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Photograph by Jenn Ireland
On The Up-And-Up: Readers have anointed 515 the gold standard in cocktails.

Music & Nightlife

Readers Picks

Pity the fool who doesn't get to choose between the Catalyst, Moe's Alley and a half-dozen other institutions of finer rock & roll of a weekend night. Here in Santa Cruz we have taverns, pubs and lounges to suit every whim and bartenders who know the difference between a perfect Manhattan and a flawless one. Strong opinions on the subject follow forthwith.

Best Bar

The Red
On any given weekend night, the plush couches, chandeliers and dim lights of the Red are flooded with a sea of scarves, skirts and sex hormones. Come for the happy hour, stay for the happy ending--no one beats the Red when it comes to tasty drinks and the hotties who hold them.
200 Locust St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.1913.

Best Dive Bar

Through the smoky haze of this South-of-Laurel establishment can routinely be seen a group of punks, hipsters, outlaws and ne'er-do-wells the likes of which are seldom encountered north of Cathcart. And over a steady deluge of Jack and Cokes and Marlboros and pool sticks, this daunting crowd becomes one big, cheap-drink-loving happy family.
715 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.7337.

Best Live Music

Moe's Alley
There is no better place in town to plug in a set of instruments than the first-rate sound system at Moe's Alley. Plus, aside from the custom PA and stellar natural acoustics of this reggae, funk and worldbeat venue, there are also great drink specials, friendly folks and room to dance.
1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. 831.479.1854.

Best Margarita

   El Palomar
A local favorite since 1983, El Palomar is no stranger to receiving compliments on its famous margaritas, which come in a mind-boggling array of sizes and flavors. Warm salty chips, some of the best salsa in town and the restaurant's high vaulted ceilings and comfy booths make it the perfect spot to keep the drinks a-flowing.
1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.425.7575.

Best Sports Bar

99 Bottles
Santa Cruz is not exactly known for rowdy sports bars. That said, if one were inclined to get rowdy while watching sports, at a bar, 99 Bottles would be the best place to do it. With five TVs, two floors and--you guessed it--99 different beers (not to mention waffle fries), this downtown pub-and-grub has all the facilities for the elation and agony of sports fandom.
110 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.459.9999.

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