We boozed. We schmoozed. And after all our long nights of research, we’ve come to realize that no two bars are the same, and no two people are, either. Lucky for you, although this town may be small, there’s a bar stool somewhere with your name on it. So if you haven’t already found it, we hope that our very own first annual Super-Duper Primer Bar Awards help give you a taste of what each one has to offer. Because, as our old friend Ben Franklin once said, “There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.”
Our votes are in. Agree or disagree, love it or hate it – here is our take on the Santa Cruz bar scene. And the award goes to…
1003 Cedar St.
“The Place to See and be Seen”
Once you get into the bar after waiting in a long line down the stairwell, it’s likely you’ll just have to wait in another long line to get a drink. The mob scene can get a little frustrating, but the bar’s busy nature speaks to its popularity and reputation as the college bar to drink at if you like to mingle. Dimly lit with a color scheme true to its name and comfy couches (if you are spry enough to snag one), this bar is the go-to watering hole for young 20 somethings.
The Red Room
1003 Cedar St.
“The Smoker’s Award”
The Red Room is a lot like its sister bar upstairs, but with a somewhat smaller crowd, a better chance of getting a seat and a little bit of smoke in the air. It’s the best place for a college kid with a pack of Camels to socialize over a drink.
99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall
110 Walnut Ave.
“Best Place to Watch the Game”
If you fancy yourself a beer aficionado, then 99 is the place you want to go to give yourself a taste of the 99 different types of beer they serve. Upon your first visit, ask for a punch card so you can start checking off each type you try. Try all 99 and you’ll be immortalized on the wall with a tiny plaque – quite the honor. There’s also karaoke on Mondays, trivia night on Wednesdays, and often quite a few sports fans packing the bar on big game days throughout the week.
1535 Commercial Way
“Best Place for Live Music”
Moe’s is a true Santa Cruz treasure. With great live music almost every night of the week, it’s the perfect place for those who like to groove to great reggae or see their favorite local band. A night at Moe’s isn’t unlike a friend-filled house party – cozy, cheery, dance-alicious, and with a backyard area for smokers and getting fresh air. Far from the buzz of Pacific Ave, this joint is an Eastside oasis of greatness.
740 Front St.
“Best Dance Party”
Mare is only crackin’ on Thursday Nights when DJs spin reggae or old school hip-hop, but it is well worth the weekly wait. It can get really crowded, but if you feel like shakin’ it to some loud music and don’t mind getting the occasional beer sloshed on you, jump right in and let loose.
Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub
1220 Pacific Ave.
“Where You’ll Get Dragged if Your Friends Want to Grind”
It’s likely that if you have friends from out of town that like to get down, you’ll end up at Rosie’s where they can get a stiff drink and dance to painfully mainstream hip-hop. While it may not be our cup of tea- or pint of beer as it were- Rosie’s seems to attract a fair amount of people, judging by the crowds waiting outside to get in. So see for yourself, but if you do decide to give it a shot and end up throwing back a few while you’re at it, just be careful not to sprain your ankle coming down the steep flight of starts on your way out- trust us on this one.
715 Pacific Ave.
“Best Place to Avoid Slugs”
If everything about you screams “UCSC,” you might find yourself feeling out of place at this lower Pacific dive. So if you’re planning on hitting the “Nasty Asti,” you might think about leaving your Sammy the Slug sweater at home. But if you feel up for brushing shoulders with locals and poolsharks, and don’t mind a bit of cigarette smoke, the Asti can provide for a great night of drinking.
Avenue Bar and Cigars
711 Pacific Ave.
“Where Men can be Men”
The Ave is undoubtedly a guy’s bar. There’s foosball, pool, and plenty of sports playing on the TVs. It’s smoker friendly, if you couldn’t already tell by the name, and also has an open outdoor patio and deck where you can sit and socialize. And with specials like $5 pitchers on Wednesdays and a good selection on the jukebox, there’s plenty to keep the ladies paying a visit to the Ave quite comfortable, too.
120 Union St.
“Best Place You’ve Never Been”
Not many people know about Cypress, which was the Coastline Brewery not long ago, but it’s only a matter of time. With an all-day happy hour on Tuesdays ($2 pints, half off appetizers), a tasty beer selection and live music Thursday through Saturday, the bar and restaurant is sure to become a happening spot. Large, friendly and only one block up and to the left of the Red – Cypress is definitely worth checking out for a breath of fresh air from the “been there, done that” downtown bar scene.
The Poet and Patriot Irish Pub
320 Cedar St.
“Best Place to Unwind”
Ever wish you could go out on a Friday night in your flannel, drink a tall, frosty Guinness, sit back and play a nice game of Scrabble or Jenga? Your wish can come true at the Poet and the Patriot, where you’ll find people studying at the wooden tables over a pitcher, or shooting darts and discussing Wes Anderson movies. It has a real Irish feel and you’ll often hear the Pogues ringing out from the jukebox. It’s beer and wine only, making it a lot less rowdy and a great spot to go with a friend to have a chat over a pint.
The Blue Lagoon
923 Pacific Ave.
“Provider of the Best Drinking Stories”
Where do we even begin with this one? Don’t go to the Blue expecting to meet nice, respectable dating-material or for a calm, drama-free night of casual drinking. A night at the blue is sure to include cheap drinks ($2 well drinks on Tuesdays is just one of their many nightly specials), dodging the legions of creepers and several bizarre encounters with wastoids. Needless to say, we’ve committed some of our most outrageous partying here. The best way to hit the Blue is with a large group of friends, ready to break it down on the dance floor and prepared to ward of all patrons outside your group who will surely descend on you like hawks.
The Rush Inn
113 Knight St.
“Where Everybody Knows Your Name…”
“…And they’re always glad you came.” The Cheers theme song is definitely appropriate for the Rush. The people who go there really love it and for good reason. The bartenders are friendly, they give good service and yes, they just might remember your name if you make a point to go and enjoy a brew every so often. This smoker-friendly dive has free pool and $7.50 pitchers on Wednesdays, a hot dog and a beer for $5 while you watch football and baseball on one of the bar’s three TVs on Sundays, and even home cooked meals for $3-$5 for Monday Night Football. There’s a great jukebox that has just about anything you’d want to listen to, including the Flight of the Conchords, a favorite of yours truly. It’s a great place to kick back and shoot the shit while shooting a game of pool over a cold one.
Brady’s Yacht Club
413 Seabright Ave.
Brady’s is a classic example of why you should give every bar a fair chance. It may a little sketchy looking from the outside- it is a true blue dive bar, after all- but get inside, and well, maybe it’s still a little sketch, but with specials that include PB&J’s (Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jameson) and even • gasp• “Cum Shots,” how could you not have fun at Brady’s? The pirate motif, pool, Pacman, and pinball, not to mention $2 Budweiser and $3 Coronas on Tuesdays made for an unexpectedly entertaining evening for these devoted researchers. But to be clear, it does turn into much more a dive bar for the rest of the week – Tuesday nights are more of an exception.
515 Cedar St.
The 515 isn’t the place to go if you’re looking to get hyphy, but if it’s a cucumber martini, candlelight and quiet conversation you’re after, this is your spot. They have an impressively inventive and fancy cocktail menu and upscale beers, all with the steep price to match.
The Parish Publick House
841 Almar Ave.
“Because There’s Nothing Else to do on the Westside”
Though it’s only been open a few months, this establishment has attracted some dedicated patrons with its authentic Irish meals and extensive collection of obscure beers. And of course, the pool table is always a plus.
1007 Soquel Ave.
“Where to Get Your Game On”
Definitely a guy’s bar and a gamer’s paradise, the Double-O, as most people call it, has pretty much everything you need to stay entertained for the evening. With old sports photos covering the walls, this smoker friendly bar is equipped with pool, foosball, arcade games, darts, and even shuffleboard – not to mention a server to bring you drinks if you happen to be in the middle of a tense foosball battle. And if there’s a big game on, it’s likely that it’ll be playing on the bar’s big screen TV.
519 Seabright Ave.
The Brewery receives our extra special re-naming award, a rare honor that is only called upon in times of utmost appropriateness and unavoidable puns. And if there ever was such a time, this is it. On any given Tuesday night, also known as Seabright’s Neighborhood Night, The Bro-ery is a sea of backward baseball caps and too-tan girls in tank tops. During the school year, Neighborhood Night becomes a weekly get together for many Slugs who want to rub elbows with other totally-gnarly-dudes and like-way-hot-chicks while demolishing $7 pitchers of decent home-brewed beer. The big friendly bouncers are one the highlights of the place because they seem to know and remember everybody and are likely start up a nice friendly chat when they see you.