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Bars & Clubs

  • 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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Velvet Touch

    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… More >>
  • Focus OC at Tapas Restaurant

    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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Best Dive-Bar Placement

    Rocks

    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,… More >>
  • The 13th Frame Lounge at La Habra 300 Bowl

    Best Dive Bar Attached to a Bowling Alley

    The 13th Frame Lounge at La Habra 300 Bowl

    Ever just wanted to drive off the beaten path and go where the light is low, the karaoke is loud, the beer is cheap, and the girls would just as soon discuss the finer points of trucking-dispatch protocol as the hottest Animal Collective album? Such a place exists: Scenic La Habra has been home to the storied 300 Bowl for… More >>
  • Best Upscale Bar Attached to a Bowling Alley

    Kingpin's Bar and Grill at the Concourse Entertainment Center

    Sometimes, the beaten path is just what a good drunk needs. And the Concourse Entertainment Center is as close to the path as you can get. Located directly off the 91 freeway in Anaheim, the 40-lane bowling cathedral features a raised-concrete-and-polished-steel space known as Kingpin's Bar and Grill, which specializes in helping the middle class forget their workweek in style.… More >>
  • Best Medicine for the Weekend's End

    Monday-Night Residencies at Detroit Bar

    A band has to have some sort of local following to be booked to play each Monday in a month at Orange County's premier rock club; recent highlights have included Young the Giant, Free Moral Agents and the Steelwells. So, there'll usually be a decent-sized crowd here at 9 p.m. on the week's most dreaded day. There's no cover, and… More >>
  • Best Venue for Live Music

    The Glass House

    This room's formula for victory in this category is simple: a consistently eclectic schedule of great bands. When One Day As a Lion, Zack de la Rocha's new band, performed a secret show, the Glass House was the venue they chose. Because of its Goldenvoice affiliation, all the pre-Coachella warm-up shows happen here. FYF's fan-appreciation events are held here. The… More >>
  • Durty Nelly\'s

    Best Karaoke Spot

    Durty Nelly's

    During the day, this Irish pub looks like any other Irish pub, but there are hints of more. Take, for example, the relatively wide stage by the windows. Or all the advertising for karaoke nights. Come Friday and Saturday nights, Durty Nelly's is transformed into a jam-packed, raucous sing-along presided over by Weird Al-lookalike Kevin Cable. His show is replete… More >>
  • Best Bar In Orange County

    Main Street Wine Co.

    Finally, a frisson of refinement for downtown Huntington Beach's notoriously beer-soaked district of dive bars and porno-star meat markets. The Main Street Wine Co. opened in late 2009 and rapidly became a popular hangout for people whose idea of drinking is to savor the experience of sharing a bottle of garnacha with friends or sipping from a fleet of the… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, North OC

    Brian's Beer and Billiards

    Located inside an Albertsons shopping center, Brian's Beer and Billiards is easy to miss. It serves an interesting cross-section of Orange County's citizens: blue-collar workers, weekend warriors, business elite, sports fans—not to mention students attending nearby Cal State Fullerton. The unassuming space is full of kitschy sports memorabilia, pool tables, shuffleboard, dartboards and some cool conversation starters. Dig the authentic… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, South OC

    The Saloon

    It says a lot about South County that we once heard this well-kept but tiny water hole referred to as a "dive." With no cover, few seats and zero attitude, the Saloon is a perfect refuge from the typical Affliction-afflicted, line-out-the-door Laguna Beach restaurant-turned-bar. The décor evokes a classed-up frontier billiards room, but it's not like you have much room… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, Central OC

    The Anthill Pub

    What neighborhood could be more pub-friendly than that of a college campus? Somehow, UC Irvine's bar comes with nearly zero "puke-stained frat house" vibes, even while you might spot an occasional a capella squad or streaker in the quad outside. Instead, you get a laid-back, slightly snooty European-beer-lounge vibe, perfect for kicking back and talking about puke-stained frat houses while… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, Coastal OC

    Beach Ball

    It's easy to pass by this hole-in-the-wall bar near the Newport Pier, but Beach Ball is a dive at its best—with cheap, stiff drinks and a loyal following. This is not a place to order prissy, girly martinis. For a true Beach Ball experience, go for beer or well drinks; you won't be disappointed. On busy nights, you are ushered… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, Long Beach

    DiPiazza's Restaurant & Lounge

    For more than a quarter century, this Long Beach punk-rock landmark has been serving pizzas and pitchers to fans who know the band they're about to hear could be the next Sublime or, for that matter, Shave. Young bands ranging from new-wave rockers Robots Rise to the house band of The Orange County Register are just two of the eclectic… More >>
  • Best Bar When Someone Else Is Paying

    The Cat and the Custard Cup

    Here's a weird fact of life. The places young humans go to meet members of the opposite sex (or the same sex) are often the most uncomfortable. They're cramped, sweaty and have the quiet charms of a bustling aircraft carrier. Maybe that's why you won't see too many young people sitting at the bar at La Habra's Cat and the… More >>
  • Best Strip Joint

    Fritz That's Too

    Forget the rather clumsy name: This is, tops down, the best strip club, dance club, gentleman's club, titty joint, whatever in Orange County. Why should you believe that statement? Because "Marley," a veteran dancer and enormous strip-club aficionado, says so. "It's clean, it's big, they always have lots of girls working, and they take care of their dancers," says Marley,… More >>
  • Best Bar in Which to See Fake Boobs

    Woody's Wharf

    Seriously, there are lots of them—we're talking over-the-top silicone parts the size of watermelons, bursting out of barely there tops. When Woody's Wharf gets crowded, watch out! You could crack a rib on those things.… More >>
  • Best Aptly Named Bar

    Woody's Wharf

    See "Best Bar in Which to See Fake Boobs."… More >>
  • Best Place to Pick Up a One-Night Stand

    The Continental Room

    Slightly off the beaten path of Fullerton's lights-and-action Downtown, the Continental Room is the oldest drinking establishment in the city. Inside, it's cozy and dark—really dark—and the sultry red-and-black décor and snug booths set the mood for a casual liaison. Drinks are fairly cheap, and the bartenders are heavy-handed, all the better to lower your standards by the night's end.… More >>
  • Best Use of Piano In a Bar

    The Derby Deli and Dueling Piano Bar - CLOSED

    A piano bar located in a garish, mostly vacant South County shopping center, three doors down from the body-odor menagerie of Howie's Game Shack—that's gonna be a bust, right? Nope. There's a youthful line out the door many nights, and we've seen people rejected for trying to enter in flip-flops. It's all because dueling pianos are completely, unironically awesome. Even… More >>
  • Best Lounge

    Commissary Lounge

    Nestled inside the Lab, Commissary Lounge has managed to keep somewhat of a hush-hush reputation despite being located at the heart of one of OC's most densely populated hipster spots. The lounge isn't exactly spacious, but it is beautiful—sleek, smooth lines, with black upholstery and a giant mural of a big-city skyline giving the place a sophisticated aesthetic, while oddball… More >>
  • Best Pub

    Goat Hill Tavern

    The very definition of casual, Goat Hill greets its guests with a floor covered in peanut shells, a huge block of a man checking IDs and a subtle scent of . . . what the hell is that smell, anyway? Foosball, air hockey, a huge smoking section that looks like part of the bar, minus some roof—all these things exist… More >>
  • Best Place to Play Pool

    House of Brews

    This off-the-beaten-path spot (in the corner of a Trader Joe's-anchored shopping center) is a haven for Huntington Beach locals trying to have a drink in peace while avoiding the Broville that is Main Street. Forget that scene: This is the place to come have a beer or martini (all have a double pour of alcohol!) and shoot some pool at… More >>
  • Best Beer Selection

    Pizza Port

    Siblings Vince and Gina Marsaglia bought a struggling Solana Beach pizza joint in 1987 and put what they call a San Diego twist to the menu with their "anti-wimpy" gourmet pizzas. Vince also took advantage of spare space in the storage area to dabble in home brewing. The grub-and-grog combination has proven so winning that Pizza Port went on to… More >>
  • Best Martini

    Plum Basil Martini at 230 Forest Avenue Restaurant and Bar

    This delightful sweet-and-sour twist on the watermelon-basil martini combines Pearl Plum vodka with triple sec, grapefruit juice and a sprig of basil. It's the perfect aperitif, smoothly complementing the prosciutto-wrapped shrimp or the blackened ahi tuna nicoise, although it's hard to say how much this intoxicating beverage owes its flavor to the simple fact you're drinking it in one of… More >>
  • Best Margarita

    Pop-Rockin' Watermelon Margarita at Panama Joe's

    You can't go wrong with any of the margaritas at Panama Joe's, a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar along Long Beach's bustling Second Street. Expect your choice to be strong, made with good tequila and to have a unique twist. The most entertaining of the bunch? The Pop-Rockin' Watermelon Margarita. Made with Cazadores Blanco tequila, Bacardi Grand Melon rum, watermelon… More >>
  • Best Signature Cocktail

    Moscow Mule at 320 Main

    A throwback to the days when a cocktail was serious business, 320 Main's Moscow Mule is one of the best, smoothest, most ambrosia-like drinks we've had all year. The recipe is simple but perfectly done, with love: Russian Standard vodka, house-made ginger beer and fresh lime, served up in a copper mug (which you'll be tempted to swipe, but don't!… More >>
  • Best Bartender

    Jonathan "Scuba" Almanza

    Oh, if only all bartenders could be like Jonathan Almanza. Beers would never get empty, shots would always be frosty cold—no one makes a Tic Tac like he does. Of all the bartenders we've ever met (and that's . . . well, it's a lot), he is by far the best—which must have something to do with his 11 years… More >>
  • Best Happy Hour

    320 Main

    A refined, fetching little restaurant/bar where folks of all drinking ages are warmly welcomed, 320 Main offers a happy-hour menu on which everything costs just $4: well drinks, draft beer, select wines and appetizers. Standard happy-hour fare for some, sure, but available six nights per week, including Saturdays and Sundays? Okay, now, we're impressed. And that deal also includes such… More >>
  • Best Sports Bar

    Legends

    Rightfully known as the granddaddy of all sports bars, Legends has pretty much every sports game you could want to watch playing on its flat-screen TVs. For big games, there's even a 20-foot drop-down screen to make you feel like you're actually sitting in the stands. If you really want to enjoy the game, order a tower of beer—80 ounces… More >>
  • 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… More >>
  • Best Venue for Unintentional Live Comedy

    Costa Mesa City Council Chambers

    The yuks never stop the nights the Costa Mesa City Council gavels itself to order. First, you've got the intolerant gadflies in the crowd itching to spread the fear of a brown planet, pinning every crime, pothole and tumbleweed in town on those goddamn Mexicans. Card-carrying goosesteppers have even infiltrated the group. Next, you've got the intolerant anti-intolerants, defending anyone… More >>
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