Bars & Clubs

  • Best Bar In Orange County

    320 Main

    It's telling that the Orange County Bartenders Cabinet—the group of local bartenders that meets once a month to teach one another how to make better drinks for the rest of us—uses this Seal Beach beaut as its home bar. Jason Schiffer and his crew have made 320 Main a Tesla-esque lab for cocktail experimentation, a place where Old-Fashioneds come out… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, Central OC

    Memphis At the Santora - CLOSED

    It was the pioneer, the bar that went into downtown Santa Ana when everyone else was still convinced some cholo would rob anyone with skin lighter than coffee. It was the young gun, the place that wowed Orange County with its inventive cocktails that complement a New Southern menu. It was the perennial all-star, making Best Of lists such as… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, North OC

    Brian's Beer & Billiards

    Far from the crowds in downtown Fullerton, the corporate schlock of downtown Brea, and the uppity gastropubs and mixology joints of Tustin and Orange stands this oasis of old-school. For 31 years, Brian Fairley has operated this friendly, clean dive bar on the eastern edge of Fullerton serving nothing but beer, wine, pickled eggs and barbecue. No liquor. No karaoke… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, Coastal OC

    Cassidy's Bar & Grill

    One day, we're going to spend the entire day at Cassidy's—start off in the morning with the legendary cheeseburger, drink about 15 Bloody Marys for lunch, begin dinner with Jägermeister shots, have another cheeseburger as the locals and tourists start crowding the place, and end at 2 a.m., laughing as some idiot finally gets tossed out after last call for… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, South County

    Anthill Pub

    UC Irvine students don't drink like other college students. Well, they do, but instead of guzzling some mass-produced, American-style, light-lager swill brewed by a big-two brewery, they're knocking back Pliny the Elders and Oaked Arrogant Bastards, all without realizing what kind of beer they're drinking. Some of them even take a "Quarter Club" challenge, downing California craft brews for 10… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar, Long Beach

    The Pike Bar & Restaurant

    Some may view the Pike Bar & Restaurant near the funky intersection of Fourth Street and Cherry Avenue as a hipster mecca due to that winning combination of relatively inexpensive PBRs, pricier microbrews, nightly entertainment from bands and DJs, and non-manufactured dive-iness. Indeed, the building on Retro Row seems as if it must've been constructed at the same time as… More >>
  • Best Dive Bar

    The Quill

    Now that the Helm in Costa Mesa rests in Davy Jones' locker, the hipsters took over the Swinging Door, and the Fling is next, the Quill remains the last gasp of how drinking used to be in Orange County—not uppity froufrou mixologists, but a grizzled guy or gal who doesn't get fancier than a White Russian; not obnoxious EDM or… More >>
  • Best Meat Market

    Chain Reaction

    When combining the terms all ages with Orange County, there's only one definitive spot to discuss: Chain Reaction. Here, boys with flat-ironed hair and eyeliner resemble girls and still manage to do well for themselves with the ladies. Here, marginalized teens from a variety of subcultures (from emo to screamo) come to listen to bands with banal names such as… More >>
  • Best Drag Show

    VLVT Velvet Lounge

    Gay bars are still few and infuriatingly far between, so VLVT Velvet Lounge is already a beloved staple in LGBTQIOC, not just for its many themed nights, but also for its Sunday brunch. Among a sea of bottomless mimosas, a DIY Bloody Mary table and fresh-to-order omelets stand the Brunchettes, who trot out the sequins, wigs and torch songs as… More >>
  • Best Street for a Pub Crawl

    Broadway In Santa Ana

    Main Street in HB has more bars; Harbor Boulevard in Fullerton has more crowds; Main Street in Seal Beach has a better view. But for sheer diversity of experience and quality, no stretch of Orange County beats Broadway in downtown Santa Ana. In just two city blocks, you can experience alcohol in all its wondrous ways: from wine and craft… More >>
  • Best Strip Joint

    Venetian Gentlemen's Club

    Anaheim has always been the center of the strip-club industry in Orange County, whether for of all the conventioneers and professional sports players who need to get their jollies after a day at the office or the city's working-class makeup—Latino or white, Asian or Arab, sometimes Tube8 just won't do and you need an actual girl whispering sweet nothings in… More >>
  • Best Pub

    Side Door

    This gastropub, which started as an appendage to the well-known Five Crowns, has overtaken its master with a well-curated but not overwhelming beer list for the true pubgoer, spirits for people who want to party a little harder, and flights of vino for the South Coastal wine set. Side Door's food is several notches higher than the average English pub,… More >>
  • Best Gay Bar

    Tin Lizzie

    Sometimes you want a glitzy dance palace full of gyrating men, fruity "martinis," and neon, and sometimes you just want a more laid-back, slightly divey atmosphere. Under the ownership of the Memphis Group, the Tin Lizzie reinvented itself into a bumping, colorful destination where you can actually chat (loudly) with the bartenders and mingle with the pretty boys.    … More >>
  • Best Happy Hour

    Memphis Cafe

    For $20, you can buy a veritable three-course meal, plus a cocktail, at Memphis Cafe's happy hour. From 3 to 6:30 p.m. daily, the sweet, stylish, southern-comfort restaurant and bar offers up its tastiest plates starting at $5 apiece, with cocktails starting at just $4. Here's our game plan: Begin with the Zuni flatbread, topped with sage pesto, corn salsa… More >>
  • Best Rock Club

    Tiki Bar

    Few places exist where rock & roll is more than a musty, beige genre to which anything with a guitar can belong. Step into a rock show at the Tiki Bar, on the other hand, and you'll find this den is where battle-scarred riff masters and old-school punks still come to play. As the stomping ground of such volatile OC… More >>
  • Best Club DJ

    Minaya & Vikus

    Young guns Daniel Minaya and Shane Vikus are tearing it up at every turn within OC's EMD club scene. Things really got interesting last May, when the duo—known simply as Minaya & Vikus—was hand-picked by Swedish House Mafia DJ Steve Angelo to win his Size Matters DJ contest, earning the two an opening slot for him at the Palladium. Since… More >>
  • Best Punk-Rock Bar

    Johnny's Saloon

    More than a punk-rock bar, Johnny's Saloon is a cultural hub dedicated to cheap, stiff drinks; good music; and a consistent crop of unique events, most of 'em benefiting veterans' charities. A trip into the dank dive offers amenities you'll find at no other bar: pour your own Pabst on tap, most drinks $5 or less, and the largest collection… More >>
  • Best Lesbian Bar

    VLVT Velvet Lounge

    Even with all the buzz surrounding Santa Ana's newest gay bar, locals know the place isn't a total sausage fest. In fact, every Sunday, VLVT Velvet Lounge is also home to Cherry, which touts itself as "OC's Sexiest Girls' Night." The layout of the bar definitely lends itself to that title—flashy nightclub feel with lots of space to dance, a… More >>
  • Best Margarita

    El Matador

    There is a wall of tequilas in the newer, more bar-like area of Costa Mesa's venerable El Matador. More than 170 brands and varieties are represented, and your goal should be to try each one . . . well, maybe only the really good ones. Start with what the man behind the bar most weekdays calls "the best margarita ever":… More >>
  • Park Avenue Dining

    Best Martini

    Park Avenue Dining

    Half of what makes the martini at Park Avenue is the atmosphere; the tiny, Googie-style bar wedged into the front of Stanton's best restaurant makes you want to dust off the skinny ties and plastic, square-rimmed eyeglasses. Sit down and actually discuss what you want in a martini with the distinguished bartender. If you want a classic variety—gin, vermouth and… More >>
  • Best Place to Pick Up Drunk College Students

    Baja Sharkeez

    You know that episode of How I Met Your Mother in which Barney describes the gift to mankind known as "Woo Girls," groups of young females who shout, "Wooooooo!" at bars and parties as a modern-day mating call? Well, "Woo Girls: The Collegiate Edition" can be viewed in full force at Baja Sharkeez, the eardrum-piercing Newport Beach bar where midriff… More >>
  • Hollingshead\'s Deli

    Best Beer Selection

    Hollingshead's Deli

    Yeah, we named it Best Deli in this issue as well, but as the Police song goes, two hearts beat as one—wait, that was U2, and that's a horrible joke. But, really, there's no excuse needed for the double dipping. Hollingshead's was stocking rare craft brews for OC long before it became a trend, and it's still at it, with… More >>
  • Best Karaoke

    Kopa Room at Linbrook Bowl

    Linbrook Bowl is a legendary working-class Anaheim institution, with its Googie-style sign and rotating, neon-lit pin. But by night, it beckons leagues of OC's inebriated crooners. The sound of bowling balls spinning down the lane leaving dreaded 7-10 splits can be heard upon entering the Kopa Room, but once inside the dimly lit, oval-shaped bar, reverb-laden vocals and instrumentals dominate.… More >>
  • Gabrielle Dion at Broadway By Amar Santana

    Best Bartender

    Gabrielle Dion at Broadway By Amar Santana

    The hardest part of drinking in front of Gabrielle Dion is actually getting to the bar; Broadway By Amar Santana is chronically crowded, and the locals are fond of their barstools. Once you reach there, though, it's clear sailing. Each drink Dion makes you will be perfect; custom cocktails come precisely balanced, often with the European amari she loves and… More >>
  • Best New Bartender

    Jefferson Van Billiard at Memphis At the Santora - CLOSED

    This past March, we hosted a KCRW Good Food/OC Weekly Happy Hour at Memphis At the Santora featuring OC bartender royalty: Ricky Yarnall, Gabrielle Dion, Jason Schiffer, Matt Robold and Felicia Chavez. While the members of the Orange County Bartenders Cabinet were busy slinging free samples of their signature sauces, Jefferson Van Billiard held down the main bar, dishing out… More >>
  • Best Lounge

    Kitsch Bar

    When you go to a lounge, you want to lounge. You want to be alone if you want to be alone; you want to be able to hear your friends if you're with friends. What you don't want is to be interrupted by overecstatic frat guys hitting on every single girl there while hitting every bar in downtown wherever. Kitsch… More >>
  • Best Venue for Live Comedy

    Irvine Improv

    There really is no competition in Orange County for live comedy clubs, as the Irvine Improv was born out of the standup-comedy boom of the 1980s—with roots going back to Broadway producer Budd Friedman opening New York City's Improvisation in 1963. Through subsequent rises and declines and re-rises in the yuk-yuk trade, the Irvine Improv has always been there for… More >>
  • Best Recording Studio

    The OC Recording Co.

    Asaf Fulks bills his Santa Ana spot as "the premier recording studio and music-production facility in Orange County, " and who can deny such a boast of a place that has seen the recording of everyone from the Libertarian Party presidential ticket of Gary Johnson and Jim Gray to the amazingly talented Courtney Stodden (who shocked the world at 16… More >>
  • Best Bikini Bar

    Eye Candy Bikini Bar - CLOSED

    If you're going to go to a bikini bar, then go to a place where hipsters are shown the door; where ogling is not only accepted, but also mandatory; where the drink prices haven't changed in 20 years and the music doesn't stray far from Lynyrd Skynyrd. Go to Eye Candy, which you've seen most of your Orange County life—that… More >>
  • Best Sports Bar

    O'Connell's Sports Pub & Grill

    Come game day, forget trying to squeeze your way into the overcrowded sports bars along the touristy beachside streets, with drunk patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk and where bouncers actually collect a cover charge. Most of us just want a cold beer, the big game on a big screen, and the chance to cheer and jeer alongside fellow fans.… More >>
  • Best Venue for Live Music

    The Observatory and the Constellation Room

    If you visited the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana a little more than a year ago, you would've been met by cover bands, one-hit wonders or closed doors. It had its moments, of course, but those moments were rare thanks to a lengthy closure and lackluster booking. Enter Jon Reiser, former partner and booker for Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa.… More >>
  • Best Shot

    Killer Klown at Johnny's Saloon

    How many shots out there make you literally blow out smoke when you exhale? That's the charm of the Killer Klown at Johnny's Saloon. It's served in a special glass that has a chamber at the bottom to hold a small pellet of dry ice. A piece of cotton candy is then stuffed into the glass, with a house-made apple-cinnamon-infused… More >>
  • Best Signature Cocktail

    Loucette at Broadway By Amar Santana

    Order a Loucette at Laguna Beach's Broadway By Amar Santana, and you'll get a small, delicate glass filled with 42 Below vodka, Martini & Rossi Bianco, grapefruit juice, lime juice, honey and rosemary water. The combination of flavors is like a sweet ballet dancing on your palate. The honey softens the cocktail, while the rosemary water, nearly undetectable, grounds the… More >>
  • Best Place to Practice the Art of Billiards

    Ole's Tavern

    The art of billiards is essentially dead, relegated to Vietnamese and Mexican bars. But at Ole's Tavern, this is still the sport of choice while knocking back beers and flirting in a place where Marines on leave from Pendleton mingle with the outside world and wow you with tales of Afghanistan as they kick your ass off the corner pocket.    … More >>
  • Best Bar/Club Night

    Sonidero Night at Rancho De Mendoza

    The hipsters who have infested downtown Santa Ana have already discovered Rancho De Mendoza's awesome weekend karaoke nights, where wabs, pochos and drag queens perform Mexican and American classics equally badly. But they still don't dare go upstairs on Saturday, where the club floor belongs to people from Mexico City and Puebla looking to groove at Sonidero Night. A genre… More >>
  • Best Place to Pick Up a One-Night Stand

    Gulfstream

    In this moneyed paradise, where Orange County GOP leaders light up cigars every Friday afternoon and society ladies get a quick salad before picking up their daughters from the Mexican nannies, getting a quick lay is surprisingly easy—even easier than the cattle-call known as the Quiet Woman. At Gulfstream, you'll find cougars, gold-diggers, porn stars and a bevy of horny… More >>
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