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 Used CD Store Second Spin. Without little independent shops, this nation would be culturally adrift on a sea of cheese, but there's also something to be said for the huge ocean liners plying the musical seas. Costa Mesa's Second Spin isn't only part of a five-store chain, but also is hard-wired to the Internet giant secondspin.com. There's not much personality to the place (though the counter monkeys at least get to play their pick of music), but, jeez, is there a huge selection of CDs to choose from. There's a lot of dreck, but in the sheer volume of it you'll also find that bitchen Pharaoh Sanders or Ernest Ranglin CD, reasonably priced. Head straight for the New Arrivals section, and wade. 1781 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8870.
Photo by John Gilhooley
Best Rockabilly Salon Salon Lucy. Remember Jake's Barber Shop? Teri Lucero's Salon Lucy is like that for girls—all '50s redux, with shapely stylists in full makeup and cute print smocks or dresses; they'll cut your hair if they're not leaning on a '51 Ford Vicky or something. Definitely the place to get your hair swept up in a pompadour—where you keep your razor blades—or else in that curlicue thing they do with the pigtails. Nice. 750 1/2 St. Clair, Costa Mesa, (714) 540-5829.
Best VIP Room Avalon Bar. Remember when VIP actually meant what it stood for—that you were a Veddy Important Person? That your mere presence in a room warranted attention, respect and sky-high mountains of blow? Yeah, well, good luck finding that in this town, buddy. These days, the P in VIP stands more for Population—as in the hundreds of pseudo-high rollers who regularly shell out upwards of $300 for a bottle of vodka they could find just as easily for 46 bucks (plus tax) at Hi-Time, not to mention hang out in sprawling VIP rooms that could, in any other setting, be separate nightclubs altogether. Where's the love? The privacy? The, uh, importance? Turns out Avalon Bar owner Mike Conley knows exactly where—his back office. A few months ago, Conley gutted what had once been a quaint office and transformed it into an elevator-sized VIP room. Seriously. It's maybe eight feet by eight feet, with just enough room to fit three or four people comfortably on a small couch that faces the world's tiniest flat-screen TV. In a word: fabulous. Complaints? Here's one: the door to the VIP room is, like, a foot wide. And you know what that means: no fatties, no matter how damn important you are. 820 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-4650. Those interested in reserving the VIP room are encouraged to call ahead and make a reservation. The weeknight rate is $150, which includes bottle service for up to six people.
Best Glory Holes Orange Coast College. Where the men's restrooms continue to be notorious dens of anonymous fellatio years after the school newspaper published an exposť on the problem complete with a picture of said hole with mysterious stains dotting its perimeter. Not even the introduction of metal walls has discouraged horny men from punching out holes with baseball bats. Ew . . .
Best Tacos Taqueria El Granjenal. Named after a MichoacŠn rancho that has sent thousands of its residents to Orange County, the colorful outdoor-seating, street-corner restaurant makes the best tacos in the county. They deviate from taco protocol by using full-sized corn tortillas and piling on chunks of your choice of grilled meat. The salsa is extraordinary, a dark-red lava extract—since many customers are genuine Mexicans, you don't have to ask for the real stuff. 899 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-4964.?
Best Salvadoran Food Pupuseria San Sivar. The hole-in-the-strip-mall takes special care with its pupusas, which have a crispy yet malleable crust encasing thick, sticky cheese. Meanwhile, an oily, impossibly sugary plantain lying alongside refried beans is like a battle between the lush tropics and the Spartan plains of El Salvador on the tongue; a side of sweet sour cream negotiates a tasteful truce. 1940 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-2952.
Photo by Jack Gould
Best Place to Ditch a Boy Sutra Lounge. Or so says our ad rep Jen Besheer. Would she really ditch a boy? That's so uncool. I was a boy once. This is the place to do it, though: a large and winding restaurant with a low-lit split-level and outdoor area that makes—apparently—holding on to your date very difficult. Also: great food. 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 722-7103.
Best Preowned Fashions Twice the Style. There's this stuff called fashion, and some women like it. Those who do tend to really like this consignment fashion shop, which gets a surprising selection of new or scarcely owned dresses, shoes, coats, sweaters, handbags and such, usually while they're still on the racks at the upscale boutiques. The folks there are nice. The selection changes almost daily. The deals are the kind that people like to brag about getting. And on the last weekend of the month, many of the items are marked down even more. 369 E. 17th St., #1, Costa Mesa, (949) 642-1844.