Photo by Keith MaySunset Beach, the roughly 1.5-mile strip of unincorporated county land bordered by Seal Beach (to the north), Huntington Beach (to the south) and Huntington Harbor (to the east), is one of only three U.S. towns without mail-delivery service. Its beach-loving residents pick up their mail from a P.O. Box at the small, centrally located post office, where the bulletin board is littered with quaint fliers reminding residents of upcoming events such as "Bill Dodson's 90th birthday" and myriad pancake breakfasts. But it's not all Mayberry. Coexisting somewhat peacefully with locals who have been there forever (who are involved in endless local committees; own big, fat, beautiful houses on the water; and don't really mind the proliferation of cops patrolling the area) is a vibrant, young, possibly "seedy" Sunset Beach: tattoo parlors, massage parlors, psychics, dive bars, a 24-hour diner with a line spilling out onto its patio, and a nightclub that consistently books some of the county's best bands. And then there's that weird house that looks like a water tower (1 Anderson). What the hell is it? Local lore has it that the guy who lived there years ago used to host "out of hand" Monday-night football parties during which the neighbors would "look the other way." Titillating!
THE SUNSET ALSO EATS
Captain Jack's. Opened June 25, 1965, this steak and seafood restaurant serves 53,000 pounds of Alaskan king crab per year—more than any other restaurant in the U.S. It prides itself on consistent quality and hearty portions. The bar is one of the few that still use the "Super Well," meaning that if you order gin, you get Bombay, and if you order vodka, you get Absolut. 16812 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-2514.Harbor House Caf. This 24-hour diner is a local institution that serves consistently good food. As it's incredibly popular with the late-night crowd, be prepared to wait for a table. 16341 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-5404.
THE SUNSET ALSO EATS RAW FISH
Tsunami Sushi. Mondays and weekends are a scene, but fans of the food (sushi, sashimi and tepenyaki) swear by it. Happy-hour specials daily from 5 to 6 p.m. and all night on Mondays. 17236 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-5806.Daemon's Japanese Restaurant. Men in the office claim this is more of a scene than Tsunami's, which is weird because I didn't think there could be more of a scene than Tsunami's. Daemon's is for Japanese-cuisine-loving porn stars, strippers, hot guys, and the people who like to hang out with them. 16232 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-4862.
THE SUNSET ALSO GETS SHIT-FACED
Turcs. Icy, unfriendly, divey in the best sense of the word (if by "divey" you mean to convey the kind of place where the bartenders ignore you), Turcs, named for dearly departed owner Turk Varteresian, has been around for 53 years and caters to both young and old. And it has pool tables! Local lore has it that the owner once put up a big sign that said, "Welcome to Sunset Beach—World's Largest Yard Sale" before being pressured to take it down. Local lore also has it that Varteresian made his money from the movie Ben Hur, and no, we don't know what that means either. It's local lore, for chrissakes! Quit asking so many questions! 16321 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-2311.King Neptune's. Big aquariums, military whatnot mounted on the walls, intriguing bathroom covered in so many buttons you feel like you're trapped in a sewing box. Live music on Fridays Saturdays, too. Yo-ho-ho! 17115 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-4878.Mothers Tavern. Small biker bar with a hearty selection of fine bikers. 16701 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-2381.
THE SUNSET ALSO LISTENS TO LIVE MUSIC
Lotus Lounge. Formerly 13th Floor and before that Josie's, the leopard-print-decorated Lotus Lounge hosts punk, rock, punkabilly, rockabilly, etc. two nights a week and other crazy, clubby-type stuff on the other nights. And the Lotus features an excellent soundman named Pot Roast. Open 2 p.m. to midnight every night of the week. 17208 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-2200.
THE SUNSET ALSO GETS INK
American Beauty. Complete "custom, hot-rod lifestyle" tattoo shop featuring tattoo artists George Totten, Skully, and Long Beach Dub All-Stars lead singer Opie Ortiz. 16860 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-9317.
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THE SUNSET ALSO RENTS KAYAKS
Sunset Kayak Rentals. Perfect for the person in Sunset Beach who wants to rent a kayak. 16873 Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-5537.
THE SUNSET ALSO FOLLOWS YOU AROUND IN AN UNMARKED CAR
Sunset Private Investigations. Located in a pink bungalow but run by a real detective. Looks like something out of a cheesy beach crime movie. 16511B Pacific Coast Hwy., (562) 592-6230.