Newport Beach

It took 50 years, but Anaheim—read "Disneyland," just like every other literate human on earth would—finally lost its place as the most public face of Orange County, surrendering—thanks to Fox—the rest of the world's perception of the Happiest Place on Earth to a newer, Newport-ier slogan for a leaner, meaner generation: "This is how we do it in the OC, bitch!" Didn't John Wayne say that first? Too bad Newport got the last laugh, bulldozing his iconic retirement house so some cavemen could build a hotel—even hiring a John Wayne impersonator to strut around during a last tear-down-the-walls party. Truly, that is how we do it in the OC: money talks, and usually it says, "What's all this old crap?" Or "No, officer, I'm not drunk, I swear!" Or "What do you mean, 'I'm not on the list'?" Or, more happily: "It's ham and cheese time!" Because there are great things in Newport too, beyond the new international reputation as a playground for the rich and scandalous: the clapboard-shack charm of the old peninsula; the wealth-as-self-parody strip leading from Dennis Rodman's restaurant to some guy's too-garish-to-be-true yacht; the time John Waters spoke at the Hard Rock Cafe; the time the Hooters guy got so mad at OC Weekly he threw a rack in the street—in a way, that's all so beautiful, the sort of happy taste for excess that Fitzgerald was so fascinated with, until it killed him. In a lot of ways, Newport is the OC, and we love it even when it pitches a hissy and yells at us about something. Drinking all night at the Blue Beet, where everybody knew Anthony Pignataro's name? Also how we do it in the OC. Bitch.



Photo by Tenaya Hills

Best Place to Catch a Case of CrabsThe Crab Cooker. Okay, so the original Crab Cooker near Newport Pier does not serve the best seafood in Orange County, let alone Newport Beach—hell, let alone the Newport Pier area, probably. No, you go here for a dependable meal, the funky nautical atmosphere—assorted seafaring junk, penniless estate-sale paintings and cute homemade signs like the one at the top of the joint informing fish, "Don't look up here"—and a no-nonsense staff that's so overworked they're willing to overlook your obvious inebriation. And there is one great food item—okay, two if you count the free jawbreaker-sized sourdough croutons: the red Manhattan chowder, which tastes best ordered from the counter, served molten-hot in a paper bowl and slurped up outside on the bench while awaiting your table. It's the quicker sober-upper, and coupled with those croutons and the dťcor and temptress Madge in her 42-inch waitress uniform, you'll forget all about having come here for a ho-hum seafood meal. 2200 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 673-0100.

Best Walk (Or Ride) on the Wild Side Back Bay Drive and San Diego Creek bike trail. Stretching from Newport Beach to the Irvine Spectrum, this route is 14 miles of nearly traffic-free bliss. Begin on Back Bay Drive (near the intersection of Coast Highway and Jamboree)—a road popular with cyclists, skaters, runners and walkers. Automobiles are limited to one-way travel here, so traffic is light. Ride along the coast of Upper Newport Bay and in the shadow of towering coastal bluffs. After three miles, climb a short, steep hill and turn left on Eastbluff Drive. Stay on the sidewalk and turn left again at Jamboree. Pick up the bike path as it parallels Jamboree, ducks through an underpass and continues through all of Irvine, eventually ending at Alton Parkway near the Spectrum.

Best Bar in Which to Drink and Dance But Mainly Drink The Blue Beet. People don't go out in Newport Beach to dance. They go out to get so pathetically shitfaced that the emptiness of their regular social routine will fade away for yet another night. But at the Blue Beet, at least you have the option. It's been there since the dawn of time in Newport terms (1912), and its history helps it avoid the fluid-soaked freak-a-thon that is the modern drunken-dancing experience. Decent bands, occasional semiprivate parties and an outdoor patio on the third floor make the ol' Beet anything but. 107 21st St., Newport Beach, (949) 675-2338.

Best Last Gasp of Class Regency Lido. This gem brings a touch of regality to an otherwise painfully pretentious Lido Village, though some of their more cinematique fare skews to the film pinhead crowd. But still: recall the glory days of cinema as you decide between sitting downstairs or ascending to the balcony; gaze in awe at the softly glowing walls, decorated with ultraviolet-sensitive paint in oceanic themes; maybe even roll an empty whiskey bottle all the way down the aisle, just like F. Scott Fitzgerald might have done. The seats will numb your ass, but when the blood flow ceases, the enjoyment begins. 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (949) 673-8350.

Best Bar That Is a Thing to Eat, Not a Structure in Which to Drink Dad's Donuts. Best and nicest Balboa-bar-a-torium, where the famous Balboa bars come so heavy with toppings that you'll wonder how the stick stays in. Plus fresh doughnuts daily! 318 Marine Ave., Newport Beach, (949) 673-8686.

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