Your Orange County Party Guide!
The Best Bars in Huntington Beach & Beyond
The girls go out in "the OC," the bars along the beaches in Huntington, Newport and beyond.
By PubClub.com Bar Reviewer The Bar Blogger With Help From Mr. O.C.
There's something about those Southern California beach towns. Orange County, much like the South Bay to the north, is a youthful party paradise.
Located south of Los Angeles (the dividing line is roughly the 91 Freeway), it encompasses world-famous Huntington Beach, ritzy Newport Beach and up and coming Irvine, as well as being the home to the Angels baseball team, the Ducks hockey team and Mickey Mouse.
For some, Orange County is the happiest place on Earth.
It can be, and to help make it so, PubClub.com provides this guide to nightlife in "the O.C." Because here, the key is not just to be in the right bars on the right nights, but the right areas of Orange County to be in the age group range that's best suited for your party needs.
The PubClubbing Scene
There's a lively nightlife scene in Orange County, from beach bars to clubs.
Orange County is comprised of three main types of PubClubbers separated primarily by age. Each has their own group of bars and rarely do they intermingle. This article points out the places by the age groups.
They do have one thing in common, however. Orange County is a largely well-heeled area and its residents are known to flaunt their wealth. Girls often check a man's car keys – Mercedes, BMW or better impress the most –before engaging in conversation. The men are usually so happy to oblige that they often dangle their goods well in advance of an inquiry.
Because of their wealth, Orange County residents can afford the finer fashion labels and they certainly know how to wear them. They are a good-looking crowd and Orange County runs a close second to Beverly Hills in cosmetic surgery. So what you see may not always be what you get.
Here is the Orange County bar crowd breakdown. For a complete guide to Newport Beach and the Balboa Peninsula, Click Here.
There are plenty of bars in Orange County to keep PubClub.com partying.
Hey YOU, see you in the Huntington Beach bars!
PubClub.com is out on the town, partying off the beach in "the OC."
• Early 20s to early 30s. Looking more for fun than a good set of car keys. Goes out mainly in Newport and Huntington.
• Mid-30s to mid-40s. Dresses to impress and enjoys flaunting success. Some married at least once. Enjoys the scene in Corona del Mar an some Newport spots.
• Casual beach crowd. Doesn't care to get dressed up. Age generally ranges from mid-20s to early 40s. Lives and plays on the Balboa Peninsula and the lineup of bars on Main Street in Huntington Beach (Surf City, USA).
To find out what's happening on any givn day or week, sign up for Al Freeman's OC party newsletter. It has details on parties, events and promotions. Use PubClub.com as your reference. Click here for more.
First, you hang out on the beach in Huntington Beach...
...then you go here, to the bars along Main Street.
Once a dusty trail of dive bars, Main Street at the pier has perked up considerably.
Originally a haven for surfers who hung out here to "shoot the pier," Huntington Beach was forever lined with surf shops and ultra-dive bars centered around PCH and Main Street. Today, it has transformed into a clean and modern street featuring bars, restaurants, surf shops and the Surfing Walk of Fame.
Locals claim the downtown scene in HB rivals its Newport neighbor to the south with a more laid back crowd with less attitude. PubClub finds it more "edgy," (people tend to have tattoos instead of yachts).
There are also more surfers, and here's where to find them and others hanging ten on shore.
Normally, most people like to avoid hurricanes, particular those on the Gulf Coast and in Florida. In Huntington, however, the head right for it, for it is often the eye in the storm that is Main Street. Hurricane's is a balcony-driven bar that's known for its upbeat atmosphere. At Happy Hour, particularly on Fridays, it's no mere tropical depression, as the upstairs deck peers directly down on Main.
Back at ground level, Sharkeez provides Huntington with the same thing it does in other beach cities of Manhattan, Hermosa and Newport. And that is a fun environment with big, colorful and potent drinks, good music and way-better-than-bar food, and let the people do the rest. Sharkeez is where people may go in "for one" and wind up staying until 1.
Killarney Pub and Grill is another of the many stops along Main Street. It's hardly a dive, but a nice and fairly new Irish bar.
PubClub enjoys having cocktails in Huntington Beach's bars.
Tequila shots go along with surfing like waves and boards.
A few dives from Huntington's past still exist, none more popular than. Perq's Nightclub a few doors down on Main Street refuses to bow to it's modern surroundings and stands as tribute to Huntington's past. It's HB's Best Dive.
A lively old-time fashion bar, Longboard's, is part restaurant, part bar that's really a taste of old Huntington.
Another local legend is Fred's Cantina, which easily reminds one who has ever been to Cabo San Lucas of Squid Roe. It's especially popular on Taco Tuesdays in the summertime. The crowd here is among the youngest in Huntington.
Aloha from the Aloha Grill, a cool place on the same side of the street at Sharkeez and up a level. The speciality here is the strong and colorful Rainbow drink, a frozen concoction that makes meeting new friends easy. The inside bar is small and the patio is not much better, but sometimes this friendly bar makes for great mingling.
A local's favorite just off Main Street, Crabby's Boat House, an oyster bar with plenty of cold beer and long-time, dedicated patrons. Since it's off the beaten path it's hardly a rockin' spot but good for getting away from it all while still being near it all.
On the beach, while there's no mistaking it for Waikiki Beach,Duke's in Huntington is nice and has an Aloha feeling, but here it's more of a restaurant than a bar scene and certainly, Henry Kombono won't be making any appearances singing "Duke's on Sunday."
Below duke's is Savannah at the Beach. It, too, is a nicely decorated restaurant but it does have a glassed-in patio bar adjacent to the bike path. It's especially inviting during the spring AVP tournament and the late-July US Open of Surfing.
There's a pretty awesome old-time breakfast spot down the street, the Sugar Shack Cafe, where surfers fill up on omelets after a morning on the board.
PubClubbing (early 20s to early 30s)
The OC girls like to to out and have fun.
This is crowd on the move, so finding the young and beautiful of Orange County is keeping up with them on different nights of the week.
On Wednesdays, it's away from the beach at The Boogie in Anaheim. Formerly a C&W place that packed in the crowd, it's now packs 'em in to hear today's hip young tunes.
One of Orange County's busiest bar nights is Thursday. The Yard House at Triangle Square (the shopping center where the 55 freeway ends and Newport Blvd. begins in Costa Mesa). The Yard accommodates the fine-looking ladies and gents by serving beers by the yard (thus the name; smaller portions available), having a full bar and lively music supplied by a hip deejay. It's highly recommended to arrive before 8 for dinner to eliminate any problems with having waiting in the long line, which starts around 8:30.
The OC pubs and clubs are fun because of the atmosphere and people.
As the Yard's dance floor space is limited, those looking for more dancing head to Buzz or the swanky Sultra. The latter is Vegas in Orange County with not one but two velvet ropes to pass. While this can be a challenge, once inside it's evident the place sweats with sexiness.
The girls are out
The Shark Club (Baker and Bear) is an upscale pool bar that turns into upscale pool club on weekends. Fridays are 90% Asian while Saturdays are a more mixed scene.
For live music, the Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa has everything from punk to rock to garage to jazz. Beach sandals are okay in the relaxed club.
Pierce St. Annex, a relaxed bar on 17th Street (despite its name), is packed on Fridays. It's also a good spot for a drink any night of the week. This is a PubClub "pub" favorite bar; it's casual but also lively enough on weekends to make it much more than just a one-beer stop.
Then there's the Goat Hill Tavern. This is a sawdust-on-the-floor beer joint with video and sports games such as pop-a-shot, making it a true casual hangout. It can, however, get quite lively, especially after midnight. It's located across from The Yard on Newport Blvd.
The Yard House has a sister location in the Irvine Spectrum (405 at Irvine Center Drive), a huge entertainment complex that also includes restaurants and theaters. The hot spot is the Fox Sports Grill, an upscale sports bar with tons of TVs, a mini bowling alley and golf course and club-type crowd, mostly male. For the most part, the Spectrum crowd is abundant in ethnic diversity; going there is like visiting the United Nations.
• Boogie: 1721 S. Manchester Ave., Anaheim. (714) 956-1410
• Buzz: 3450 Via Oporto. (949) 673-4700
• Chimayo, HB Pier. (714) 374-7273
• Detroit Bar: 843 W. 19th. St., Costa Mesa (949) 642-0600
• Fox Sports Grill, Irvine Spectrum (949) 753-1369
• Goat Hill Tavern: 1830 Newport Blvd. (714) 548-8428
• Pierce S. Annex: 330 E 17th St, Costa Mesa (714) 646-8500
• Shark Club: 841 Baker St., Costa Mesa. (714) 751-6428
• Sultra Lounge, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa (949) 722-7103
• Yard House: 1875 Newport Boulevard, (949) 642-0090
PubClubbing (mid-30s to late 40s)
It's not quiet, but crowded, at the Quiet Woman in Corona del Mar.
One of Orange County's finest restaurants in a premier location right on the water, The Rusty Pelican, is an ideal spot to start an evening. Or, perhaps even toss out the anchor and stay a while. It features a Happy Hour Monday-Friday, from 4-7 p.m., in its upstairs lounge which overlooks Newport Harbor. On Friday and Saturday nights,, a live band plays top hits from 8:30-12:30 p.m. And they love to take take requests.
Just South of Fashion Island on Pacific Coast Highway is the boutique community of Corona del Mar. This is the place to break out the best threads and polish off the platinum credit card. The bars, located within a few blocks of one another although most people motor up to the valet, are mostly for mingling (and dangling the keys to the Jag). There are only modest dance floors for the most part. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are always busy.
It's an ever-changing scene and CDM seems to want to chase out bar-goers, but they refuse to go away. Here's the latest:
The Quiet Woman is a small bar with live music that always has a crowd. Everyone makes a stop here if they are out. It's across the street from Bandera's, an upscale bar/restaurant that is active but rarely elbow-room crowded. Carmello's is a Mexican restaurant by day and bar by night. It's a bit more relaxed and low-key than the other places.
The hottest place in the area is actually a few miles to the South. Club M is a combination dance club/sushi bar in Laguna Beach. Mosun Sushi is filled with a lively crowd of all ages and the upstairs Club M has no cover charge and attracts a mingling bar crowd. This has spawned interest in a couple of other bars in the area. The Marine Room is a small bar with a live band while Hennessey's is larger, has an populated outdoor patio and live music. Hennessey's, with locations in virtually every beach town, is a Southern California coastal tradition and its patrons here are largely surfers from affluent families.
The place to be on Thursdays used to be Cowboy. Then it became too popular for its own good and started a $10 cover. Now it's a pretty good restaurant/bar called The Gulf Stream and the patio is still the place to hang.
Many people now go to Roy's for a drink or two and good food. The Bungalow still draws a pretty good Thursday crowd and has great steaks.
• Bandera's, 3201 E PCH, CDM. (949) 673-3524
• Bungalow, 2441 E PCH, CDM. (949) 673-6585
• Carmello's 3520 E. PCH, CDM. (949) 675-1922
• Club M: 680 S PCH, Laguna Beach. (949) 497-5646
• Gulfstream, 850 Avocado Ave., Newport. (949) 718-0187
• Hennessey's, 213 Ocean Ave., Laguna . (949) 494-2743
• Marine Room 214 Ocean Ave. Laguna. (949) 494-3027
• Quiet Woman, 3224 E PCH. (949) -640-7440
• Rusty Pelican, 2735 W. Coast Highway, Newport (714) 642-3431
• Roy's, 453 Newport Center Drive. (949) 640-7697
Mixing & Mingling for Taco Tuesday and on Sunday Afternoons
There are a few places where all three groups can be spotted.
El Torito restaurant in Fashion Island is its famous "Taco Tuesday." Until the summer of 2012, it was a mingler's delight, but the chain decided not to renew its lease with Fashion Island and this OC tradition is now a faded memory for locals.
If you want a Taco Tuesday, head to Sharkeez in Newport or Huntington Beach or, also in Newport, Avila's El Ranchito.
There is an option farther down the coast in Laguna Beach. Each Sunday afternoon, as the sun begins its slow decent into the Pacific Ocean, Las Brisas restaurant comes alive. People of all ages gather on the cliff-side patio and the sunsets here are spectacular. It's fairly quite early but turns raucous as the afternoon wears on. People that barely gave a nod to others earlier are toasting shots together a little later. Those who don't have to work the next morning complete the evening by walking down the beach a couple of blocks to The White House, which features jazz as a backdrop to an obviously energized crowd.
While in Laguna, check out the Royal Hawaiian, which has good rum drinks any day of the week. The Lapu Lapu is enough to make you act like you're on Gilligan's Island.
• Las Brisas: 361 Cliff Dr. (949) 497-5434
• Royal Hawaiian: 331 N. Coast Highway. (949) 494-9001
• White House: 340 South Coast Highway. (949) 494-8088
In Newport Beach on Balboa Peninsula, Sharkeez, Woody's Wharf, Sharkeez, Baja Cantina and Balboa Inn are popular places. For those whose ship has come in, left a couple of times, and has returned, , Billy's on the Beach is an interesting hangout.
Anaheim is certainly not any great mecca of social activity but for those in the area, Downtown Disney offers some potential action. Since it's owned by Disney, it cleaner than an unused bar glass.
The focal point is the ESPN SportsZone, a sports bar, restaurant and high-tech arcade. The place is really spectacular, with TV screens everywhere showing sports, sports and more sports. As such, it's peak performance is during major sporting events – and nearly every Saturday and Sunday afternoon during football season; Mondays the place is packed well before MNF kickoff and the local ABC affiliate hots live a post-game show.
The area around Angels Stadium is on the move – El Torito and The Catch (which is actually a fairly upscale seafood restaurant, not a peanut-shells-on-the-floor sports dive) and two pre-game and post-game hangouts.