Best Lounge Orange County 2009 - The Alley Restaurant & Bar
4501 W. Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Readers' Choice: Commonwealth Lounge & Grill
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.