Andrews, this rugged little neighborhood shop has retained its character and not become a "Surf Mall" like some other places we—and you—could mention. Yeah, you can buy the hip new Quiksilver trunks or whatever, but the business' soul is devoted to the basics: Mark Ellis' sleek, custom surfboards and a cool, knowledgeable staff that's up on today's surf conditions and, important these days, water-pollution conditions. 24621 Del Prado Ave., Dana Point, (800) 228-SURF.
BEST BEACH FOOD OF NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE WHATSOEVER Who would have guessed that the chili cheese strips at Jack's Shack on Huntington Beach—globs of chili and cheese atop crisp tortilla chips—could be so delicious? And yet somehow combining these three disparate, seemingly irreconcilable elements—centuries-old rivals, really—produces a taste that is really good, you know, taste-wise, and makes for just wonderful grub while you sit and make fun of all the fatties who look so stupid in swim trunks because they can't control their snacking habits. Stupid fatties. Zack's on the Beach, 21351 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-2631; Zack's Too Concession, 21579 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-2696.
BEST BEACH READING Speaking of Gary Wright, he and poet G. Murray Thomas once co-edited Paper Shredders, an odd little collection of surf writing, mostly poetry. This highly entertaining book ranges from meditations on the Zen experience of surfing to the more personal ruminations of a man still surfing at age 40. It's been out for five years now, but it's such a distinctly OC classic that it deserves to be dredged up from time to time, and the writing's as fresh today as it was when it first rode in. Orange Ocean Press, P.O. Box 13019, Long Beach, CA 90803. 68 pages, $8.
BEST TERRIFYING BEACH READ We love San Clemente, where, according to Amazon.com, the three best-selling books are (in order) Learning Windows 95, A History of the Modern World and On the Beach. Is it possible that San Clementians are judging this last one by its cover? Perhaps: Nevil Shute's 1957 novel describes a world in which nuclear war has obliterated all but a few bits of the Southern Hemisphere, where a kind of 1950s hedonism takes hold—including hedonism on the beach. But San Clementians are an odd lot: ranking No. 5 on the Amazon.com hit parade is dark Laguna Beach writer T. Jefferson Parker's creepy thriller The Blue Hour.
BEST TEENY TINY LITTLE STRIP OF SAND ON WHICH TO SUN YOUR RICH SELF FAR FROM THE MASSES Do you love the beach but hate the fact that it's open to anyone? What good is the ocean air if you have to breathe it along with everyone else? If you've got a $4,500 initiation fee (plus dues) you just don't know what else to do with, might we suggest Newport Beach's Balboa Bay Club? There, in addition to some brunches that can only be described as "really good," is the cutest little 30-foot strip of bayfront sand you've ever seen. And we've actually seen socialite moms lying on it, DK sunglasses on and iced tea at the ready, while valets park Jaguar S-types just feet away and a bunch of old drunks pilot large boats about. Weird fact: the land was given to the city of Newport Beach for a public park, and city officials decided that "public" meant "long-term lease for Bay Club." Between Newport Boulevard and Dover on Pacific Coast Highway, (949) 645-5000; www.balboabay club.com
BEST BEER & CEJAS The interior is sleek, well-shaped, majestically laid out in a long wood-warmed room, and most of the staff has some sort of big-screen beauty, whether it's the waitress with catwalk legs or the bartender looking like a young Robert De Niro, but with an Al Pacino kind of jive in his walk. The oblong bar—emphasis on long—surrounds 180 different tap handles with half-yard and yard shot glasses. Quickly order up a Slo Brickhouse Pale Ale (pint, $3.50). It's disarmingly smooth, with phenomenal quenching powers and a manly after-kick—truly dog years ahead of any pale ale I've imbibed. And one can find a nice cigar, particularly an Arturo Fuente Churchill ($15) in the front "beer gear" gift shop. The Yard House, Triangle Square, 1875 Newport Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0090; www.yardhouse.com.
BEST WAY TO IMITATE A TEXAS SENATOR While campaigning for the U.S. Senate, Lyndon Johnson flew around vast Texas in a private helicopter. As the great metallic bird neared the ground, Johnson would doff his 10-gallon Stetson and nonchalantly flick it into the crowd, an offering from the gods. One of the thrifty gods, though: the senator always dispatched an operative to retrieve the hat, sometimes wresting it from the clutches of a desperate child. Grasshoppering around the state, Johnson re-enacted this noblesse oblige many times a day. You can assume something like the grandiose style of one of our most troubled presidents, right from the convenience of John Wayne Airport. Departing from the airport's top floor, HeliStream offers aerial tours of the Southern California coastline. A half-hour flight along the coast to Dana Point and back runs $325—more than 10 bucks per minute. Passengers don headphones and talk with the pilot while he whisks you above Newport Beach and the stunning cliffs of Crystal Cove State Park. HeliStream also offers customizable tours (tuxedoed pilots, chilled champagne and so on; fall-of-Saigon re-enactments not available). A $290 all-inclusive package called Heli-dining, which sounds like a rather unpleasant combination of activities, is less nauseating than you might think. Along with a sunset buzzing of the Newport Beach coast, the deal includes limousine service and a four-course dinner at Irvine's Bistango restaurant. Bring your own Stetson. HeliStream Helicopter Tours, 3000 Airway Ave., Ste. 350, Costa Mesa, (714) 662-3163; www.helistream.com.