Best of OC

Best Of 2009


  • + Aliso Viejo
  • + Anaheim
  • + Arcadia
  • + Avalon
  • + Azuza
  • + Bakersfield
  • + Balboa
  • + Bellflower
  • + Beverly Hills
  • + Brea
  • + Buena Park
  • + Burbank
  • + Cabazon
  • + Capistrano Beach
  • + Carlsbad
  • + Carson
  • + Cerritos
  • + Chatsworth
  • + Chino Hills
  • + Claremont
  • + Colton
  • + Corona
  • + Corona Del Mar
  • + Costa Mesa
  • + Coto de Caza
  • + Covina
  • + Culver City
  • + Cypress
  • + Dana Point
  • + Diamond Bar
  • + Downey
  • + El Segundo
  • + Encino
  • + Escondido
  • + Fallbrook
  • + Fontana
  • + Foothill Ranch
  • + Fountain Valley
  • + Fresno
  • + Fullerton
  • + Garden Grove
  • + Gardena
  • + Glendale
  • + Granada Hills
  • + Hawaiian Gardens
  • + Hermosa Beach
  • + Highland
  • + Huntington Beach
  • + Indio
  • + Irvine
  • + Julian
  • + La Canada Flintridge
  • + La Habra
  • + La Jolla
  • + La Mirada
  • + La Palma
  • + Ladera Ranch
  • + Laguna Beach
  • + Laguna Hills
  • + Laguna Niguel
  • + Lake Forest
  • + Lakewood
  • + Las Vegas
  • + Lawndale
  • + Lomita
  • + Long Beach
  • + Los Alamitos
  • + Los Angeles
  • + Malibu
  • + Manhattan Beach
  • + Marina Del Rey
  • + Maywood
  • + Midway City
  • + Mission Viejo
  • + Montclair
  • + Mountain Center
  • + Mt Baldy
  • + Newport Beach
  • + North Hollywood
  • + Northridge
  • + Norwalk
  • + Oceanside
  • + Orange
  • + Out of Town
  • + Palos Verdes Peninsula
  • + Panorama City
  • + Paramount
  • + Pasadena
  • + Pioneertown
  • + Placentia
  • + Pomona
  • + Portola Hills
  • + Rancho Cucamonga
  • + Rancho Palos Verdes
  • + Rancho Santa Margarita
  • + Redlands
  • + Redondo Beach
  • + Riverside
  • + Rossmoor
  • + Rowland Heights
  • + San Bernardino
  • + San Clemente
  • + San Diego
  • + San Francisco
  • + San Juan Capistrano
  • + San Marino
  • + San Pedro
  • + Santa Ana
  • + Santa Monica
  • + Seal Beach
  • + Sherman Oaks
  • + Sierra Madre
  • + Signal Hill
  • + Silverado
  • + Solana Beach
  • + South El Monte
  • + South Gate
  • + South Pasadena
  • + Stanton
  • + Studio City
  • + Sunset Beach
  • + Temecula
  • + Torrance
  • + Trabuco Canyon
  • + Tustin
  • + Twentynine Palms
  • + Universal City
  • + Unknown
  • + Venice
  • + Villa Park
  • + Westminster
  • + Whittier
  • + Wilmington
  • + Woodland Hills
  • + Yorba Linda
Map It

Food & Drink

Arts & Entertainment

People & Places


Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

Best Lounge
The Alley Restaurant & Bar

The small room is taken up mostly by a small restaurant and an even smaller bar/lounge, but the black-leather booths, dark-green velvet curtains and dark-brown paneling almost smell of Sinatra and his Rat Pack (especially late Newport Beach resident Joey Bishop—or is that the veal chop?). Speaking of that colorful bunch adored by your grandparents, Vince Vaughn and Tony Soprano, the drinks poured at the bar are stiffer than a Rat Packer's starched collar. But it's called the Alley not because that's where you'll end up sleeping if you neglect to scarf down enough dinner rolls between drink orders, but rather because you must pass through a colorfully illustrated one to get to "the gents." Once inside, you'll notice a sign over the toilet that repeats the great Groucho Marx line (without crediting him) "Alimony is like feeding hay to a dead horse" and a mirror over the sink that reflects your face as seen through a Timothy Leary LSD trip. Against this setting that screams the past is a mostly youngish clientele. Oh, there are blue plates, happy hours and specialty nights aimed at attracting hospitality-industry workers, employees from Hoag Hospital across the street and the set who forgot their upper choppers in the tumblers next to their nightstands. Be that as it may, while propped on a high chair with a highball overlooking the dining floor one recent afternoon, we noticed blondes in brimmed Britney hats at every other table. Swear to fucking Ahmadinejad, that is no exaggeration. Just ask the wait staff—as you send 'em off for another highball.

4501 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, 92663
112 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, 92832
Best Bar In Orange County
Memphis at the Santora

The SanTana outpost of the Memphis chain might not have the dive-bar cachet of its Costa Mesa mami, what with its expansive booths, bright lights and prime real-estate spot in the Artists' Village. But it gets the job done and then some: affable bartenders with their own county cults (Johnny Sampson, Dave Mau) who prepare drinks that veer from genteel (for the ladies) to stiffer-than-plywood; late-night menus that forsake the traditional leftovers for the gourmet standards of Memphis executive chef Diego Velasco; and the proper mix of hipsters, out-of-towners, politicos, locals and the occasional cholos, punks, rockabillies and wabs who make life in the county seat so damned enjoyable.

201 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, 92701
3110 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 92663
Best Bar/Club Night
The Elvis Show at the Continental Room

With its velvet curtains, plush booths, dim lighting, long bar and "founded in 1925" mystique, the Continental Room always seems like the perfect place for both the classy and the corny. That dichotomy is made incarnate every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., when veteran Elvis impersonator Kirk Wall takes the stage, hound-dogs around the room and croons about blue-suede shoes. A little while later, a burlesque dancer materializes to straddle railings and crawl seductively all over the bar. The entire time, you sit mesmerized and chowing down on $2 shrimp cocktails. Order a dry gin martini or a Jägerbomb: At the Elvis Show, you can reinvent yourself as either Rat Pack or white trash.

115 W. Santa Fe Ave., Fullerton, 92832
843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, 92627
Best Bartender
Brad Bogle

With his handlebar mustache and polite smile, the man standing behind the brass bar at Captain Jack's restaurant for the past 15 years is anything but average. Serving top-shelf booze to the tune of the lounge-pianist du jour, Brad Bogle has been serving wealthy Orange Countians their dry martinis for so long he's become a staple of the ritzy restaurant that serves all those overpriced crab legs. Always quick to shoot the shit with stories about his daughter or whatever sports team he's rooting for this season, Bogle might as well start calling himself the captain because he steers us into the dimly lit bar every time.

16812 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, 90742
14341 Beach Blvd., Westminster, 92683
Best Beer Selection
Hollingshead's Delicatessen

Nominally, Hollingshead's is a sandwich shop, but a stroll toward its windows, with their glut of exotic logos, makes its true purpose clear: to sell lots of beer. While it's not a bar—they're only open Monday through Friday and close no later than 9 p.m.—the place sells hundreds of varieties of bottled beers from different parts of the world, a veritable United Nations of fermented starches. Hollingshead's always has more than a dozen microbrews on tap. Gotta wash those sandwiches down with something.

368 S. Main St., Orange, 92868
6362 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd., Anaheim, 92807
Best Club DJ

Though technical chops and eclectic musical taste are key survival tools for any DJ, the Huntington Beach duo Colossal KNXN have proven that getting your name out there is the only way to take your crate-digging to the next step. On any given night, you can find DJs Tea Long and BB Guns tag-teaming the turntables at such reputable clubs as Detroit Bar, Proof and Sutra. Trading primarily in a tasty blend of hip-hop and electro, Colossal KNXN are able to read a crowd and resuscitate a dance floor like nobody else. Their weekly Wednesday event Dirty Money has become an institution for beat enthusiasts, wreaking havoc on the dance floor. And as their skills persist, so does their reputation as one of OC's most visible DJ crews.

Best Dance Club
The Crosby
Kate Fancher

So it's not officially a dance club, but it wins this year for the best place to grab a beer, check out some art, and dance your ass off to off-the-cuff underground DJs. The Crosby fought its way into the city, and we love that it demanded to go straight to the heart of OC (downtown Santa Ana), instead of plopping on the fringe of some strip mall. So even though the Crosby also serves as a restaurant, art space and all-around community funk center, it has also brought some much-needed edge to the predictable nose-snubbing, fake-booby-bobbing and tired DJ sets at those other dance clubs in the county.

400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, 92701
400 W. Disney Way, Anaheim, 92802
Best Dive Bar
Reno Room

Pool tables, black-vinyl booths, great jukebox, friendly bartenders, dangerously strong drinks: Reno Room is the quintessential dive. But what sets it apart is the adjoining Mexican restaurant, Coco Renos, which serves great drunk food into the wee hours. That, and the endless parade of taxis filing by to make sure your inebriated ass makes it home in one piece.

3400 E. Broadway, Long Beach, 90803
207 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, 92866
Best Drag Night
Fiesta Latina at the Frat House

The drag scene in Orange County is a little under-the-radar. But make no mistake, the drag queen is here to stay, and she's bold, beautiful and Latina. That's right: The same county that gave birth to raving anti-Mexican Minutemen also gave birth to one of the longest-running Latino drag shows around. Every Thursday through Sunday, the small, unassuming Frat Bar transforms into a diva in heels, renaming itself Fiesta Latina. The vibe is flirty and the shows saucy, sumptuous, bilingual and divine—everything a good gay bar and great drag show should be. The divas in platforms perform old romanticas, dress as famous stars or belt out a modern tune for the boys in the crowd.

8112 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, 92844
Best Gay Bar
The Falcon

This is where you go when you want a no-fuss gay beer. (You know, pink, foamy, comes with an umbrella, condoms and free hot lube. Kidding.) But the little bar on the corner of Broadway and Falcon along the quaint Alamitos Beach Corridor is indeed the spot where you go when you want gay, spirited and cozy with your beer. The crowd at the Falcon is always sweet, just flirty enough and Long Beach sexy (tattoos, drag, boots, cigarettes). It's also mixed: boy, girl, trans, straight, whatever. No one cares, and all dance to the wild VJs just the same. We like this. It's what makes the Falcon not just a great gay bar, but also a great neighborhood bar.

1435 E. Broadway, Long Beach, 90802
752 Saint Claire, Costa Mesa, 92626
Best Happy Hour
Durty Nelly's
Kimberly Valenzuela

It's located within walking distance of a whole lot of office buildings (including OC Weekly's), so a good happy hour is non-negotiable. After all, worker drones need to properly drown their sorrows and/or celebrate their continued employment in this sad excuse for an economy. While the drink specials at Durty Nelly's are solid (available Monday through Thursday, 4 to 7 p.m.), the real value is in their many tasty appetizers available for $3.95 (Monday through Saturday, 4 to 7 p.m.)—classics such as potato skins, slightly more off-kilter choices such as tacos and some wackier options, including deep-fried-macaroni-and-cheese bites. Because any hour when you're eating fried mac and cheese is a happy one.

2915 Red Hill Ave., Costa Mesa, 92626
2920 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 92663
Best Legal Way to get Drunk at the Beach
Blackie's By the Sea

There's no shortage of water-close watering holes on Newport Peninsula, but only one is as crusty, uninviting and awesome as Blackie's. After a few hours in the sun, shade your eyes in this dive bar's dankness, shoot some 50-cent pool and marvel at the relatively low bimbo count in the booths. The owners don't mind you bringing your own food in, so grab a corn dog, order a beer or four, and then re-emerge for a nap on the sand. Don't forget to reapply.

2118 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, 92663

Best Lounge: The Alley Restaurant & Bar


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