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Into the Cool

Corner Pocket
Tarmo Hannula

Pocket Poolers: Eastside students (and obvious Wyrm lovers) take a suds break from a hard night's pool game at the Corner Pocket, a hidden pearl of a dive amid SC's yuppie-yearning bars.

Shortcuts to Santa Cruz hip for entering (or out-of-it returning) UCSC students

By Karen Reardanz

STUDENT LIFE INVOLVES much more than simple academia. There's also a social scene and that thing called recreation with which to contend. Why waste the best years of your life crawling through the underbelly of yuppie bars, over-priced stores or food best reserved for farm animals? There are plenty of great spots in Santa Cruz and its neighboring burgs--you just need to be in the know.

We at Metro Santa Cruz graciously take the guesswork out of your haunt-hunting and present an insider's look at where the coolest of the cool kids go.

The Nightlife

Blue Lagoon 923 Pacific Ave., SC (423-7117).
Everybody knows the Blue is the place to dance, it's the only gay-friendly bar, yadda yadda yadda--but it's all true. It boasts great DJs, industrial-strength drinks and, yes, one of the only dance floors on which to practice your finest Dance Fever moves. True, patrons do have to wait until that magic age of 21, but just imagine how high the expectations you'll have built by then.

Corner Pocket 3102 Portola Dr., SC (475-9819).
Shooting pool has been synonymous with college kids since the inception of the pool cue, and while practically every bar in the county has a table tucked somewhere in the corner, few places cater primarily to young and restless pool sharks. The Corner Pocket is such a spot--a few pool tables, cheap suds and live music by bands like Riff Raff and Meat Pizza Sandwich on occasional weeknights. A spot for UCSC and Cabrillo folk alike, the Pocket is a relaxed, dress-down, yuppies-need-not-apply kind of joint.

Poet & Patriot 320 Cedar St., SC (426-8620).
The Poet (that's how it's known, you see) is the place to wind up or wind down a night. A wonderful Irish pub complete with friendly bartenders (some with accents--an added bonus) and room-temp Guinness on tap, the Poet is packed 'most every day and night with students, students, students galore. Darts are big, so if you don't know how to throw those puppies, sidle up to in-the-know guys or gals and ask 'em how to play.

Red Room 1003 Pacific Ave, SC (426-2994).
Yeah, yeah, yeah, so cocktail lounges are all the rage, but downtown's Red Room really is one of the best bars in the county. Chock full of nubile young things on any night of the week, this swanky drinking hole with the faux red leather booths and entertaining bar continues to be the destination point of drinking-aged, hip and happenin' twentysomethings. Live music--acid jazz and punk-tinged bands, of course--takes over the back room on occasion, and the ping pong table is the center of attention on weekends (but be forewarned against sitting in back--you're bound to be bonked one too many times by an out-of-control ball).

Vets Hall 846 Front St., SC (454-0478).
A veterans' hall may not seem like a hot spot for the young folk, but Santa Cruz's is right up there at the top of the list. Doubling as a venue for local bands, the Vets Hall seems to be the most consistent spot for up-and-coming and established bands to strut their live stuff. Bands like Fury 66 and Slow Gherkin have passed through those hallowed halls, shows are usually all-ages and, if everyone behaves him- or herself, the shows usually turn out to be a good time for one and all.

Forest of Nisene Marks
Robert Scheer

Trail Mix: Aptos' Forest of Nisene Marks affords biking and hiking trails, picturesque views and enough flora and fauna to fill even the most adventurous seeker's nature quotient.

The Sporting Life

Another Bike Shop 2381 Mission St., SC (427-2232).
Biking is a way of life in Santa Cruz, especially among the student set, and bikes--like everything else in life--break down. Well, the fix-it folks at Another Bike Shop have the answers to your transportation woes. Helpful, in-the-know and downright honest, the staff abides by the motto "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"--a rarity in this day and age of shysters slinking around every corner. The store specializes in mountain bikes, but if your vintage wheels or road bike takes a lickin', the Samaritans here are sure to steer you in the direction of someone who'll be able to fix it.

Bugaboo Mountain Sports 1521 Pacific Ave., SC (429-6300).
Living in as picturesque a locale as Santa Cruz, one is bound to find one's passing fancy fixated on everything the great outdoors has to offer. Whether it's rock climbing, hiking or backpacking that's got your goose, Bugaboo is sure to fulfill even the most discriminate needs. A knowledgeable staff will custom-fit those boots, match customers up with a backpack that molds to the body, and they'll even let slip some secrets about wonderful trekking spots only a select few know about. Granted, the supplies the store sells are not cheap, but they are top-of-the-line goods that may far outlast any call of the wild.

Forest of Nisene Marks Aptos Village (724-1266).
Just about one of the darn nicest spots in the county, Aptos' Nisene Marks has all anyone could want from a state park. Laced with easy and difficult trails, long ones and short, the forest is 10,000-odd acres of oxygen-giving green. Hike to Loma Prieta and take a peek at the epicenter of the 1989 quake that sent the shakes all the way up to San Fran. See the old mining towns and railroad tracks that kept the area thriving in the olden days. Bikers, equestrians and runners also are encouraged to take to the backcountry and enjoy this beautiful slice of nature.

Skyline to the Sea Big Basin Highway 236, Boulder Creek (338-8860).
Backpacking in the county has never been easier than on the Skyline to the Sea trail. Beloved by many for its quick, in-the-rough fix, this outdoor adventure can be conquered easily in a weekend with time left over for homework on Sunday afternoon. Start at the Big Basin site in Boulder Creek, then take to the trail, set up camp at night and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of the great outdoors. Get up early the next morning, pack up and finish your trek to the Big Basin entrance along Highway 1 that lets out right smack at the sea.

Wilder Ranch 1401 Coast Road, SC (426-0505).
Wilder is a favorite among the two-wheeling set for mountain biking satisfaction. Located a hop, skip and a jump up Highway 1, this maze of trails tempts the hard-core and intimidates the novice, but really is user-friendly for both. With a history center--the ranch is over a century old--and seasonal activities to boot, Wilder affords tremendous views of both the Pacific and the mountaintops and is sure to pump cyclists full of enough road-warrior spirit to make this spot a biker's nirvana.

Marianne's Ice Cream
Hillary Schalit

Chilly Cone Carnie: Marianne's Ice Cream owner Sam Lieberman plies Santa Cruz ice cream lovers with a multitude of sinful flavors, including Sam's favorite, butter brickle.

Cheap Eats

Day's Market Liquor & Deli 526 Seabright Ave., SC (423-4289).
Where do you go when you're an Eastsider with a hunger for those morsels one just can't live without? You know--chips, beer and Slim Jims. Why, you jaunt over to Seabright's Day's Market and satisfy your craving. It's a cozy Eastside market frequented by its fair share of weirdos--ahem, eccentrics--but it's also where the locals go to grab those odds and ends that always seem to run low. And the prices and selection--not to mention the convenience--are right.

Marianne's 1020 Ocean St., SC (458-1447).
Ice cream is right up there with pens, computers and a brain on the list of college requirements, and Marianne's makes sure that ingredient is in perfect working order. With about 75 flavors to choose from and some of the richest, creamiest stuff this side of ice cream heaven, the parlor's frozen goodies indulge any cravings you might have. Butter brickle, 10-20 and mudpie are constant winners.

Pleasure Pizza 4000 Portola Dr., SC (475-4999).
Another staple in the student diet, pizza comes in myriad forms and incarnations, but it is rarely done so well as at Pleasure Pizza. From the standard plain cheese to the elaborate Santa Barbara--shrimp, spinach, garlic, mmm--no pizza stone is left unturned. Located in the heart of beach land, Pleasure Point, this restaurant is big on taste, small on seating. But don't despair, there's plenty of room for your board and your dog--and, no, you don't have to wear shoes if you don't want to. This is Surf City, after all.

Taqueria Vallarta 608 Soquel Ave., SC (457-8226) and 893 41st Ave., Capitola (464-7022).
A staple in every student's life. It matters not what you say right now--"Oh, I don't like Mexican food." "Too much fat." "Are you sure that's meat?"--you will sooner than later find your mouth wrapped around a hulking, steaming Vallarta's burrito. Yes, the taqueria offers up every kind of animal on the farm--and every body part, too. And sure, there's probably a good week's worth of fat grams in all the grub, but that is certainly not the point. These fixin's are gooey, delicious and--did I mention?--cheap. Guaranteed to become one of those pat answers when someone asks, "So, where do you want to eat?"

Mind, Body & Shopping

Bargain Barn 350 Encinal, SC (423-8611).
A gem-in-the-rough, this Goodwill-owned thrift store tucked off of River Street near Costco is literally a dank, drafty warehouse filled to capacity with piles of clothes, record albums, knick-knacks and furniture. Arm yourself with a ton of patience and even more imagination, and you're guaranteed to unearth something perfect--whether it be a great jacket or a dresser--which, with a couple coats of paint or some new buttons, will look better than new.

Kiva Retreat House 702 Water St., SC (429-1142).
Now this is the kind of hippie fare that should be welcomed by all walks of life. Kiva's a godsend, whether you're exploring it as a date option (where better to get acquainted than in a hot tub?), exercising your womyn power in one of Kiva's group tubs or taking advantage of one its expert masseuses. Warm, serene and inviting, Kiva is a week's worth of relaxation wrapped up in warm, soothing water, hot herbal tea and piped-in New Age music. Remember the name--Kiva will help you let off as much steam as a wild night in the bars, but your body will actually thank you in the morning.

The Literary Guillotine 204 Locust St., SC (457-1195).
Even uninitiated first-year UCSC kids know 'most everything the UC Regents are behind is a rip, and the tri-annual jaunt to the Baytree Bookstore is no exception. Endless lines and no ventilation are the least of your worries--coursebook prices are a fight you really need to pick. The Literary Guillotine offers a welcome alternative to the UC conspiracy and offers many coursebooks for 10 to 15 percent less than its bigwig counterpart. Many professors and lecturers order their books only through this store, so you'd best familiarize yourself with it early.

Westside Video 1226 Mission St., SC (458-0134).
A movie-lover's paradise--a video store owned and run by devoted celluloid addicts. Westside caters to making the video-watching experience as pleasurable as possible. It has scores of movies arranged in sometimes maddening but always creative categories, a knowledgeable staff and all the weird, the random, the obscure movie titles for which one could hope. These folks are not above incentives and offer two free rentals when signing up, birthday rentals, mid-week dollar movies and a five films/five days/five bucks deal. What more could a movie fiend want?

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From the Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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