.Best of Santa Cruz County 2020: Music & Nightlife

Find out what readers voted as the best music and nightlife.

Best Comedy Spot 

DNA’s Comedy Lab

  1. DNA’s Comedy Lab is an experimental comedy theater that features stand-up comedy, improv, sketch, live podcasts, game shows, and even the occasional serious book reading.
  2. Comedians that have graced DNA’s stage have ranged in age from 7-70 years old and have included such big names as Eddie Pepitone, Doug Benson, Judah Friedlander and Adam Conover.
  3. DNA is an actual person, and a comedian to be exact. He got his start by winning a Showtime College Laff-Off.
  4. The Comedy Lab is located in the old Regal Cinemas Riverfront Twin Theatre. It is 15,000 square feet or 405 elephants. (They did the math.)
  5. Several of the Lab staff are also stand up comedians. The official Lab dog is a Great Pyrenees named Justice, who also has a great sense of humor.

 Aaron Carnes

Best Happy Hour

Hula’s Island Grill

  1. Hula’s Island Grill is a fun, casual restaurant that serves Hawaiian fusion food with a California twist. Try a luau pork sandwich, pan seared shrimp tacos, Jawaiian jerk chicken plate, Hawaiian ceviche … yum!
  2. Hula’s has an elaborate and flamboyant tropical tiki drink menu. The ambience is straight out of the 1950s-style kitsch tiki bar with island décor, surf art, carved masks and feel-good, laid-back music.
  3. There are three locations. The original opened in 1998 in Monterey. The Santa Cruz location was the second, opened in 2006. The third is located in Phoenix, Arizona.
  4. You can rent out the “Tiki Room” and host your own private events and parties.
  5. They care about serving high quality and sustainable seafood, and they comply with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. 

 Aaron Carnes

Best Local Musician 

Mira Goto

  1. Mira Goto is a little bit Nashville twang and a whole lot of California. The 32-year-old singer-songwriter plays California Country, or as she refers to it, “Diet country.” She loves to tell complete stories in her songs.
  2. She won “Musician of the Year” at the 2019 NEXTies, tied with singer-songwriter Henry Chadwick.
  3. Goto signed a production deal with record producer Ken Caillat (the engineer for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, among other things). She plans to release a EP later this year. Previously she released the album New Plaid Shirt under the name Mira Parfitt.
  4. She started playing music as a preteen, starting with classical music on the violin, then graduating to emo music on the guitar.
  5. A crowd favorite is her sweet and heart-wrenching song “Crazy Cat lady.” It’s a gorgeous song that anyone who’s ever loved a cat will definitely be crying along to by the third verse.

 Aaron Carnes


Parish Publick House

841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz, 421-0507; 

secure document shredding

8017 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 708-2036; 


RUNNERS-UP 515 Kitchen & Cocktails, Red Room  


Manny Mescalito @ Front & Cooper 

RUNNERS-UP Alexandra Wheatley , Josh Youngblood @ Oswald

Comedy Spot 

DNA’s Comedy Lab

155 S. River St., Santa Cruz, 900-5123, dnascomedylab.com

RUNNERS-UP Blue Lagoon, Crow’s Nest Restaurant 

Craft Brewer (local)

Discretion Brewing

2703 41st Ave. Suite A, Soquel, 316-0662, discretionbrewing.com

RUNNERS-UP Humble Sea, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

Dance Club

Blue Lagoon 

923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-7117

RUNNERS-UP Moe’s Alley, Motiv

Fancy Cocktails

515 Kitchen & Cocktails

515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 425-5051, 515santacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Front & Cooper, Oswald

Happy Hour

Hula’s Island Grill  

221 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz, 426-4852, hulastiki.com

RUNNERS-UP Alderwood, The Crow’s Nest


Boardwalk Bowl / Coasters Bar & Grill

115 Cliff St., Santa Cruz, 426-3324, boardwalkbowl.com/coasters-bar-grill

RUNNERS-UP Britannia Arms, I Love Sushi

Live Music

Moe’s Alley

1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz, 479-1854, moesalley.com

RUNNERS-UP Catalyst, Kuumbwa Jazz 

Local Band



RUNNERS-UP Cement Ship, Coffee Zombie Collective 

Local Comedian

Victor Dubin

RUNNERS-UP Richard Stockton, Sam Weber 

Local Musician

Mira Goto


RUNNERS-UP Alex Lucero, Morgen Smith 


El Palomar 

1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-7575, elpalomarsantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant, Tortilla Flats 

New Brewery

Fruition Brewing 

918 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville, fruitionbrewing.com

Place to Play Pool

Fast Eddy’s 

4300 Capitola Rd., Capitola, 462-1882

RUNNERS-UP One Double Oh Seven Club, 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, 421-0507; 

8017 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 708-2036; 


RUNNERS-UP Poet & Patriot, Rosie McCann’s  

Tap Room

Beer Thirty

2504 S Main St., Soquel, 477-9967, beerthirtysantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Lupulo Craft Beer House, West End Tap & Kitchen 

Read the full e-edition of the Best of Santa Cruz County 2020 magazine: bit.ly/BestOf2020Print


  1. How on earth can you continue to say Discretion is the best Craft Brewer in Santa Cruz?!
    Sante Adairius is BY FAR the best. They have made more than one WORLDWIDE top ten list.

    This is why so many local restuarant taps are filled with sub-par local beer.


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