As you may have noticed, we can't stop yapping about our largest issue of the year, Best Of 2013, and we're not done yet. A chunk of our Food & Drink awards go to awesome neighborhood, hole-in-the-wall and dive bars around the county each year. South County, North County, Coastal--even Long Beach--they're all represented here. We here at the Weekly love us some neighborhood and dive bars (can't you tell by my weekly column Dive Dive My Darling?) so we hope you'll check out all of our recommendations.
Best Neighborhood Bar, South OC: Turk's Back in 1992, when his dockside bar had been open about eight years, Turk himself told the Los Angeles Times, "It's like a person. It has a pulse. I can feel it when I walk in." This buzz could have been emanating from the former Muscle Beach body-builder; he has an IMDB page and earned the title of Mr. Los Angeles in 1946, and his charisma still fills the place. His daughter Candy capably carries on Turk's legacy--she prepares the family's secret mix for Bloody Marys, which you can order daily from 7 a.m. to last call. Any time you visit during those 19 hours, you'll find regulars holding their positions while welcoming a vibrant mix of patrons, including transient boat owners who harbor-hop the coast, the fish-obsessed, international tourists, harbor workers, desert dwellers fleeing the heat, locals of all stripes, the seasick waiting for loved ones to return to Dana Wharf from whale-watching or fishing excursions, and us.
Best Neighborhood Bar, North OC: Take 5 It looks like the diviest of dives, but inside is a 1970s-decorated wonderland. On slow nights, Take 5's regulars trade jabs with the bartenders and watch television together. On weekends, the place fills up with people taking the edge off their weeks. Most nights, someone's in the kitchen cooking (ask for Staci's tacos). It's a dive, but a clean, friendly one. Orange County's version of Cheers? Sure, why not?
Best Neighborhood Bar, Central OC: The Quill Lounge This seems to be the bar that time forgot, and isn't that what all the longtime locals want? At the Quill Lounge, the bartenders are more likely to scoff at you if you order one of these newfangled cocktails or anything without Southern Comfort in it. If your grandpa hasn't heard of a beer, it doesn't have it. The Quill owns one of the oldest liquor licenses in Orange County and aims to keep things nice and old-school. Hell, even the Internet jukebox seems too modern. Grab a bowl of popcorn from the machine, sidle up to the bar, and listen to the salty old regulars complain, back-sass the bartender and drink, completely in their element.
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Best Neighborhood Bar, Coastal OC: Shanghai'd Room Located off Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach, this spot has been home to many things dedicated to vice and pleasure, such as an illegal massage parlor and a watering hole named Bar Hookup. Now it's Shanghai'd Room (which actually isn't too different than Bar Hookup, except they strung up Chinese lanterns), a small bar for the freaks and geeks who call north Huntington Beach home. There's always something going on here, be it live music, karaoke or perhaps the rarest delight of them all: a comedy night that's actually funny. The TVs don't play sports, instead showing cult classics or foreign films the staff have added their own ludicrous subtitles to--imagine MST3K with a liquor license, and there you go.
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Best Neighborhood Bar, Long Beach: Reno Room Good ol' Reno Room--so dark on the inside it's easy to lose hours of daylight into frosty cold beers and cheap drinks made with heavy pours. This charming dive is attached to a Mexican restaurant, Coco Renos, so you can order loaded nachos from the bar. And there's more! Reno Room has pool tables in the back, a jukebox up front, the chillest bouncers in town and the loveliest bartenders. Some call Reno "the tar pits" because of its ability to suck you into its inky cover--but if there's anywhere we want to waste away the day, it's here.
Best Dive Bar: Brian's Beer and Billiards It won the title of Best Neighborhood Bar, North OC for a couple of years now, and with good reason. But now it's time to recognize Brian's Beer & Billiards for something else. Here, you can relax, play pool and not listen to EDM or Top 40. Beer is enjoyed from large schooners. Hungry? Big B's Barbecue is next door and will serve you great finger foods and full-fledged meals. Sure, it's a bit cleaner than most dives, and the service is nicer, but at Brian's, you get the relief from the outside world that dive bars were created for.
Readers' Choice: Goat Hill Tavern
Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of CITY NAME HERE® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.