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Bars and Clubs 2000

Adolph's
525 Water St., Santa Cruz (423.4403)

Family-style Italian restaurant has a spacious full bar off to the side. The crowd tends toward the Ford Taurus set, a jovial bunch at that. For banquets, the restaurant opens up a sub-bar in the back.


Aldo's Cafe Restaurant
481 A Almar Center, Mission and Almar streets, SC (429.9982)

A sleek bar stocked with goodies--including an impressive selection of local and imported wines--stretches along the restaurant's posh dining area. Slipping into Aldo's for a slice of tiramisu and a glass of Chianti feels like escaping into another world.


Aptos Club
7941 Soquel Dr., Aptos (688.9888)

Once strictly a locals' hangout, the Aptos Club now hosts a booming house and hip-hop scene on Wednesdays and local punk and rock bands on Fridays and Saturdays. On quiet nights, neighborhood residents come in to unwind, shoot pool and play tunes on the jukebox full of rock, country, blues, jazz and pop. The club features a full bar, an ample selection of beer, a modest dance floor and an outside patio where smokers are welcome. Cover varies.



Photograph by George Sakkestad

Tune Town: Jessica Carter (left) and Anna Drake ponder the multitude of choices on the legendary jukebox at the Asti Cafe on Lower Pacific.

Asti Cafe
715 Pacific Ave., SC (423.7337)

Low lighting, vintage leather stools and cool-as-ice bartenders give this lower Pacific Avenue drinking spot that hole-in-the-wall feeling. The side room, with its pool tables, video lottery games and brighter lighting, feels like a different place, and the Asti has one of the best jukeboxes in the county.


The Avenue
711 Pacific Ave., SC (426.3434)

Cheap happy-hour brews attract a crowd at this south Pacific Avenue haunt. There are four pool tables and sports on four TV screens. The patio out back is the perfect place to observe the club's tasty Neapolitan mix of surfers, punks and country types.


Backstage
230 Mount Herman Rd., Scotts Valley (438.0606)

Movie-themed Scotts Valley eatery with a spacious full bar connected to the dining room. Good spot for a friendly after-work drink or to pass the time waiting for a table. Kitchen cooks up pub grub (nary a garden burger in sight), all dressed up with names of old-time stars.


Bella Roma Caffe
316 Capitola Ave., Capitola (462.5100)

Spirited trattoria ambiance and an echoey dining room make Bella Roma Caffe a lively place when weekend crowds show up for the restaurant's crafty Italian menu. The wine list is as imaginative as the entrees, and the full bar is a bustling place to meet and greet. Remember to dress for success.


Bittersweet Bistro
787 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Rio Del Mar (662.9799)

The classy restaurant offers single-malt scotches, fine cognac and wonderful local wines. The extensive wine list includes selections from one of the area's best-stocked cellars. On afternoons (daily, 3­6pm), Bittersweet offers Bistro Hour, when all yummy gourmet pizzettas are half-price, and wines by the glass, beer and spirits are specially priced.


Blue Lagoon Cocktail Lounge
923 Pacific Ave., SC (423.7117)

Just past the stoic doorman, ask for bartender Sal, who makes a killer cocktail. The Blue boasts one of the best dance floors in Santa Cruz, with DJs seven nights a week. If the crowd gets too wild, escape to the second dance floor, order a cold one from the backup bar, or duel at eight-ball on one of two pool tables. Happy hour daily, 6-9pm. Cover varies.


The Blue Spoon
207 Searidge Rd., Aptos (685.8654)

Aptos' hot new dining spot has added some live entertainment to the mix. Saxophonist Gary Regina performs on Tuesdays (8­9:30pm). Magician Doug performs amazing feats on Sundays, starting at 6pm.


Bocci's Cellar
140 Encinal St., SC (427.1795)

The cocktails are generous, and drinkers may order appetizers from the Italian menu. The wine list is heavy on local vintages, and the draft-beer selection should satisfy all but the most snobbish of hopheads. Bocci ball tournaments are scheduled every Tuesday.


Boulder Creek Brewery & Cafe
13040 Hwy. 9, BC (338.7882)

Homey, center-of-town establishment meshes perfectly with Boulder Creek's small-town spirit. Pouring amber elixirs in front of the brewing tanks, the bartender does his best to put patrons at ease. BC Brewing also offers some of the best grub in the San Lorenzo Valley, and one of the nicest settings--vaguely Victorian trappings like a Wild West roadhouse and plenty of booths--in which to consume it.


Brady's Yacht Club
413 Seabright Ave., SC (no phone; just go)

Brady's is full of regulars who know each other and are immortalized on the cinder-block walls. Photos are taken of regulars, by a regular (albeit professional) photographer. Don't expect anything too fancy. My request for a sour-apple martini was out of the question. But comfort--in the form of a cold beer or a friendly patron with a willing ear--is always within reach.


Britannia Arms
8017 Soquel Dr., Aptos (688.1233)

This charming split-level pub offers happy hour from 2:30 to 6pm weekdays, with well drinks and domestic beers for $2 and specials on other drinks, plus complimentary hors d'oeuvres at 4pm. There's a particularly good selection of scotches, and the menu includes such Brit favorites as shepherd's pie and bangers and mash. Pool and league darts are played in a recently revamped game room and bar. Wednesdays are trivia night.


Brookdale Lodge
11570 Hwy. 9, Brookdale (338.6433)

The Madonna Inn of the Santa Cruz Mountains. A fast-flowing mountain brook flows through the dining room, but the fun doesn't end there. The post-dinner crowd will find a setting for live music as well as the more intimate cocktail lounge, all dark wood and red vinyl upholstery. Some big-name acts like Country Joe and Elvin Bishop drop by for weekend shows. Your home away from home for Deadheads. Cover varies.


Cafe Cruz
2621 41st Ave., Soquel (476.3801)

Top-of-41st spot is a playful restaurant both in dining-room design and in menu offerings. Similarly the bar, which overlooks a spacious patio, often gets rowdy with patrons playing dice. Good list of wines by the glass.


Cafe Rio
131 Esplanade, Rio Del Mar (688.8917)

With a sparkling windowed wall that looks out over the beach at Rio Del Mar (perfect at sunset) and an aura of relaxed elegance, Cafe Rio specializes in seafood classics, wines by the glass, sleek martinis and warmed brandy. Live local jazz acts can be heard on Friday and Saturday nights.


Callahan's Pub
507 Water St., SC (427.3119)

A traditional beer and whiskey bar that mixes regular bikers with weekend punkers for weekend shows. The pub hosts blues on Thursdays, and punk and rock Friday to Sunday. Don't let the shamrock-green exterior fool you--there's nothing soft and clovery about Callahan's. Cover varies.


Carniglia's Seafood
49A Municipal Wharf, SC (458.3600)

Carniglia's bar/restaurant blends Italian charm with beachy ambiance. The windows offer a view of the rolling Monterey Bay and winding West Cliff Drive, while the bar's glossy wood and white-linen tablecloths provide a relaxed elegance. Margaritas and draft beers are $2 on weekday afternoons.


The Castaways
3623 Portola Dr., SC (462.1319)

This no-frills saloon has long been a great place to stop by after work for a pint and a game of pool or darts. A change of owners has added a new enthusiastic spirit--as well as casino nights and pool tourneys. Just come ready to play or watch two giant fish tanks from the bar--the spot has few cocktail tables for cliques to chat.


The Catalyst
1011 Pacific Ave., SC (423.1336)

"Randall's Playhouse," truly the granddaddy of Santa Cruz clubs, hits the 21st century with a big transition. Owner Randall Kane is selling the Catalyst to a group that operates San Jose's The Usual. Bar and kitchen staff, many who have worked at the Cat for years and years, will remain, and no doubt the spacious stage will continue to be Santa Cruz's showcase spot for major national performers and favored locals alike. Until the sale is finished, it's business as usual at the club's three bars, and the weekly lineup of bands booms as loud as ever. Cover varies.


Cilantro's
1934 Main St., Watsonville (761.2161)

Home to traditional Mexican food, cold cerveza and salty margaritas, Cilantro's walks the line between family restaurant and nighttime party spot. The outdoor deck provides umbrellas for summer and heat lamps for winter. A bar jukebox or karaoke machine provides the canned tunes.


Clouds Downtown
110 Church St., SC (429.2000)

This upscale watering hole is the rendezvous spot of choice, where many downtown politicos, journalists, bidness people and other rapscallions sling rumors. The atmosphere is looser than the Technicolor bar and stainless-steel decor initially suggest. Discreet lighting, good food, a complete bar and a hint of trouble and delight in the air. Clouds' martinis were the people's choice in this year's Goldies.


Club Dakota
1209 Pacific Ave., SC (454.9030)

For an evening of chic fun, look no further than Club Dakota, where a mahogany bar, art-deco lighting, cocktail tables and a complimentary coat check at the door all add up to the very definition of cool. But don't let the decor fool you. Just beyond the bar is the mirrorless, warehouse-style dance floor, where DJs spin hits seven nights a week. Food offerings come from the menu of the adjoining Pearl Alley Bistro until 10pm. Gay-friendly, of course. Cover varies.


Cocoanut Grove Ballroom
400 Beach St., at the Boardwalk, SC (423.2053)

Relic of the '30s and '40s heyday of the ballroom era, the Grove has long hosted big bands (Wynton Marsalis' Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra gave a memorable show there this spring), though lately the roster of performers is just as likely to include contemporary salsa dance bands as swing outfits of yesterday. An ample dance floor, thick carpet and a cavernous space make events at the ballroom feel like grand nights out.


Convivio Trattoria
655 Capitola Rd., SC (475.9600)

The wine bar would make a fitting date-night destination all unto itself--it's secluded from the dining action and feels like its own club. The only problem is that all those fantastic aromas from the exhibition kitchen call out to patrons to complete their sipping with some delizioso dining.


Costa Brava
1222 Pacific Ave., SC (425.7871)

Surrounded by fake palm trees and Picasso-esque drawings, brilliant bartenders whip up tart sugar-encased treats that taste dangerously like lemonade. Fans of good drinks and Latin-Mediterranean fusion cuisine will never grow bored. Weekends get pretty packed, meaning that the drinks-only crowd usually ends up hanging out at the stylish bar.


The Corner Pocket
3102 Portola, SC (475.9819)

Your basic pool hall, complete with three tables (and a pair for air hockey, too), energy-saving lighting and nothing but beer and wine. College students (both Cabrillo and UCSC) and denizens of the Pleasure Point surf ghetto come to unwind after class or after a Sewer Peak session.


The Crepe Place
1134 Soquel Ave., SC (429.6994)

The glossy wood bar draws patrons to the back of the restaurant, which eventually leads to the outdoor dining area. Jazz duos and trios play for weekend brunch and Tuesday dinner crowds sipping a variety of unique drinks, many fruity, all strong. Martinis are $2.50 on Mondays. The place gets Mediterranean with monthly flamenco and belly dance showcases.


Crow's Nest
Yacht Harbor, 2218 East Cliff Dr., SC (476.4560)

This famed local icon annually garners a clutch of Metro Goldies awards. The best spot is outside the bar on a new patio elevated above the sand. On summer nights, the deck is temperate and uncrowded. Wednesday nights during daylight-saving time, the bar is crowded with skippers and deck hands back on land from the weekly regatta on the bay. On Thursdays, the restaurant throws a barbecue and dance party on the sand, featuring local reggae, funk and world beat groups. Live music Thursday through Saturday. Cover varies.


De Laveaga Golf Course & Lodge
Upper Park Rd., SC (423.1600)

OK, it's not Pebble Beach, but the greens fees are a whole lot less. As a reward for a score resembling par (or consolation for those four bogeys), the lodge offers a comfortable haven to unwind. High ceilings and a wonderful view of the green make the bar complete. One note: This is a daytime establishment and closes before 8pm.


Don Quixote
6275 Hwy. 9, Felton (335.2800)

Margaritas, of course. Corona, sure. But the bartender at Don Quixote can whip up much more at this full-service cocktail lounge. The drinks can be quaffed in style while seated on comfortable stools and leaning on the padded bar--a worthy resting spot after a session of elbow-bending. Live music and flamenco dance occasionally, with classical guitar on Fridays; cover varies.


Pour Relation: Bartender Fidencio Rodriguez does wonders with salt, lime and tequila at El Alteño in Watsonville.

Photograph by Ivan Kashinsky


El Alteño
323 Main St., Watsonville (768.9876)

The food at El Alteño is so good that the extensive array of margarita specials available at the small bar in the back seems like too much good news for one night out. The outside patio, sheltered from the cold (although not always from the wind), provides a second opportunity to experiment with combinations of lime, salt and tequila.


El Palomar Restaurant
1336 Pacific Ave., SC (425.7575)

El Palomar Restaurant, a downtown Santa Cruz anchor, is an establishment of multiple personalities: fine-dining restaurant, lively cantina and dine-and-dash taco bar all under one Romanesque vaulted roof. The cantina crowd is equal parts downtown regulars and tourists in the know. The taco bar, where a crew of salt-of-the-earth women will whip up a taco right up until 10pm, is a life-saver for the college and sporty crowds.


Engfer Pizza Works
537 Seabright Ave., SC (429.1856)

New owners have transformed this Seabright Avenue spot into an appealing pizza cafe, replacing the Seabright Wine & Deli but retaining the excellent selection of wines. Great neighborhood hangout, with a pingpong table, six beers on tap and pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven.


Empire Grille
6250 Hwy. 9, Felton (335.2127)

Felton eatery with a long wine list and a full bar.


Fast Eddy's Billiards
4300 Capitola Rd., Capitola (462.1882)

Metro Santa Cruz readers perennially vote Fast Eddy's the best place to play pool in Santa Cruz. This beer-and-wine hangout in Capitola has 18 pool tables. Sporting events can be viewed on TVs behind the bar, and there's a room in the back with video games and pinball. Recently, Fast Eddy's changed its happy hour to 3 to 8pm, with two-for-one beers.


Flamingo Club
1035 Main St., Watsonville (763.2093)

Latino club with a full bar and calendar of live bands.


Fog Bank
211 Esplanade, Capitola (462.1881)

Lots of oak covers the bar and walls, which open up onto the deck, where patrons can imbibe draft beers, mixed drinks or wine under umbrellas or in the full rays. Karoake on Thursdays, live rock and blues Fridays through Sundays, folk on Tuesdays.


Front Street Pub
516 Front St., SC (429.8838)

As much a family dining room as it is home to some of the best brews around, Front Street Pub is stocked with wine, sherry, port and, of course, beer--and pub-style appetizers and entrees. Monday through Friday, 4:30pm to 6:30pm, pitchers are only $5.00, and Thirsty Thursdays, featuring live music from local and touring bands, has $8 pitchers and $2 pints. Live music Thursdays-Saturdays. The back room beckons gaming types, with pool, darts and video games.


Garbini's Hideout
589 Auto Center Dr., Watsonville (728.0272)

Neighborhood spot for Watsonville longtimers with a full bar and shuffleboard lane for kicks.



Photograph by George Sakkestad

Back to Basics: At George's Log Cabin in Felton, bartender Cimarron Conway offers a time-tested slice of mountain culture.

George's Log Cabin
5755 Hwy. 9, Felton (335.9969)

Ever since George's Log Cabin was built in the '30s--just in time to celebrate the end of Prohibition--the drinks have flowed. Despite some modern touches, this is a slice of mountain culture, with nothing ersatz about the ambiance or the crowd.


Green Valley Grill
40 Penny Lane, Watsonville (728.0644)

Crowds come for the great American fare of the restaurant and stay for the inviting bar, which features a cocktail hour and a half (5­6:30pm) and, on Fridays, an eclectic playlist of live music from Folkmonster.


Henfling's Firehouse Tavern
9450 Hwy. 9, Ben Lomond (336.8811)

Henfling's meets every condition demanded of a classic roadhouse: junk on the walls; colorful locals jawboning while they play liars dice; good food at fair prices. Thanks to booker Tom Miller, Henfling's is the county's prime stop for top folk acts and Strawberry Music Festival sensations. This favorite San Lorenzo Valley hangout is frequented by an eclectic and friendly crowd. Cover varies.


Hindquarter
303 Soquel Ave., SC (426.7770)

Because this restaurant is always bustling, the full bar provides a great place to wait for seating or sip a nighttime martini. Yes, one could go to the Hindquarter solely for the bar, but I guarantee no one will be able to resist the sizzling steaks and other barbecue specialties (the Hindquarter is a regular Goldies winner for its superlative steaks).


Hollins House
20 Clubhouse Rd., SC (459.9177)

Hollins House offers fine dining, views of the manicured fairways and greens of Pasatiempo Golf Course and, farther out, the Monterey Bay--and a lovely wine list. The original clubhouse from the 1920s, which once hosted Hollywood stars on holiday, Hollins House now functions as a welcoming spot for a before-dinner cocktail or an after-dinner drink. Full bar and a cigar selection.



Photograph by Grant Wernick

Gone in 60 Sips: Regulars Hank Pearce (left) and Cleo Louis Jr. clink their mugs for bartender Dana Lechner at the Hurry Back Inn.

Hurry Back Inn
910 41st Ave., SC (475.4932)

No complicated concoctions here, just beer and wine--and TVs playing in the background. Hurry Back Inn is a true Santa Cruz classic. Check out happy hour from 4:30 to 6pm on weekdays.


Ideal Bar and Grill
106 Beach St., SC (423.5271)

This beach-front restaurant and bar is no doubt named for its perfect location. Wedged between the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and the Boardwalk, the Ideal does booming business by day. By night it's more subdued, with jazz and folk performers during the week and blues and rock bands on weekends. The Thursday jazz series (5:30­7:30pm) has become a local tradition.


The Inn at Scotts Valley
6001 La Madrona Dr., Scotts Valley (440.1000)

Set against a hillside at the top of Mount Hermon Road, the Inn at Scotts Valley is like a castle keep guarding the approach to town. Reminiscent of an Alpine lodge, the entry has heavy brick and wooden touches--a stark contrast to the light color scheme of pale mint green and beige. Off to the side of the lobby is a full bar, well furnished both with roomy chairs and a nice list of wines. The ambiance is hushed and powerful, as if IPO fortunes hung in the balance.


Jalisco Restaurant
618 Main St., Watsonville (728.9080)

Traditional Mexican decor (and eats) meets California relaxation. Boasting a beautiful interior, with high ceilings, pale washed colors, ornately carved columns and colorful tiles, Jalisco's is as much a spot to sit back and soak in the atmosphere as dine. The full bar includes a score of 20 tequilas.


JJ's Saloon
4714 Soquel Dr., Soquel (462.1631)

Mellow and inviting, JJ's is also a gamer's paradise--pool tables, shuffleboard and pinball are the highlights. The bartenders, nice and friendly once you get to know 'em, pour a stiff one.


Joe's Bar
13118 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek (338.9417)

Real locals (meaning those who actually live and work in town) dominate in the afternoon, giving way in the evening to commuters returning home from their gigs in the valley. The fully stocked bar is roomy enough for drinkers; the jukebox overflows with rock classics; and there are pool tables available.


The Jury Room
712 Ocean St., SC (426.7120)

Though reworked by new owners, the Jury Room is still a staple for Ocean Street cruisers. The bar features a pool table, a pinball machine, what seems a golf video game, and ... a fireplace! Most weekends offer live music with up-and-coming rock and punk bands.


Kuumbwa
320-2 Cedar St., SC (427.2227)

Now in its 25th year, Kuumbwa continues to anchor the jazz scene, bringing in top national acts for Monday shows that the faithful attend with religious fervor. Fridays feature Bay Area bands, and top Santa Cruz promoters vie to rent the place for weekend shows with an eclectic mix of groups. Evolved from a funky hole in the wall, the Kuumbwa is now spacious both indoors and out and boasts an excellent sound system, a good wine list, a vast array of bottled cold brews, lots of nonalcoholic beverages, both warm and cold, and appetizer-ish eats and desserts. Cover varies.


Linwoods at Chaminade
1 Chaminade Lane, SC (475.5600)

The lounge area comes complete with attractive overstuffed chairs and a banquette along the new fireplace wall. There are TVs placed at discreet intervals, but they can't really compete with the sweeping panorama of redwoods and shimmering Monterey Bay.


Little Tampico
2605 Main St., Soquel (475.4700)

A relative of Santa Cruz favorite Tampico Kitchen, Little Tampico is just that: the same no-frills Mexican menu served up attentively. The bar offers up good margaritas, and as a whole it makes a delightfully peaceful Soquel Village(-ish) evening spot.


Lorene's Packing Shed
972 Main St., Watsonville (722.2566)

With steakhouse atmosphere and food to match, Lorene's pours a good stiff cocktail. Casual fare like burgers and steaks is served at lunch and dinner.


MacKenzie Bar & Grill
Hwy. 17 and Pasatiempo Dr., SC (459.9162)

Named after Dr. Alister MacKenzie, the man responsible for designing the Pasatiempo golf course, the MacKenzie Bar & Grill offers a lodgelike spot for breakfast, lunch or a pre- or post-game libation. Closes early.


The Mainsail Restaurant
West Coast Santa Cruz Hotel, 175 West Cliff Dr., SC (426.4330)

Newly remodeled and appointed with upscale amenities like valet parking, the Mainsail has a full bar at the back end of a room with a spectacular view of the Santa Cruz beachfront, from Lighthouse Point to the Boardwalk. It has rapidly become a daytime deal-making spot for new dotcom execs and old Santa Cruz scions alike.



Photograph by George Sakkestad

Cozy Up to the Bar: Laurel Long and Terry Fockler enjoy themselves at Malone's Grande Grill in Scotts Valley.

Malone's Grande Grille
4402 Scotts Valley Dr., Scotts Valley (438.2244)

Malone's is the place where locals come for drink, food and some no-frills R&R. A staple on the Scotts Valley scene, Malone's and its staff kick off each and every weekend with live music on the patio from 5 to 8pm.


Manuel's
261 Center Ave., Seacliff, Aptos (688.4848)

A long time ago, after being jilted by a faithless lover, I hitchhiked from Santa Cruz to Manuel's just to drown my sorrows in a pitcher of margaritas. The veteran restaurant is known primarily for its food, but the two bars (you can sit and drink by the door and pretend you're waiting for a table) are packed with mixings for whatever tropical drink you've a hankering for, and the barkeeps are especially sympathetic.


Margaritaville
221 Esplanade, Capitola (476.2263)

Popular local hangout perhaps took George Clinton's dictum a little too literally: "Tear the roof off the mother, sucka." While the restaurant is operating on a limited menu during construction to shore up problems with the aforementioned roof, the bar is stocked and open for business. The patio overlooking Capitola's main beach offers a hint of the dramatic new restaurant in store when work is done (sometime in mid-2001). Punk, rock and blues bands play Fridays and Saturdays. Cover varies.


Mediterranean
265 Center, Aptos (688.7004)

Next door to Manuel's, by Seacliff State Beach, this roadhouse-meets-neighborhood-hangout is filled to the brim with gaming options, from darts to pinball. Live rock and blues bands come to the Med every Friday and Saturday night (and intermittently on Sundays) during summer.


Miramar
Municipal Wharf, SC (423.4441)

The Municipal Wharf's Miramar is practically synonymous with inexpensive happy-hour margaritas ($1.99 or $3 for Gold), but it's also a spot where college types and vacationing visitors mingle on the canopied deck (wear sunscreen!) or the ocean-side bar. Live music comes out on the summertime weekends.


Mobo Sushi
105 S. River St., SC (425.1700)

Mobo Sushi has all the fixings of a great Japanese-style club. Rice paper and dark bamboo-esque wood dominate the restaurant (where you can order rolls, nigiri and the like), but there's also a mirrored bar stocked with sake, beer, wine and the hard stuff. Live music, featuring an eclectic blend of jazz, ethereal and world music, takes over the back area Tuesday through Thursday nights at 8pm.


Moe's Alley
1535 Commercial Way, SC (479.1854)

Neither of the owners is named Moe (they're Phil Lewis behind the bar and Bill Welch sometimes twiddling dials on the mixing console), and the place is nowhere near an alley. But the name sounded bluesy, so it stuck--and so has the gritty and soulful lineup of blues-circuit heroes that jump the joint every weekend. Weeknights turn eclectic, with swing, drum 'n' bass, house, funk, and maybe a poetry slam now and then. The snazzy, jazzy walls are painted with a musical theme, and the bar is stocked just as well with libations as with friendly staff. Cover varies.


Mount Madonna Inn
1285 Hecker Pass, Watsonville (724.2225)

Topping Hecker Pass on winding Highway 152 above Watsonville, the Mount Madonna Inn overlooks the entire Pajaro Valley. The first Sunday of the month, bandleader Red Malone turns the lounge into a great spot for a tea dance amid the trees, leading his big band through a fine collection of swing standards--$7 cover.


99 Bottles of Beer
110 Walnut Ave., SC (459.9999)

The casual atmosphere at the bar's intimate booths draws downtowners. Staunch beer connoisseurs and plebeian pub crawlers alike can find their hearts' desire, whether it's German weiss beers served properly (perfect glass with lemon) or Milwaukee classics à la Laverne and Shirley.


One Double Oh Seven Club and Smoking Parlor
1007 Soquel Ave., SC (425.9589)

One Double Oh Seven proudly claims that it is the "only legal smoking parlor in Santa Cruz." But the spot has more to recommend it than a chance to defy the lung police and puff away indoors. A gamers' paradise, the bar contains several pool tables, dartboards, foosball machines and more, not to mention keno on the TV, an online trivia game on Friday nights and pinball. There's no smoking in the teensy glass-walled bar, but it's fire away everywhere else. Full humidor.


One-Eyed Mike's
9410 Mill St., Ben Lomond (336.2234)

Given the name, one anticipates a biker bar with patrons who look like they might poke out your eye if given any guff. Instead, what's behind the doors (and clean windows) at Mike's is a hard-working, gregarious couple operating a sports bar and restaurant. Distractions include billiards, video games and sports on TV, as well as an assured wine list (courtesy of the restaurant side of the business, which offers a promising roster of Italian dishes).


Over the Hill Gang Saloon
3530 Portola Dr., SC (476.3679)

Reminiscent of a joint one might find in Cool Hand Luke or a Clint Eastwood movie, the saloon features low light, sawdust and great wall hangings. Games are sparse, but conversation with the barkeep is better.


Palapas Restaurant & Cantina
21 Seascape Village, Aptos (662.9000)

The drinking crowd and diners waiting to be seated can take a stool under the palm fronds that function as an ersatz roof over the cantina or step down to the table area and pull up a Raffles-style rattan chair. Wines by the glass, lots of margarita specials and a splendid view--what more is there to life?


Palookaville
1154 Pacific Ave., SC (454.0600)

One of the few spots in Santa Cruz County that caters to both the legal and the under-21 set, Palookaville is also one of the best bets for live music. Booking both local and national acts--with a savvy ear for grabbing world-music bands and hip-hop acts on the verge of blowing up huge--Palookaville boasts a capable sound system (although a bit on the boomy side for the size of the venue), a large dance floor and an on-site restaurant. The spot features beer and wine only, and the upstairs bar (the only option when shows are all-ages) has a great view of the stage. Cover varies.


Papagayo
1116 Pacific Ave., SC (426.7588)

Once a moody spot near a tough corner of downtown's Pacific Avenue, Papagayo is well-positioned for a renaissance as the vicinity of Cathcart Street teems with new businesses. The lively multicolored walls, well-stocked bar and tables decorated with stylish tequila-bottle-turned-vases filled with fresh flowers are optimistic, and every fruity drink, presented in shapely glasses and topped with whipped cream and a cherry, is sunny in taste and effect. Mariachi music Fridays at 7:30pm.


Paradise Beach Grill
215 Esplanade, Capitola (476.4900)

Is there a better seat at any bar anywhere? Here it opens to a deck overlooking Soquel Creek and Capitola Beach, where you can drink, watch the sunset, see a game on TV and check out the goings-on inside with barely a swivel of the head. During the cooler off-season the deck has a nice faux fireplace to huddle around with someone you love or would like to. The food is agreeable as well. The place gets packed on summer weekend evenings, when seating can be a challenge.


Peachwood's at Pasatiempo Inn
Hwy. 17 and Pasatiempo Dr., SC (426.6333)

The dominant color? Peach, of course. The kitchen serves up great American fare in the dining room, but the real heart of the place is the bar and lounge. Subdued but cozy and welcoming, it has couches, overstuffed chairs and a bar staff that's just as quick to pour a drink as to smile and take their leave after delivering it so patrons can unwind in peace. For more solitary pleasures, the lounge has a comfy sitting room off to the side (just to the left of the fireplace) perfect for sipping wine while lost in an English novel.


Pearl Alley Bistro & Wine Bar
110 Pearl Alley, SC (429.8070)

Pearl Alley has occupied a special place in our hearts since opening under the name in 1972. It offers one of Santa Cruz's most interesting and detailed wine lists (with many selections available by the glass. The liquor stock also features a fine selection of spirits, including excellent scotches, bourbons, tequilas, cognacs, grappas and Calvados. The food is first-rate, and you can even get a beer!


Poet & Patriot Irish Pub
320 Cedar St., SC (426.8620)

Known simply as "the Poet" by its fans, the pub is a favored place to play darts and contemplate all things Celtic. Come here, too, for real room-temp Guinness, open-mic offerings and colorful proprietor Chris Matthews. A word to the wise: Don't ask for a British beer. When they say Irish, they mean it. Some weekends, Irish bands play.


Polivio's Back Door
East Cliff Village Shopping Center, 15th and East Cliff Dr., SC (475.7600)

One of the best things about living in the East Cliff neighborhood, Polivio's is a spot where locals come to meet and drink--and to sing. It is one of the best joints in the county for karaoke.


Portola House
3326 Portola Dr., SC (476.2733)

The Portola House marries rustic charm with good old-fashioned values. The bar area--with its mirrored wall, tropical aquarium and dark wood--provides a perfect redoubt for sipping a gin and tonic while waiting for a table or just unwinding after a long day.


Positively Front Street
44 Front St., SC (426.1944)

In addition to a full bar, Positively Front Street serves appetizers, pizza and American eats for a crowd that ranges from local surfers to aging flower children. Jazz acts and singer/songwriters perform occasionally. Happy hour daily, 2­6pm, with $2 draft ales and Jager shots, plus $2.25 well drinks.


Red Room
1003 Cedar St., SC (426.2994)

Once a career-drinker's haven, the Red Room now draws a funky, youngish crowd. The undulating bar fronts a well-stocked depot for an afternoon shot or a Saturday blowout. The Red Room occasionally features live acts weighted toward punky expressionism, and the jukebox sports a cagey mix of '70s soul, adrenal rock and lounge music.


Ristorante Avanti
1711 Mission St., SC (427.0135)

Part Roman trattoria, part California bistro, Avanti offers an eclectic wine bar with laid-back sophistication served up amid newly remodeled restaurant. Dine at the counter--decorated with flowers, wine bottles and odd bits of Santa Cruziana--and from the blackboard behind the heavy wood bar order any number of intriguing wines by the glass, from Rhône beauties to festive Chianti classicos.


Ristorante Italiano
555 Soquel Ave., SC (458.2321)

The bar at this favored Santa Cruz Italian restaurant occupies a better slice of real estate than the main dining room. Set in a glassed atrium, it overlooks Soquel Avenue from the one-time spot of the Santa Cruz Hospital just west of Branciforte Drive. If it's a warm summer night, though, take a drink out to the patio, a delightful spot beneath a gigantic oak tree.


Riva
Municipal Wharf, SC (429.1223)

The venerable Santa Cruz wharf spot delivers all anyone could expect from an ocean-perched restaurant: seafood, splendid views of the bay and refreshing libations. With its glossy dark wood bar, brassy fixtures and tall bar stools, Riva is a inviting spot for locals and tourists alike. Happy hour every weekday afternoon. Cash only.


Rosie McCann's Irish Pub & Restaurant
1220 Pacific, SC (426.9930)

By day, Rosie McCann's functions as a modest Irish pub serving up traditional fare alongside 28 beers on tap. Happy hour runs all day Tuesday, and things really get busy on weekends. Octane crew DJs spin to packed-house crowds Fridays, and Santa Cruz funk, rock and reggae bands play Saturdays. Credit cards, but no checks. Cover varies.


Rush Inn
113 Knight St., SC (425-9673)

A scene of its own, the Rush Inn draws a mix of regular working folks and punk rockers with nary a college student in sight. The crowd and the atmosphere seem more conducive to a hidden neighborhood watering hole than to a downtown bar. But that's the Rush Inn's appeal. It has all the amenities of a low-key basement party--cheap domestic beer, a pool table, a jukebox pumping out tunes from the likes of Elton John, the Doors and INXS and very little sunlight. It's a dive-lover's heaven in here.


Sanderlings Lounge
1 Seascape Rd., Aptos (662.7120)

Subdued and tasteful, Sanderlings perfectly complements the dramatic cliff-side setting of Seascape Resort. Done in pale peach and cream, the carpet, the cushy chairs and the full bar reek of understated elegance. The crowd consists mostly of execs and monied types on holiday or maybe corporate moguls on retreat. The bar offerings and restaurant service are as crisp and clean as a stiff spring sea breeze.


Santa Cruz Billiards
325 Soquel Ave., SC (425.7665)

A pool hall with class, Santa Cruz Billiards is the spot to go when looking to knock some balls around first, drink second. The cavernous room boasts almost 20 tables, a smallish game room for pool-phobes and a bar stocked with domestic and imported beer and wine. No cover, but you have to pay for the games, of course.


Santa Cruz Hotel Sports Grill
1001 Cedar St., SC (460.1072)

Upstairs at the historic Santa Cruz Hotel, an elegant sports bar offers an expanse of blond wood tables and bar--all with great sight lines to TVs showing playoffs, top soccer matches or a crucial football game. The bar has a great on-tap selection (including the delicious Red Tail), as well as a full menu of pub grub.


Seabright Brewery
519 Seabright Ave., SC (426.2739)

Summer weekends on the deck, just a few blocks from the beach, make the Seabright Brewery a top draw for locals and out-of-towners alike. Seabright has earned its reputation with a fine selection of home brews, good food and a friendly crowd. Check out the dance music on Friday nights, when the place is cheek-to-jowl with customers spilling out onto the deck. Tuesday is Neighborhood Night.


Sea Cloud Restaurant & Social Club
650 Municipal Wharf, SC (458.9393)

Situated upstairs near the end of the wharf, the bar adjoining the excellent Sea Cloud restaurant affords a beautiful take on West Cliff Drive, the Lighthouse and, of course, the ocean. The bar's seafaring motif fits its enviable surroundings, as do scrumptious appetizers such as oysters on the half shell. Most memorable, though, are the specialty drinks and martinis.


Severino's
7500 Old Dominion Ct., Aptos (688.8987)

This high-ceiling bar by the Seacliff exit from Highway 1 serves the guests at the adjoining Seacliff Inn and locals who stop by for jazz Thursdays to Saturdays (including the grand old man of Santa Cruz jazz, Don McCaslin). The ocean is on the other side of the freeway, but the view into the hotel's courtyard, with its grotto surrounded by flowering shrubs, more than compensates.


Shadowbrook
1750 Wharf Rd., Capitola (475.1511)

The Shadowbrook lounge--the Rock Room, named after the original 1940s bar--exudes sophistication. Redwood and rock make up most of the bar, but it's really the skylights and high windows offering a bird's-eye view of the restaurant's waterfalls and beautiful hillside that make the Rock Room a standout. A complete bar--replete with cocktails, sparkling wines and frothy beers--is paired with a menu of appetizers, desserts and wood-fired pizzas. Live music on the weekends.


Sir Froggy's Pub
4771 Soquel Dr., Soquel (476.9802)

Not many bars can boast a 6am opening, seven days a week. But Sir Froggy's exists in a universe all its own, and so do the patrons who show up for drinks at such an hour. Here even the wine flows from a tap, and ceramic toads playing pool mingle with wicker frogs and Budweiser paraphernalia. But such a serious spot for drink makes for a pleasantly subdued atmosphere.


Skinny McDoogle's
3910 Portola Dr., SC (476.4442)

Pleasure Point mainstay Skinny McDoogle's morphs from weeknight neighborhood bar to weekend showcase for local bands, tending toward hard rock and funk. Rockers the Sharks host a jam on Sundays, and DJ nights on Wednesdays and Thursdays have added some life to an otherwise peaceful spot. Cover varies.


Stagnaro Brothers
59 Municipal Wharf, SC (423.2180)

Perched atop Stagnaro Brothers restaurant, the lounge rewards patrons with a spectacular living postcard of practically the entire Monterey Bay. The staff is professional and pours a surprisingly strong drink. Edible goodies, from appetizers to light meals, may be ordered up from the restaurant.


Stardust Lounge
529 Seabright Ave., SC (426.5898)

Better-known as "5-2-9," the Stardust Lounge, just a few blocks up from Castle Beach, is the newest joint in the Seabright neighborhood. The atmosphere is casual, and the spirit is lively, with pool tables, foosball, video games, pinball and dice. DJs spin R&B, jazz and funk on Wednesdays and hip-hop and funk on Thursdays. All-in-all, 5-2-9 is an enjoyable neighborhood bar--much like the Knight Owl, which resided at the location for years, but with an entirely redone interior.


Sun Room
Cocoanut Grove, 400 Beach St., SC (423.2053)

The more intimate companion to its giant sibling, the Cocoanut Grove Ballroom, the Sun Room features a smallish bar and floral-printed tables for a respite from the dance floor or an intriguing hideaway from ballroom events.


Tampico Kitchen & Lounge
820 Pacific Ave., SC (458.2821)

Yummy appetizers and free chips and salsa flesh out what is already a great bar-going experience. The lounge offers something not many others do: big, red pleather booths for sinking into and never getting out of. Don't forget to notice the shot-glass lights that adorn the ceiling.


Tastings
Holiday Inn, 611 Ocean St., SC (426.7100)

Once a poor cousin among hospitality offerings in Santa Cruz, Tastings in the past few years has earned a face-lift and a reworked menu, both of which have added a little class to the local institution. Terra-cotta walls blend into windows that open up onto the pool area, creating an oasis just off of Ocean Street.


Terrace Restaurant
2591 Main St., Soquel (475.0303)

In the spot long held by Soquel favorite Aragona's, the brand-new Terrace Restaurant has remodeled the interior and formulated a menu of northern Italian and southern French fare. The full bar offers a good wine list. The weekends are reserved for trio jazz from the likes of Ron Kaplan.


Wharf House
1400 Wharf Rd., Capitola (476.3534)

Beneficiary of a Capitola Wharf remodel that kept the showcase village restaurant shut for much of last summer, the Wharf House now has a more sturdy perch above the small alcove of Capitola Village. The kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and the full bar offers sudsy brews, wine and cocktails. Don McCaslin leads one of the most spirited jazz-blowin' sessions every Sunday afternoon during warm-weather months.


White Cockade Pub
18025 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek (338.4148)

Those few fortunate enough to live nearby the Cockade--located a fair stretch beyond Boulder Creek--can lay claim to one of the coolest neighborhood bars in the county. In addition to a rich crusting of Anglophilic wall art, amenities include darts, terrific fish and chips and a beer selection that encompasses not only the easy triumvirate of Harp, Guinness and Bass, but also California microbrews and less familiar British beers.


The Windjammer
1 Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center, Aptos (688.4433)

A neighborhood watering hole, the Windjammer resides on the lee side of Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center. This full bar plays home to a true Santa Cruz music scene legend--Larry Hosford, who (sometimes with Ken Kraft) brings his storytelling folk and county to the bar most Thursday nights. Rock bands take the stage Saturday and Sunday.


Wooden Nickel Bar & Grill
1819 Freedom Blvd., Freedom (724.2600)

The oldest bar in the South County (according to the staff), the Wooden Nickel is a homey place populated by friendly locals. Portions are big for breakfast, lunch and dinner, perfect to suit the hard-working clientele. The Wooden Nickel even hosts live music occasionally.


Ye Olde Watering Hole
2405 Mission St., SC (469.4653)

Situated on the edge of town, Ye Olde Watering Hole has the feel of a stagecoach stop on the way to somewhere else. With its no-nonsense bartenders, classic-rock jukebox and well-worn pool table, it's welcoming and unpretentious. No food is served on the premises, but neighbors Upper Crust Pizza or Tam's Chinese Cuisine are happy to deliver.


Tray Chic: Server Jyoti Cureton supplies liquid refreshment on a sunny day at Zelda's in Capitola.

Photograph by Grant Wernick


Zelda's
203 Esplanade, Capitola (475.4900)

On a warm summer evening, there's nothing like nursing a cool one on Zelda's back deck overlooking the Capitola beach and watching the sun set. Inside, you'll find one of the more intimate music venues and dance floors in town. There are TVs behind the bar for sports, and margaritas for $1.99 during happy hour, 2:30 to 6pm Monday through Friday. The restaurant plays host to live rock, pop and jazz pretty much every day of the week.


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From the June 21-28, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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