Long Beach

Best Barkeep Dana at Red Room. Hard to understand -- we thought she was Russian at first -- but an absolute sweetheart with a photographic memory. Come in a year later and she'll still know your name. Even if you're ironic, that is still cool. Honorable mention: Blake at Red Room. 1229 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 432-4241.

Best Vintage Fourth Street vintage district. Too many stores to even mention 'em all, but they sell everything from those "women's sweaters" guys wore in the late '40s to vintage army khakis to Siestaware to Heywood Wakefield furniture to vintage neon signs that once lit this very city. Fourth Street between Cherry and Junipero avenues, Long Beach.

Best BikerChopper Dave. He works for Jesse James at West Coast Choppers, but he's a Sinners member, and he builds some of the coolest '50s-'60s-style choppers around. http://www.chopperdaves.com/home.html.


Photo by Jack Gould

Best MogulLong Gone John. He runs Sympathy for the Record Industry, throwing down the best local punk and anti-everything since the late '80s; more recently behind the slew of Gun Club reissues. Has all the Sun Jerry Lee Lewis EPs, more cool toys than Santa, and once set out to make a window blind from chicken bones. www.sympathyrecords.com.

Best New Record Store Fingerprints. If it's new or slightly used or Johnny Cash's first LP for Sun, these guys either have it or they've sold it and they'll try to find you another. 4612 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 433-4996.

Best Urban Legend Midget Town, where supposedly once little people who'd made a pile on The Wizard of Oz built homes. And where, Ellen Griley swears, one once went mad, slew his family and hung them on meat hooks. Except these were really just small homes on tiny lots on a narrow street that once was a carriage path around Jotham Bixby's son's house. No little people; no murders. Honorable mention: Fifties Irving Klaw pinup gal Bettie Page once hung her stockings over a shower-curtain rod in Bixby Knolls. Or so they say. La Linda Drive north of Bixby Road, Long Beach.

Best French Restaurant Frenchy's Bistro. Delectable French offerings rendered with a California-friendly touch that reaches out to things like seared tuna without relinquishing a hefty wine list, legs of lamb and creamy potatoes. The price? Up there; as Ray Charles said, let Lincoln and Jackson start shakin' hands. 4137 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-8787.

Best Seagoing Bar The Observation Bar. The bar on the Princess Louise went down with the ship, so we'll give it to this hardwood, curvilinear, Art Deco goddess. Aboard the R.M.S. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 435-3511.

Best Grammy Winner Multi-instrumentalist Stephen Hodges, who's played with everyone, and who actually bagged the Grammy for sitting in on Waits' Rain Dogs disc. He used to give Rebecca Schoenkopf's son drum lessons, too, until the little ingrate, who was 5 at the time, started whining that all his friends were outside playing. Waaaah.


Photo by John Gilhooley

Best Hardwood V2O The Venue. This joint has decent munchies, deep drinks, and style for days. It's a nightclub with a supper club vibe: recessed or lifted, semi-secluded seating areas for VIPs/surgeons/surgeons on-call. Stylistically, it's all hipster stuff: low-level lighting, eerie backlit bars, polished concrete floors, plush comfy couches, and the tunnel: an amazing hardwood-framed conduit connecting the dance floor to everything else. Nothing like it for miles; it's the best tunnel in the city. 81 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, (866) 402-5828; www.v2olongbeach.com.

Best PabstJoe Jost's. Oldest bar in Long Beach: long and dim and deep with a parking lot and a real live snooker table. And the best Pabst draft in town. They must actually clean out the lines. 2803 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 439-5446; www.joejosts.com.

Best Punk Rock Alex's Bar (honorable mention: the K B Club). Give Alex Hernandez (former bouncer at the Clipper, Fern's) credit for having the vision and the heavy equipment to resurrect this place -- and the nerve to wait until he finally got an entertainment license, so you can see Dengue Fever or Dexter Romweber. Alex's Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; K B Club, 710 W. Willow St., Long Beach, (562) 427-0078.

Best Unsung ArtistVictor Gastelum. You've probably seen his album covers for Calexico, or maybe one of his all-too-infrequent shows. But if you did, you'd remember his vivid stencil style that instantly keys in on blue-collar, Latino Southern California -- instant Echo Park/Long Beach/Santa Ana. www.opticnerve.com/html/vgp.htm.

Best Upscale Bar The Sky Room. The food here is great, I think. I don't remember; last time I was here, atop the historic Breakers hotel -- now a retirement home -- was the night I proposed to my wife. Honorable mention: the Madison -- new money personified, in a former bank building. The Sky Room,40 S. Locust Ave., Long Beach, (562) 983-2703; The Madison, 110 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 628-8866.

Best Mexican RestaurantBrite Spot. This branch is near our house, but there are several from which to choose. The Pacific Coast Highway outpost was first; it was previously an American café named Brite Spot where, legend has it, they invented the cheeseburger a long time ago. The current owner kept the name, and it's the best authentic Mexican in the city: tangy, charred slabs of carne asada; mojarra frita (fried fish) done to perfection; and awesome burritos, on which I live. 3721 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-4903.

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