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 Art Gallery J. Moore Frames & Art Gallery. A hip oasis of lowbrow art and exotica that offers a welcome respite from the usual surfside flotsam—Wyland-inspired kindly whales, dolphins and related pap. Witness photographer Doug Nason's recent detailed explorations of primitive culture and a show by Shag. 317 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 430-8861.
Best Preserve Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge. The 1,000 acres of wetlands inside the Naval Weapons Station is where you'll find heron, egrets and five endangered or threatened bird species, including the peregrine falcon. It's especially vibrant during the fall and winter months, when thousands of migrating birds make it their home—more than 10,000 Canada geese and 250 red-tailed hawks were counted last year. The birds are welcome to stay as long as they want, but you get just one day per month: a free public walking tour is offered on the last Saturday of every month. That includes an introductory 20-minute slide show and an easy mile hike around the site. Interested? Show up outside the base's main gate at 8:30 a.m. 800 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach, (562) 598-1024.
Best Pizza Place A Slice of New York Pizza. The name may be a bit on the nose, but whatever you might want on your pie—zesty pesto, searing buffalo wings, pineapple, pepperoni—it comes out like they like it in the Bronx: super thin, crunchy, topped with minimal sauce and served on butcher paper. 142 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 493-4430.
Best Place for Serious Beer Drinkers The Abbey. Everybody knows about the Abbey, don't they? Tons of beer. Tons of good beer. Served by people who honestly know and care about good beer and will introduce it to you without—and this is key—being a wad about it. 306 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 799-4246.
Best Pub "Irish" Pubs. While there is nothing particularly Irish about Seal Beach, there are, for some reason, more than a few places billing themselves as "Irish" pubs on Main Street: the Irisher, Clancy's, O'Malley's and Hennessey's, all within the same block, though what is particularly Irish about them is dubious. O'Malley's features Irish sausage rolls and bangers and mash, but it also serves nachos and chicken wings. For a previous "Best Of" I asked one of the bartenders—it was either Clancy's or the Irisher—what made them "Irish," and, in a fit of honesty, he replied: "Calling ourselves Irish and hanging Irish-looking stuff on the walls." Those Irish, they never lie, and I love that. By the way, a little trivia of the Green: rumor is that Clancy's is the namesake for uber-designer Paul Frank's character Clancy, the world's smallest giraffe. Clancy's, 111 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 594-8143; Hennessey's, 143 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 598-6456; Irisher, 121 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 596-1427; O'Malley's, 140 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 430-0631.
Best Locals Nick's. The locals' place. The Nick's breakfast burrito—chorizo, sour cream, potatoes and stuff—is not only enjoyed but cherished as an integral part of local culture. 223 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 598-5072.
Best Dogs Champs. Great Chicago hot dogs—slightly crispy Vienna beef sausage, speckled poppy-seed bun and relish so bright it makes you blink. 12161 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach, (562) 596-2555.
Favorite Seal Beach Story This involves my friends Duck and Rue—no, they are not ironic, postmodern cartoon characters; those really are their names—sitting in their upstairs apartment that looked out over the beach. As they watched TV, they heard a screech of tires, a crash, then a low rumbling of an approaching something. There was then an eerie silence followed by a very loud smash that caused a palpable rumble that felt like they were sitting above an earthquake's epicenter. Instinctively, Duck and Rue dropped to the ground, unaware that a motorist had suffered some sort of seizure, causing him to lose control, hit a parked car and then roll his car on top of Duck's prized red Karmann-Ghia. The pair waited on the ground, then Rue, on his knees, slowly made his way to the window, looked out and, turning to Duck, said, in a tone that is as close as Rue can come to conciliatory, "Your car just got royally fucked up!" Granted, there is nothing particularly Seal Beachy about the story; still, Rue.