Bars & Clubs

  • Best Bar In Orange County

    Memphis at the Santora - CLOSED

    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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar/North OC

    Front Street at the Back Alley and the Back Alley

    Set smack-dab in the middle of Fullerton's small but bustling downtown is a long, rectangular space of suds and boozin' wonderfulness. The front half, facing East Wilshire Avenue, is the Front Street at the Back Alley bar and grill. Large windows draw in enough light to keep it a bright, cheery and respectable neighborhood lounge with a long bar tucked… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar/Central OC

    McClure's - CLOSED

    Consider McClure's the quintessential anti-hipster establishment. There's pretty much nothing the place can do to be less hip: It hosts karaoke a staggering four nights per week and cover bands on Fridays and Saturdays. The primary clientele is 35 and up. It's in Tustin. Yet all these things make it a gleeful escape from the typical bar trappings. The karaoke… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar/Coastal OC

    Village Inn

    Family came into OC from Iowa, and after seeing the sights, everyone ended up at the Village Inn. The annual walk with friends around Balboa Island to check out the Christmas lights ended with a nip or seven at the Village Inn. And after walking off that romantic dinner at Amelia's, you end up snuggling up to your sweetie in… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar/South OC

    Swallow's Inn

    South County's most famous bar is a modern-day honky-tonk where the patrons come from a neighborhood that's less geographic than it is psychic. It takes a certain kind of 52-year-old man to go out in public wearing a cowboy hat and a vest but no shirt—and it takes a certain kind of prude to not enjoy a night of cheap… More >>
  • 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.… More >>
  • Best Lesbian Bar

    The Doll House at Hamburger Mary's

    Thursday nights belong to the fairer sex at Long Beach's renowned gay club Hamburger Mary's. Appropriately dubbed the Doll House, this weekly get-together brings out the sexiest women from LBC, OC and beyond. Featuring go-go dancers the Dolls and DJ Zach Moos spinning bump and grind, this new club night has proved to be a big success among the lesbo-licious.… More >>
  • 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.… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Best Sports Bar

    Octane Alley

    You've probably already decided whether you'll ever set foot in this Huntington Beach sports bar based on its name. But Octane Alley might surprise you: Aside from the usual slate of televised sporting events, they've hosted bluesy indie-rock band Moostache's CD-release party, as well as other local music such as avant-garde one-man show Stanley Lucas Revolution. They've also got weekly,… More >>
  • Best Place to Play Pool

    International Billiards

    There is perhaps no better excuse to break balls and drink beers than having your car towed. And the location of International Billiards provides its patrons the opportunity to do just that. Conveniently stationed just blocks from not one, not two, but three tow yards, this Westminster gem serves beer to the tune of angry hip-hop music and the chatter… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Best Happy Hour

    Durty Nelly's

    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… More >>
  • Best Pub

    O'Malley's On Main

    The regulars here aren't just regulars; they're more like tenants. Some fine folks have been known to frequent this Irish pub several times a day, and why wouldn't they? O'Malley's is, hands down, the best place to get a pint of frosty beer and a plate of hearty grub. (We love the Irish sausage rolls and Maggie's potato skins.) The… More >>
  • Best Place to Bag a Cougar

    Reggae Sundays at Mozambique Steakhouse

    We don't know if it's the marvelous sunset views, the reggae or the fact it's Laguna Beach, but Mozambique Steakhouse is the coastal spot where OC's formidable cougar crowd—decadent, boobed-out wannabe MILFS—love to hit the dance floor. Mozambique has just enough old-colonial flair for an old dame with too little skirt and too much money to feel like she's right… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Best Place to Pick Up a One-Night Stand

    Tapas Restaurant and Bar

    There are two ways to go about your one-night-stand business at this airport-adjacent joint that draws in a large, well-heeled crowd every weekend to flaunt its salsa-dance-lesson skills. If you're looking for a moderate, mysterious one-nighter and are willing to do a little work, come to the restaurant/bar early and scan the crowd of flamenco enthusiasts who've come for the… More >>
  • 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,… More >>
  • Best Dance Club

    The Crosby - CLOSED

    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… More >>
  • Best New Club

    Red Night Club - CLOSED

    When this club opened its doors in March on the foundation where Tentation Ultra Lounge once stood, South County club-goers were eager to see if the transformation involved more than just a name change. It certainly did. Restructured into a multifaceted nightspot dipped in crimson, Red has revamped the space into a small slice of VIP heaven, even though the… More >>
  • Best Club DJ

    Colossal KNXN

    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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Best Signature Cocktail

    The So. Cal. Cooler at Mosaic

    This elixir whipped up at the poolside bar at the Montage Resort & Spa is as refreshing as the nearby ocean spray. Grey Goose l'Orange, Le Citron, lemonade and Sprite are served in a glass with muddled citrus inside and sugar around the rim. Not so tart that it gives you the sunken-cheek-model effect, nor so sweet that you'll require… More >>
  • Best Martini

    Ginger Martini at Bono's - CLOSED

    It's spicy and sweet without going anywhere near the regions of those sugar-filled stem drinks that somehow pass for adult beverages. The Ginger Martini is a grown-up, sophisticated cocktail with a deliciously unexpected kick of flavor. Bartender Dani makes them the best—she mixes Canton Ginger Liqueur with both unflavored and vanilla vodka, then tops this 'tini off with a sprinkle… More >>
  • Best Margarita

    Crystal Cove Margarita at Las Brisas

    Over the years, the margarita recipe has remained pretty standard: tequila, orange liqueur, citrus. Hey, some things should never be messed with, and we understand that. But Las Brisas has a cocktail that's a sweet, welcome twist on an old classic. By adding just a teensy bit of amaretto to Sauza Hornitos, triple sec and lime, the Crystal Cove Margarita… More >>
  • Best Rock Club

    The Gypsy Lounge - CLOSED

    The guy at the door must just be curious when he marks down which band you're there to see because this laid-back bar has a reputation as one of the county's most artist-friendly. Certain establishments demand that the average acoustic strummer offer his or her first child as a deposit in case the crowd doesn't pack the bar stools, but… More >>
  • Best Venue for Live Music

    Detroit Bar - CLOSED

    This joint gets a lot of love around these parts, and with good reason: What other venue is going to bring cutting-edge indie rock acts such as Deerhunter, Mew and Ida Maria to the county? Or alt-rock legends such as Dinosaur Jr. and Frank Black? What about hip-hop names such as GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan and People Under the… More >>
  • Best Venue for Live Comedy

    Sgt. Pepper's Dueling Piano Bar

    Drunken singing is one of life's greatest treasures. That's why nothing is more hilarious than watching a dueling piano show in a room overflowing with patrons who are all three-sheets-to-the-wind. It's not your typical comedy venue, but we guarantee you'll laugh your ass off to the tune of these classic sing-alongs and the witty repertoire provided by both hysterical pianists.… More >>
  • Best Venue Comeback

    Galaxy Theatre

    Given all the businesses that have closed in 2009, it feels good to single out one that actually reopened. The Galaxy Theatre closed, seemingly for good, back in February 2008, only to rise from its metaphorical ashes a little more than a year later. Not only are they back in business, but owner Gary Folgner also spruced up a good… More >>
  • Best Venue to Discover Bands With Hilarious/Gross Names

    The Doll Hut

    A recent sampling from the tiny punk-rock bar: Sweaty Ball Bag, Snake Tits, Piss Pops and Penis Envy.… More >>
  • Best Strip Joint

    California Girls - CLOSED

    For countless years, the ladies and gay gentlemen of Orange County have suffered under the oppression of inequality. Now that suffering is over thanks to California Girls. This prized Fullerton establishment has ended the battle of the sexes plaguing local strip clubs for years by featuring an all-male strip show! Every Saturday from 9 p.m. till last gal standing, California… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar/Long Beach

    Ashley's Bar and Grill

    This place is so neighborhoody it doesn't even have a website. Ashley's Bar and Grill's exterior is so nondescript it's easy to drive by and miss it — unless you're a local. But this homey spot, which serves great bar grub (including yummy veggie burgers) and features local bands weekly, couldn't be what it is if it weren't in Long… More >>