Best of OC

Best Of 2010


  • + 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

Sports & Recreation

Bars & Clubs

Food & Drink

Arts & Entertainment

Shopping & Services

People & Places


Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

Best Venue for Live Comedy
Irvine Improv

A priest, a rabbi and Jack Nicholson walk into a soulless retail-and-entertainment farm next to the 405 freeway in Irvine, and they stumble into a happening comedy club. "Hey, what's an Improv doing in the middle of this soulless retail-and-entertainment farm next to the 405 freeway in Irvine?" Jack asks.

"The backstroke," deadpans the rabbi, prompting the priest to do disgusting things with a family from Iowa passing by before announcing, "The Aristocrats!" Okay, we're forgetting part of the joke—something that rarely happens at the Irvine Improv because it draws top-shelf stand-ups and talented up-and-comers. The first Improvisation was founded by Broadway producer Budd Friedman in New York in 1963, and the likes of Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal and Lily Tomlin passed through. The Improv moved west to Los Angeles in 1975, and several more Improvs opened around the country, including Irvine, during the 1980s comedy boom. Today, Irvine Improv is known for stiff drinks, a generally college-age crowd, and bookings of many comics you see on TV or film. It's enough to make you forget the darkened club where your gut is busting is in a soulless retail-and-entertainment farm next to the 405 freeway in Irvine.
527 Spectrum Center Dr., Irvine, 92616
120 S. Brea Blvd., Brea, 92821
Best Gay Bar
Tin Lizzie Saloon

Tin Lizzie considers itself "a gay oasis in conservative OC's urban sprawl"—and it's not just being presumptuous. Decorated in red-velvet drapes and wallpaper, gold sconces, brass footrails, and patent-leather seats, the suburban-fabulous, open-daily saloon definitely feels like a haven for the gay community, as it's packed no matter what time of day you visit. The drinks are also hella cheap (signature martinis run $4 to $7). And the music selection? Let's just say there's enough "untz untz untz" to satisfy the hardiest clubgoer.

752 Saint Claire, Costa Mesa, 92626
400 W. Disney Way, Anaheim, 92802
Best Lesbian Bar
Doll House at Hamburger Mary's

It's Thursday night; where all the ladies at? Since Long Beach is definitely the hot spot for gay nightlife in the Orange County area, chances are they're at Doll House, the weekly lesbian night at Hamburger Mary's—an ample-sized club complete with a spacious dance floor and smoking patio. Presented by Club Lucky (of LGBT nights Lucky Sundays and the notorious Boy Bar), Doll House has everything a girl who likes girls could want: drink specials (did someone say $1 Jell-O shots?!), deals on cover charges, awesome DJs and go-go dolls! Plus, the whole thing is 18-and-over, so the little lezzies can go out, too.

330 Pine Ave., Long Beach, 90802
Best Drag Show
Dreamgirls Revue at Club Ripples

Despite what The Simpsons may lead you to believe, it takes a hell of a lot more than a curly wig and a boom box to impersonate Cher. The ladies of the Dreamgirls Revue know this, and after nearly 20 years in the business of lipstick and lip-syncing, they strive to not only imitate, but also emulate all our favorite divas. From ABBA to Renée Zellweger, this versatile group can conjure up just about any act and execute their performances with a unique flair that will keep you signing, "Halleluja"—even after the 100th time you've heard "It's Raining Men." The longest-running drag show in Southern California, the Dreamgirls sprinkle their sweet loving all over the area, but they settle every Thursday night at the LGBT-friendly Club Ripples on the Long Beach coast. Featuring a talented ensemble, each show ignites with a dazzling tribute to the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, then progresses into a veritable grab bag of song-and-dance routines. In a single night, you can catch performances by anyone from Diana Ross to Marilyn Manson, and if you're lucky enough to catch a themed show, you might even get to meet Cruella DeVil and a few Disney princesses, to boot.

5101 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 90803
Best Rock Club
Commonwealth Lounge

Toeing the line between upscale dance hall and bubbling cauldron of underground talent, Commonwealth Lounge is one of the few bars that bends the parameters of rock & roll in as many ways as the law allows. A fervent harvest of psychedelic '60s revivals, guitar-tapping prog artists and Latin-flavored jam bands is a blessed, regular occurrence. Not to mention that such talent balances well with the club's cavalcade of notable funk and hip-hop acts. Commonwealth's loud, eclectic palette is especially pleasing considering the bar's recent evolution. In the past year, it has gone from a well-decorated Top 40 zone to a respected cove of indie culture. (It's still well-decorated, too.) Tucked into a red-brick plaza at the southern tip of downtown Fullerton, its sleek, neon-lit lounge vibes collide with old-fashioned East Coast swagger and flowering chandeliers. Add a couple of stiff drinks and a dance floor packed with Fullerton's most attractive clientele, and you won't find a classier, more adventurous place to bang your head.

112 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, 92832
122 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, 92832
Best Punk-Rock Bar
Alex's Bar

With the skull and crossbones hanging precariously above the bar to hosting Swingin' Utters shows to the vintage Pabst Blue Ribbon and Schlitz décor, Alex's Bar is clearly above every other joint for general punk-rockery. It is, after all, a way cooler, more-dangerous version of your neighborhood dive bar (an edge that only comes with being located in a seedy part of town)—and that's totally punk. As with your friendly neighborhood dive, Alex's always serves cheap drinks. There's a handy ATM in the bar, a great selection in the juke box, velvet paintings, graffiti on the walls, pool tables and plenty of locals in all their just-rolled-out-of-bed glory. But there's also a photo booth; the could-be-great, could-be-foul bands playing regularly; a cast of punk/rockabilly/hipster misfits; Beatles karaoke nights; and a leave-your-upper-lip-at-home-or-don't-come-in-at-all ambiance that makes Alex's Bar an instant win. Oh, and lest we forget: Alex's Bar is also popularly known as Fangtasia from HBO's True Blood. Remember: Don't park at the Autozone next door–you will get towed!

2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, 90804
17428 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, 92647
Best Club DJ
Velvet Touch

DJ Velvet Touch is the kind of guy who likes to have his hands all over the place. Especially when it comes to the local club scene. If you've been to an OC Music Awards showcase in the past year, then you've heard his thumping remixes, world beats and house mash-ups searing between sets from our most-prized homegrown bands. But for this Irvine-based artist (born Eric Goldberg), the Music Awards gigs only scratch the surface of his résumé. As the owner of traveling-DJ company Automatic Midnight Productions (founded in 1998), he and his crew of local crate diggers flex their vinyl lexicon nightly throughout OC, Long Beach and LA. And if you've got a wedding or bar mitzvah planned, he's available for those, too. Be it hipster art show, festival, raging dive bar or highbrow lounge night, Velvet Touch consistently delivers sets with style and finesse.

Best Dance Club
Focus OC at Tapas Restaurant

If you're into Top 40, juiceheads, outrageous covers or shimmying your way through a gyrating sea of pants tents, chances are Focus OC is not your bag. However, if the sound of deep house, techno or good vibes and savory $1 tacos (served with salsa that actually passes as picante) floats your fancy, then welcome home. The fellas behind this electronic dance night have been supplying quality house music to the Orange County scene for more than seven years. Each night features live performances by skilled, internationally known DJs, including the likes of Mark Farina (OM), J.T. Donaldson (Gallery Music Group), Derrick Carter (Classic Recordings) and resident selector Josh Billings. A site for innumerable quinceañeras by day, the venue includes such amenities as a spacious dance floor, large outdoor patio, courteous bartenders and a crowd that remains refreshingly douchebag-free.

4253 Martingale Way, Newport Beach, 92660
1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, 92627
Best New Club
Avec Nightclub

Born from the ashes of what used to be the old Majestic, a venue that once hosted Vietnamese pop concerts, Avec retains few characteristics of its former incarnation save for its address and general layout. The club's interior is intimately sized and dimly lit with soft purples and blues. The centerpiece is an installation mimicking a giant tree that sprouts from the central bar and stretches to the ceiling. Crystal prisms drip from its boughs like luminescent leaves, creating a striking fixture that makes you feel as though you've just stepped through the proverbial looking glass. Arrive before 10:30 p.m. for half off the usual $20 cover, and opt for VIP bottle service so you don't have to regret paying $12 for a Long Island iced tea. This also secures you a comfy roost in one of the Victorian-inspired seating areas, from which you can watch the action going down on both dance floors. Seasoned DJs host weekend events, spinning the best in hip-hop, dance, house, electronic and magnificent mash-ups that keep the energy up and the bodies bumping.

18582 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, 92648
Best Bar/Club Night
Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour at Basement Lounge

If you're young, broke and fabulous, there's no better place to be than in the cozy depths of the Basement Lounge on a Wednesday night. With its dramatic lighting, sleek interior and strong encouragement of cocktail attire (2 bucks off if you come lookin' sharp), it's one of the few places on Earth where you can sip from a $5 can (yes, can) of certified champagne through a bendy straw and still manage to feel chic. When the clock strikes 8 on this particular night, producer/host of the Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour Derrick Brown emerges onstage to kick the show off with its very own theme song. Perpetuating the classic format of the live-radio variety show, the Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour begins with an open-mic poetry slam, and then welcomes one author, musician and informationist to the stage to imbue the minds of an enthusiastic audience with new ideas and brilliant sounds. With an ever-evolving roster of nationally best-selling authors, university professors, media personalities and the average Joe, every show possesses its own unique chemistry, ensuring that, on any given night, you can expect nothing and learn anything from "how to kiss" to "how to be a successful war correspondent."

149 Linden Ave., Long Beach, 90802
14988 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine, 92618
Best Dive Bar
O'Connell's Sports Bar & Grille

In the corner of a strip mall containing a 7-Eleven and a doughnut shop, O'Connell's Sports Bar & Grille doesn't look like much from the parking lot. But upon entering, one is faced with literally dozens of TVs, all tuned to every possible sporting event happening on the planet, an ultra-casual and relaxed atmosphere, and the most unbelievably friendly bartenders—ones who remember that when you ask for your "usual," you mean a Heineken Light and a shot of Jack. A lengthy bar surrounded by some wooden tables and chairs—it's not fancy; it's just comfortable. O'Connell's is the perfect place for when you want to meet up with your buds for an hour of power and simply chill out.

19047 Bushard St., Huntington Beach, 92646
2603 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, 92663
Best Dive-Bar Placement

Orange County's most Stepford city needs a place like Rocks: Nestled in an industrial office park next to a bakery that supplies cookie dough for local elementary-school fund-raisers, Rocks draws a fuck-it-all crowd looking for a night it'll hardly remember. It's a dimly lit, black-walled, many-mirrored adult playground: There's shuffleboard, darts, a wide dance floor, raging karaoke and, most crucially, $2 drink deals on Thursdays. We've heard whispers from neighbors about meth deals taking place not too far away; surely that's just myth, but it's the kind of myth Laguna Niguel needs.


Best Venue for Live Comedy: Irvine Improv


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >