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 Neighborhood Bar/Coastal OC
The Sandpiper Lounge
1183 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
This dive on the beach side of Pacific Coast Highway has been a hippie watering hole since the 1960s. Locals call it the "Dirty Bird." Live music, plenty of beer, an occasional green (but not pine) scent floating through the air and fabulously unpretentious décor make it one of the most welcoming pubs in the county.
Best Neighborhood Bar/Long Beach
2913 E. Anaheim, Long Beach
Small, dark and covered with pictures of naked ladies sporting Afros, Alex's Bar is totally trashy. Trashy chic, that is. You enter the bar through a door off a parking lot next to an Auto Zone, and once you pass through those portals, the distinct odor of class (you know: new shoes, champagne, cigarettes) is sure to entice even the most skittish of patrons to begin drinking heavily. The hard-pounding bass leaking from the instruments of the bar's many bands (performing everything from thrash to emo) are sure to get patrons' feet stomping and lighters blazing. Featuring a slew of tatted-up, bad-ass bitches behind the bar who serve up tall cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and whiskey shots, Alex's is a dream come true for people looking for something real. Real trashy.
Best New Bar
215 N. Broadway, Santa Ana
As the website says, Santa Ana's Proof "marks an evolution in the Artists Village into an increasingly urbane nighttime destination." Basically, they're trying to say this ain't no dive bar, which means you might actually want to put some pants on before you head in. But it's by no means Costa Mesa-fancy: The drinks are reasonably priced, the décor is crisp and clean without feeling too uncomfortably sterile, and the staff is friendly and professional. Best of all, Proof features an eclectic selection of DJs every night of the week, so you'll have a beat to which to sway once you've had a few too many martinis.
Best Bar Game
Shuffleboard Table at Iguana Kelley's
4306 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach
When you're drunk to the point that you can barely stand, don't you just love to sidle up to a long table and chuck a steel disk down a stretch of sandy wood? No? Oh. Well, you should, and Iguana Kelley's in Long Beach is the place to go for some old-fashioned shuffleboard. The bar is home to a 22-foot table that gleams like a miniature bowling alley, especially on $2 Tecate beer night. The pucks are free, as long as you have some sort of collateral to leave with the bartender, preferably something along the lines of a driver's license, but considering the seriousness with which some of the patrons play, they might be more apt to ask for a credit card, wedding ring, or first-born child. A quick anecdote: There is a group of players that comes in, usually on Tuesday night, that insists on wiping down the table and starting from scratch with a fresh coat of specialized silicone beads. They then test to make sure an even coat has been applied. These players flay all those in their path. An illuminated scoreboard on the wall will help your drunk ass keep score, and there are occasional shuffleboard tourneys. This ain't your granddaddy's sun-deck, Carnival Cruise game, sonny. Grab a beer (preferably a $2 model) and bring the heat.
Best Place to Stay Until Last Call
143 Main St., Seal Beach
For more than 23 years, Hennessey's has been the watering hole of choice for Seal Beach locals, with its roomy bar, dark wood and forest-green décor. The salty ocean breeze is a nice touch, too, as it wafts in from the beach, a stone's throw from the front patio. In fine Irish tradition (along with the attraction to all things Guinness), Hennessey's has a knack for getting its patrons absolutely wasted, especially those night owls who like to drink until the wee hours. Should this be you, a DUI may not necessarily be in your future. Hennessey's is stumbling distance from Shore House Cafe, a quaint little noshery open 24 hours. After closing down the bar, the inebriated have a chance to sober up with some deliciously greasy food and strong coffee.
Best Place to Play Pool
910 E. Birch St., Brea
With plushy booths, beige-ish desert color scheme and leopard-spotted carpet, not to mention 13 pool tables that don't show a day of wear or tear, this 14-year-old hidden treasure near the Brea Mall has a clean classiness reminiscent of Las Vegas. In fact, the Egyptian hieroglyphs and stone statues outside the shopping center that houses the club wouldn't look out of place at the iconic Luxor Resort and Casino pyramid. And the friendly staff? By the looks of the sultry vixen taking your drink order, it probably wasn't her enhanced résumé that helped her land this gig. The best part: They have to talk to you because it's their job. The place is wide-open during the day, but Thursday through Saturday nights, it's the hottest pool hall/club around. Wednesday's happy hour runs from noon until 2 a.m., with $2 domestic beers and $3 imports. On other weekdays, happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m. Unfortunately, non-happy hour prices are a forbidding $4 for domestics and $5 for imports, and no deals are granted on hard liquor.