- This unpretentious, no-nonsense dive bar in downtown Soquel just celebrated its 30th anniversary as JJ’s Saloon, named for co-owners Joe and Judy Vierra, the latter of whom still presides over the bar.
- With March Madness basketball (on 10 TVs) and St. Patrick’s Day specials, March is the most lively time of year at JJ’s, which is ironic considering that the bar officially opened on April Fool’s Day in 1988.
- No hibiscus margaritas or raspberry cosmopolitans—JJ’s plays it straight down the middle with uncomplicated beer, wine and spirits.
- For those people who feel that the video game industry achieved a high point with Ms. Pac-Man that it has never equaled since, JJ’s is the place to go for your wacca-wacca fix.
- During the epic flood of 1982, before the bar was called JJ’s, floodwaters rushed into the building and, when they receded, left every glass in the place full of muddy water. No record on whether they were served as cocktails. Floody Marys? WALLACE BAINE
Best Dance Club
- There’s a goth dance night every Sunday, which started as a monthly event in 1999 and became weekly in 2000.
- Not every bar has an aquarium full of fish, but this one sort of delivers on the name.
- There’s a slushie machine in the bar. For $7, you can order a vodka lemonade slushie.
- The Blue has the most consistent line-up of punk and metal shows downtown, not to mention the most affordable.
- It also has the longest-running weekly comedy night in downtown every Thursday—11 years as of this May. AARON CARNES
515 Kitchen & Cocktails
- This retro saloon is housed in a restored vintage office building on the site of the city’s original Wells Fargo stagecoach stop.
- Arguably the most popular cocktail here in recent years has been the Negroni, and right now it’s the West Coast Negroni, in which grapefruit bitters and Hop Nosh IPA help put New World spin to the classic gin/campari/vermouth cocktail.
- You gotta love a saloon that stocks 25 different kinds of gin. And over 20 ryes!
- Germaine Akin (a busy restaurateur who also owned or founded the Swan/Heavenly Goose, the Red, and Splash) founded 515 Kitchen & Cocktails on June 6, 2006—6/6/6.
- The most popular appetizer is the truffle fries, a platterful of crisp, glistening, flavorful, addictive carbs that can help to carry patrons on to the next cocktail. CHRISTINA WATERS
Best Place to Play Pool
Fast Eddy’s Billiards
- Fast Eddy’s gets its name from the main character of the 1961 film The Hustler, starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason.
- A friend of owner Todd Cady recently brought him a poster of the film to hang in the pool hall, alongside other paraphernalia, including a movie poster for the sequel Color of Money, starring Newman and Tom Cruise.
- Fast Eddy’s has 18 pool tables, six dart boards, two arcade games, one ping pong table, a pinball machine, and a foosball table. Cady, who’s had the business in his family for 38 years, will soon bring in a shuffleboard, too.
- Fast Eddy’s employees vacuum and brush each table daily, and re-felt them a couple of times a year.
- The pool hall also has two plastic dart boards, each with its own camera that allows players to remotely challenge competitors in other parts of the world. A game costs about $1 to play. JACOB PIERCE
4714 Soquel Drive, Soquel, 462-1631
RUNNERS-UP 515 Kitchen & Cocktails, Red Room
RUNNERS-UP Mariah Brown @ burger., Molly McVeigh @ Rush Inn
Craft Brewer (local)
402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, scmbrew.com
RUNNERS-UP Seabright Brewery, Shanty Shack Brewing
923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,
RUNNERS-UP Moe’s Alley, Motiv
515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz,
RUNNERS-UP Abbott Square, The Red Room, Front & Cooper
The Crow’s Nest
2218 E. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz,
RUNNERS-UP Hula’s Island Grill, Parish Publick House
Boardwalk Bowl / Coasters Bar & Grill
115 Cliff St., Santa Cruz,
RUNNERS-UP I Love Sushi, Hindquarter Bar & Grille
1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz,
RUNNERS-UP Catalyst, Kuumbwa Jazz
RUNNERS-UP Coffis Brothers, Wicked Tinkers
Pat Baron / Tiki King
RUNNERS-UP Jesse Daniel, James Durbin
1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,
RUNNERS-UP Margaritaville, Tortilla Flats
2703 41st Ave., Soquel, discretionbrewing.com
RUNNERS-UP Humble Sea, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
Place to Play Pool
4300 Capitola Road, Capitola 462-1882
RUNNERS-UP The Catalyst, Surf City Billiards
Place to Play Darts
Poet & Patriot Irish Pub
320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 426-8620
RUNNERS-UP One Double Oh Seven Club, Surf City Billiards
841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz
RUNNERS-UP Poet & Patriot, Rosie McCann’s
110 Cooper St., Suite 100B
RUNNERS-UP Beer Thirty, West End Tap & Kitchen