.Best of Santa Cruz County 2018: Music & Nightlife


Best Bar

JJ’s Saloon

  1. Best of Santa Cruz 2018 Best of Santa Cruz County JJs SalloonThis 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.
  2. 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.
  3. No hibiscus margaritas or raspberry cosmopolitans—JJ’s plays it straight down the middle with uncomplicated beer, wine and spirits.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Blue Lagoon

  1. There’s a goth dance night every Sunday, which started as a monthly event in 1999 and became weekly in 2000.
  2. Not every bar has an aquarium full of fish, but this one sort of delivers on the name.
  3. There’s a slushie machine in the bar. For $7, you can order a vodka lemonade slushie.
  4. The Blue has the most consistent line-up of punk and metal shows downtown, not to mention the most affordable.
  5. It also has the longest-running weekly comedy night in downtown every Thursday—11 years as of this May. AARON CARNES


Best Cocktails

515 Kitchen & Cocktails

  1. Best of Santa Cruz 2018 Best of Santa Cruz County 515 Kitchen cocktailsThis retro saloon is housed in a restored vintage office building on the site of the city’s original Wells Fargo stagecoach stop.
  2. 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.
  3. You gotta love a saloon that stocks 25 different kinds of gin. And over 20 ryes!
  4. 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.
  5. 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

  1. Best of Santa Cruz 2018 Best of Santa Cruz County Fast Eddy'sFast Eddy’s gets its name from the main character of the 1961 film The Hustler, starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Fast Eddy’s employees vacuum and brush each table daily, and re-felt them a couple of times a year.
  5. 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



JJ’s Saloon

4714 Soquel Drive, Soquel, 462-1631

RUNNERS-UP 515 Kitchen & Cocktails, Red Room  



Ethan Samuels @ 515 Kitchen & Cocktails

RUNNERS-UP Mariah Brown @ burger., Molly McVeigh @ Rush Inn


Craft Brewer (local)

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, scmbrew.com

RUNNERS-UP Seabright Brewery, Shanty Shack Brewing


Dance Club

Blue Lagoon

923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,

423-7117, thebluelagoon.com

RUNNERS-UP Moe’s Alley, Motiv


Fancy Cocktails

515 Kitchen & Cocktails

515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz,

425-5051, 515santacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Abbott Square, The Red Room, Front & Cooper


Happy Hour

The Crow’s Nest

2218 E. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz,

476-4560, crowsnest-santacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Hula’s Island Grill, Parish Publick House



Boardwalk Bowl / Coasters Bar & Grill

115 Cliff St., Santa Cruz,

423-5590, beachboardwalk.com

RUNNERS-UP I Love Sushi, Hindquarter Bar & Grille


Live Music

Moe’s Alley

1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz,

479-1854, moesalley.com

RUNNERS-UP Catalyst, Kuumbwa Jazz


Local Band

Extra Large


RUNNERS-UP Coffis Brothers, Wicked Tinkers


Local Musician

Pat Baron / Tiki King


RUNNERS-UP Jesse Daniel, James Durbin



El Palomar

1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,

425-7575, elpalomarsantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Margaritaville, Tortilla Flats



Discretion Brewing

2703 41st Ave., Soquel, discretionbrewing.com

RUNNERS-UP Humble Sea, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales


Place to Play Pool

Fast Eddy’s

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



Parish Publick House

841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz

426-8620, theparishpublick.com

RUNNERS-UP Poet & Patriot, Rosie McCann’s  


Tap Room

Pour Taproom

110 Cooper St., Suite 100B

535-7007, pourtaproomsantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Beer Thirty, West End Tap & Kitchen





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