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The Best Places to Drink in Orange County

Put it on my bill...(see Best Punk Rock Bar)
Put it on my bill...(see Best Punk Rock Bar)
Taylor Hamby/OC Weekly

In honor of the recent release of our largest issue of the year, Best Of 2013, we present to you a handy guide to the places we deemed the best drinking establishments in Orange County. Best Sports Bar, Best Place to Get Drunk on Rum, Best Cougar Bar...it's all here folks. Thank us now, curse us during your hangover.

Hollingshead's Delicatessen
Hollingshead's Delicatessen
John Gilhooley/OC Weekly

Best Beer Selection: Hollingshead's Delicatessen The building's about the size of a liquor store, but the Hollingshead family has had five decades to figure out how to cram as many beer bottles in the deli as possible. There's a modest 22 rotating taps, plus 500 bottled beers on the floor just for fun. Stay and drink or pick out your favorite craft, rare and import brews to take home. There are even tables amongst all this madness so you can sit and enjoy your hero sandwich, egg salad and frosty import beer in one of Orange County's most beloved family-owned restaurants. 368 S. Main St., Orange, CA 92868. 714-978-9467.

Brian's Beer & Billiards
Brian's Beer & Billiards
OC Weekly

Best Dive Bar: Brian's Beer & 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. 1944 N. Placentia Ave., Fullerton, CA 92831. 714-993-1401.

The Olde Ship in Fullerton
The Olde Ship in Fullerton
OC Weekly

Best Pub: The Olde Ship British Pub and Restaurant There's no mistaking where the Olde Ship's loyalties lie, with Union Jacks and White Star Line memorabilia on the walls and Britain-centric newspapers by the door. There's even an obscene amount of royal-family photos on display in the loo. The fish and chips are widely lauded (naturally) as some of the best in the county, and the burger here has won Best Burger honors in these pages before. It offers a full bar and draft beers straight out of merry old England--Old Speckled Hen, Bass and Boddingtons, all serving as perfect lube for the banger you'll inevitably put in your mouth. 709 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, CA 92832. 714-871-7447.

Cassidy's Bar and Grill
Cassidy's Bar and Grill
OC Weekly

Best Place to Pick Up A One Night Stand: Cassidy's Bar and Grill The locals don't call Newport Beach institution Cassidy's "Catch-a-Disease" for nothin'. This seaside dive ain't big, which makes it all the easier to rub elbows (or whatever other body parts) with folks. The selection isn't always fancy, but it's usually plentiful--in booze and booty. You may spend a whole day reeling in your catch off nearby Newport Coast, but reeling one in during a night at Cassidy's is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Oh, and if you're real nice and take your newfound friend back to his or her car in the morning, the two of you can enjoy one of the best damn burgers in Orange County for breakfast. 2603 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, CA 92663. 949-675-8949.

Best Sports Bar: My Place You get more than peanuts and pretzels here for bar food; My Place has a full menu ranging from burgers to steak and lobster, all with large portions and served by hot waitresses. There are TVs everywhere, so no need to argue with your fellow patrons over which MMA match will replace which ESPN channel. And if you choose to come here, you can always use that timeless joke: "Hey, wanna go watch the game at My Place?" Snicker. 5452 Commercial Drive, Huntington Beach, CA 92649. 714-892-8706

Readers' Choice: Tilted Kilt

bestof.jpg
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 OC Weekly® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

 

Howdy Doody Time at Johnny's Saloon
Howdy Doody Time at Johnny's Saloon
Eric Hood/OC Weekly

Best Punk Rock Bar: Johnny's Saloon Going into a "punk bar" for the first time can be intimidating, but Johnny's Saloon in Huntington Beach is often referred to as the adult Disneyland (for the folks who prefer the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, of course). This dark bar is all about carefree fun and good times with good people. Take the late-night spectacle "Howdy Doody Time," featuring bartender Howdy Doody strutting his stuff atop the bar while pouring Fireball whiskey into the crowd as "Bohemian Rhapsody" blares. It offers more than 100 beers and whiskeys, but no snooty craft cocktails; this crowd takes shots and drinks neat. Before you leave, don't forget to get your picture on the now-iconic Dirty Donald--a "whoops" moment from the Disney Corp. of a children's coin-operated ride, with Donald Duck in a sexually suggestive position. 17428 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, CA 92647. 714-848-0676.

Best Brewery: Left Coast Brewery "This is my favorite bar that isn't a bar," says a regular inside Left Coast Brewery's tasting room as he sets down two empty growlers and sits at the bar. He picks up a pint glass with the brewery's logo on it and asks if it's the biggest glass they have. It is. You can taste whatever's chalked on the brew board in 5-, 10- or 16-ounce vessels. As the bartender fills the guy's glass with Left Coast Baltic Porter, there's a general discussion about how to pour a black and tan and which Left Coast selections would make one best. Everyone happily disagrees. The guy loves his porter so much he says he'd pour it over ice cream, which leads to a unanimous desire for a stout float. It's Saturday afternoon, and people flow in to get their growlers filled, and all of them stay to have a big glass of something barrel-aged (not available to-go) or dark or hoppy or even double-hoppy--Left Coast claims it's one of the pioneers of the double IPA. Its version is an award-winner called Hop Juice that lures you in with a sweet maltiness, then delivers a multihop wallop of fun bitterness, followed not too long after by the full-body effects of its 9.7 percent ABV. 1245 Puerta Del Sol, San Clemente, CA 92673. 949-218-3967.

Season's greetings from Green Girl Saloon
Season's greetings from Green Girl Saloon
Shannon Nehls/OC Weekly

Best Bikini Bar: Green Girl Saloon The thing that makes the Green Girl Saloon stand out is there's a whole bunch of nice things to look at--and we're not talking about the bartenders in bikinis and bras (more on them later). No, the owners actually put some time into making the bar resemble a Victorian-era smoking lodge, thereby making customers and bartenders feel more comfortable than at other, seedier bikini bars in the area. There are plenty of flat-screen TVs on which to watch the games of your choice and bartenders who are anything but flat. Each gal is dressed in nice lingerie or swimwear--young, fit and boisterous. They greet you at your table in a friendly manner and provide prompt service. There are only a few beers on draft, as the focus is on liquor here. The best part is you can leave Green Girl without dropping your whole paycheck or feeling as though you need to go in with full-body condoms. 14341 Beach Blvd., Westminster, CA 92683. 714-897-8612.

Best Outdoor Drinking: McKenna's on the Bay To have a cocktail by the ocean and watch boats sail by is truly one of life's sweetest pleasures, and the back patio at McKenna's On the Bay, a restaurant docked on the border between Seal Beach and Long Beach, is as good as it gets. Happy hour starts at 3 p.m., live bands perform nightly (everything from calypso music to rock covers), and the drink menu includes libations ranging from champagne to beer to top-shelf liquor. But it's the location that really makes McKenna's shine: nestled along the edge of the marina, across from multimillion-dollar homes and adjacent to the mouth of the harbor, opening up to the great blue beyond. 190 Marina Drive, Long Beach, CA 90803. 562-342-9411.

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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 OC Weekly® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

 

Turn in your (probably wrong) answers at Alex's Bar's "Brain Party Trivia"
Turn in your (probably wrong) answers at Alex's Bar's "Brain Party Trivia"
OC Weekly

Best Club Night: Brain Party Trivia at Alex's Bar Sure, the bar has polished up a bit; the drafts are classier and the cocktails craftier. But one thing hasn't changed at Alex's Bar--how damn challenging its weekly Brain Party Trivia night is. Owner Alex Hernandez has said, "You have to be a glutton for punishment to keep coming back," yet aspiring brainiacs do. Do you know what Luke Skywalker's name was in the first draft of the original Star Wars script? Can you name 10 tennis stars just by looking at pictures of them playing? Can you hear 10 seconds of an obscure song and name the artist and title? Then you may have a chance at winning first place and the cash pot. But probably not. 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, CA 90804. 562-434-8292.

Best Cougar Bar: Tantalum It isn't really a cougar bar; it's not notorious the way other bars we won't mention are. Tantalum just happens to attract a set of women of a certain age in tight tube dresses who enjoy going out in groups. What makes it the best non-cougar cougar bar, though, are the drinks, several notches above the liquor-and-mixer swill of other places. Judge your lady suitor by the drink you're going to buy her; if she orders yet another glass of 14 Hands Chardonnay, fake a bathroom break and text for help; if she orders one of Tantalum's well-made cocktails, you know you've got a keeper for the night. 6272 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, CA 90803. 562-431-1414.

Sealegs Wine Bar
Sealegs Wine Bar
OC Weekly

Best Wine Bar: Sealegs Wine Bar Designer Kenneth Ussenko nailed that perfect balance of chic and cozy at this newish bar--elegant dark-wood furniture is matched with airy New England linens and kitschy vintage art in the restrooms. Employees are friendly and eager to assist with any wine-related questions or recommendations--without a drop of snootiness. SeaLegs features a seasonal list of small plates to snack on (if you see Pig and Fig Flatbread on the menu, get it!), plus a robust selection of wines (the cellar holds up to 2,000 bottles), complete with a "Captain's List" of special vinos. Choose from either the formal dining room; a casual, couch-and-cushion veranda-style front room; or the decadent, chandelier-strewn bar.

Best Place to Get Drunk on Rum: Eva's Caribbean Kitchen We started counting the varieties on Eva's rum list, which blows away most high-end restaurants' wine lists, and we got to 100 when we realized we were only half way down the list and, frankly, getting thirsty. We recommend ordering a glass of her famous Tropical Rum Punch or one of the tantalizing Brown Suga cocktails--or just sip from a selection of tastings if you fancy yourself a purist. We've never left there anywhere near sober. As the saying goes, "Time flies when you're having rum!" 31732 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. 949-499-6311.

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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 OC Weekly® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

 

Dowtown Fullerton knows how to party
Dowtown Fullerton knows how to party
Ed Carrasco/OC Weekly

Best Place for a Pub Crawl: Downtown Fullerton We're a bit limited in the pub-crawl arena, but when it comes to finding a place that's borderline Bourbon Street (and there is a bar called that) on the weekends, Fullerton wins. The nice thing is you can make the experience as relaxing or as wild as you want. The bars and restaurants on the periphery are low-key, and depending on where you park, you can almost avoid the madness altogether. But if you really want entertainment, join the masses along Harbor Boulevard and Commonwealth Avenue that congregate come sunset, and drink, dance, listen to live music and participate in general drunken merriment. The cops are bloodhounds on these nights, but as long as you're not peeing in public and have your shoes on, you'll go unnoticed--they may even be nice to you! And if you do need some time to sober up, McClain's Coffeehouse--just a short walk up Harbor--is open until 3:30 a.m.

Best Bar for the Geekiest of Geeks: Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar The Lake Forest outpost of Buffalo Wild Wings is one of eight in Orange County, but what makes it special for the geekiest of the geeks is the shear amount of nerd-centric events it hosts. While other bars in Orange County are busy filling TVs with "sport ball" and people beating one another to near-death (all right, this place does that, too), this location is the de facto home base of SoCal eSports, the Orange County organization in charge of running BarCrafts and meet-ups for those who want to watch competitive gaming. And when you're the center of Southern California's competitive-gaming culture, you see a lot of big shots. Blizzard Entertainment staffers have been known to crowd the entire restaurant during the finals of gaming competitions; Michael Morhaime, the company's CEO, has even been spotted courting Asian business partners at such events. 23600 Rockfield Ste 3-F1, Lake Forest, CA 92630. 949-588-9464.

Velvet Lounge
Velvet Lounge
Eric Hood/OC Weekly

Best Gay Bar: Velvet Lounge The busiest place on la Cuatro isn't a restaurant or a paisa bar; it's within the giant patio with the letters VLVT over it. Inside, some people are dancing, some are drinking, some are outside smoking, and most are just chilling. The bartenders may be the friendliest in the area, and you can actually talk to people, rather than stare broodily across the bar at the object of your desire. As if that weren't enough, it has a great Sunday brunch replete with a drag show, which just amps up its gay street cred even more. 416 W. 4th St., Santa Ana, CA 92701. 714-664-0663.

Readers' Choice: Velvet Lounge

Best Lounge: The Cocktail Lounge at Little Sparrow Craft cocktails are nothing new, even in Orange County, where trends roll in a couple of years behind everyone else. But it takes more than cocktails with block ice to make an inviting lounge (although that's surely a good start), so if you're not feeling in the mood for furry boots paired with bikinis or guys passing slightly oversized Brooks Brothers dress shirts off as high class, head over to Little Sparrow. From the moment you walk in, you'll feel welcome to grab a seat on one of the Victorian-style couches and order from a specialty cocktail menu that would fit in equally well in LA, D.C. or Paris. Or, if you prefer to talk shop, grab a stool and let the bartenders make something up on the spot. Feeling hungry? The small-bites menu features steak tartare and oxtail with polenta, each for about $7. And if you are feeling as though your Sazerac needs something a little more substantial, you can order from the full menu until midnight. Best part? When it closes, you can head over to any of the late-night spots within walking distance to finish out your night. 300 N. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 92701. 714-265-7640.

Readers' Choice: Rooftop Lounge

And the "Best Bar in Orange County" period is...

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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 OC Weekly® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

 

Posse Bar
Posse Bar
Taylor Hamby/OC Weekly

Best Bar in Orange County: Posse Bar This is not a craft beer bar, though Posse Bar does have craft beers. It doesn't serve craft cocktails, though it does have a great whiskey selection. It's not a country bar, though most of the time the music has a definite twang. It's not even a cop bar, the patches on the wall and the giant sign out front notwithstanding. No, Posse Bar is that rarest of breeds in OC: a completely unpretentious, normal, middle-class American bar, with friendly bartenders, great prices (especially at happy hour, which extends all day on Sunday) and a fun, happy crowd. 13093 Springdale St., Westminster, CA 92683. 714-769-6240.

Readers' Choice: Swinging Door

bestof.jpg
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 OC Weekly® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

Use Current Location

Related Locations

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Left Coast Brewery

1245 Puerta Del Sol
San Clemente, CA 92673

949-218-3967

www.leftcoastbrewing.com

miles
Cassidy's Bar and Grill
miles
Johnny's Saloon

17428 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

714-848-0676

www.johnnyssaloon.com

miles
Green Girl Saloon

14341 Beach Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683

714-897-8612

www.thegreengirlsaloon.com

miles
The Olde Ship British Pub & Restaurant

709 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832

714-871-7447

www.theoldeship.com

miles
Alex's Bar

2913 E. Anaheim St.
Long Beach, CA 90804

562-434-8292

www.alexsbar.com

miles
Hollingshead's Delicatessen
miles
SeaLegs Wine Bar

21022 Beach Blvd.
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

714-536-5700

sealegswinebar.com

miles
Downtown Fullerton

Harbor Blvd. and Commonwealth
Fullerton, CA 92832

www.downtownfullerton.com

miles
VLVT Velvet Lounge

416 W. Fourth St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701

714-664-0663

www.velvetoc.com

miles
Brian's Beer & Billiards

1944 N. Placentia Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92831

714-993-1401

www.briansbeer.com

miles
Little Sparrow

300 N. Main St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701

714-265-7640

www.littlesparrowcafe.com

miles
My Place

5452 Commercial Dr.
Huntington Beach, CA 92649

714-892-8706

miles
McKenna's on the Bay

190 Marina Dr.
Long Beach, CA 90803

562-342-9411

www.mckennasonthebay.com

miles
Eva's Caribbean Kitchen

31732 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

949-499-6311

www.evascaribbeankitchen.com


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