BARS & CLUBS


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Posted October 6, 2011 in Feature Story

BEST BAR

Lake Alice Trading Company

Go to Lake Alice if you haven’t been there for five, six—hell—10 years, and you’ll find yourself remembering that this is a great bar. Of course it’s an institution in downtown Riverside. Of course it’s still got tons of pool tables and cheap pitchers of suds. And of course it’s still got live music many nights. Plus, there are often hi-jinks of some sorts going on, either out front or in the bar itself. Lake Alice is still around and we’re lucky for it. (B.G.)

Lake Alice Trading Company, 3616 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 686-7343; www.lakealicetradingco.com

BEST BARTENDAR

Jason Albee of Redlands Underground

The young, hip bartenders at Redlands Underground have the sterling reputations of creating a mean drink, and in the place where everyone knows your name, the man working the counter on weekends also happens to occupy the top of the charts as the IE’s preferred bartender. Inland Empire, meet Jason, master conversationalist and master mixologist to the eclectic crowds that count this basement abode as their personal savior. (Nancy Powell)

Redlands Underground, 19 E. Citrus Ave., Ste. 103, Redlands, (909) 798–1500; www.redlandsunderground.com

BEST BLOODY MARY

The Sire

The giant horseshoe marks the spot to this locals-driven dive bar where stiff drinks and a great steak or juicy burger can be had for dirt cheap. The even dirtier deed is the Sire’s Bloody Mary, a vodka based infusion made with a special mix that includes a little a bit of everything—tomato juice, celery, horseradish, lemon, salt and pepper, for example—to give it its tangy, peppery sting. (N.P.)

The Sire Bar and Grill, 6440 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 683-7473.

BEST BREWERY

Hangar 24

As the story goes, Master Brewer Ben Cook and his friends used to meet at the hangar after an afternoon of flying to enjoy some of Cook’s homebrews. Nowadays you can find a good group of beer fanatics hanging around that same hangar, enjoying some of the same brews. Hangar 24 has transformed into a full-fledge brewery since Cook and his friends first starting hanging there, but the atmosphere is very much the same. (L.L.)

Hangar 24, 1710 Sessums Dr., Redlands, (909) 389-1400; www.hangar24brewery.com.

BEST CLUB/CLUB NIGHT

Sevilla Night Club

Sevilla could make a mint selling its sangria by the gallon. It’s that mind-numbingly good. Trust me. Or take my wife’s word for it. Purely on the strength of the sangria, she considers Sevilla Night Club to be the top-shelf boogie destination in the IE. And it is. You dance at a club, right? And Sevilla’s got dancing in spades. Swing by midweek for Matador Salsa Wednesday (with salsa instructors!). Or just show up in your freshest gear on Mansion Fridays with DJ Keystone to get your head bobbing. Let the ladies show you how. Grab your dancing shoes, sister, and tell your mama you’re goin‘ out tonight to shake that ass. (M.T.)

Sevilla Night Club, 3252 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 778-0611; sevillanightclub.com.

BEST COCKTAIL BAR

Lounge 33

Part hipster martini bar, part lounge, part staging area for local DJs, Lounge 33 is the best approximation of a “big city” lounge bar we’ve got out in the sticks. The Lounge alternates between chill spot for a libation after work to relatively going off on some weekend nights. The martinis are excellent, the music more hit than miss and some of the chairs are quite cozy. (B.G.)

Lounge 33, 3639 Riverside Plaza Dr., Ste. 530, Riverside, (951) 784-4433; www.loungethirythree.com.

BEST CRAFT BEER/MICROBREW

Orange Wheat by Hangar 24

Sold virtually anywhere in the Inland Empire from your local bar and restaurant to grocery store, Orange Wheat has become a stable brew in the area. Made from locally grown oranges, this bold yet light beer pitches the perfect amount of flavor to compliment all kinds of bar foods, from pizzas to hot wings. It’s also the best bet after a long day at work.  (L.L.)

Hangar 24, 1710 Sessums Dr., Redlands, (909) 389-1400; www.hangar24brewery.com.

BEST DIVE BAR

The Flamingo

When I briefly attended the University of Redlands back in the early ’90s, even as a wide-eyed, not-of-age youngster I was aware of the so-called “Dirty Bird.” Yes, dudes, The Flamingo is a dive bar . . . but it’s the best kind of dive bar. It’s the charming sort of joint that reminds you of the booze spot in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s the man cave of bars—no BS, no karaoke machines, no frills. Just drinks and no-nonsense bartenders still willing and able to slide a beer mug across the bar. Club kids, note: The Flamingo does not turn into a club at night. Want to impress some fancy pants—head to Charlie Jewell’s. Want to get your fade on and be left alone? Go here. There’s a reason this place is called “Dirty.” (M.T.)

The Flamingo, 338 Orange St., Redlands.

BEST GAY/LESBIAN BAR

The Menagerie

This place has history. In the early 1980s, it opened as the city’s first LGBT bar in the area. Co-founder Madaline Lee also spearheaded the creation of the Inlands AIDS Project, one of the first such organizations in Southern California. The Menagerie became the de-facto community center. Last year, Lee passed away leaving behind not only the best gay/lesbian bar in town, but also a legacy. (LL)

The Menagerie, 3581 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 788-8000; www.clubmenagerie.com.

BEST HAPPY HOUR

Liam’s Irish Pub

What’s not to like about Liam’s? It can cure any Black and Tan craving in the land and satisfy a thirst any day of the week. From a raucous session of karaoke to chillin‘ with the Inland Empire Derby Divas (I hear they party here on the third Thursday of every month), Liam’s is that neighborhood hangout without hipster snobbery to get in the way. And when the drink specials are on—oh boy, watch out. Enjoy. I can’t wait to get my drink on before the clock has even cracked noon. (M.T.)

Liam’s Irish Pub, 1087 S. Mt. Vernon Ave., Colton, (909) 422-9900;www.myspace.com/liamsirishpubcolton. Happy Hour: 11AM-6:30PM Monday-Friday (and during football games).

BEST HIPSTER BAR

The Press Restuarant

When I visited The Press a couple of years ago to hang out with a friend of mine who worked at The Press-Enterprise, I was immediately impressed. This place had a bit of everything: Roomy tables for those that actually wanted to eat a meal (sorry, I only drink here). A cool bar scene for those that want to nurse a few cocktails and just chill with other twentysomethings wearing knitted caps and Kreayshawn T-shirts (or girls with feathers in their hair). And it has a stage for live music for those more inclined towards tunes with afro-punk parentage or derived form the electro-folk genre. If you’re young and crazy-good-looking, you want to be seen sipping your drinks here. Ironic T-shirts optional. (M.T.)

The Press Restaurant, 129 Harvard Ave., Claremont, (909) 625-4808; www.thepressrestaurant.com.

BEST HOOKAH BAR

Aladdin Jr.

Craving that nostalgic scent and taste of old school hookah from your younger days? If so, take a trip to Aladdin Jr. where you’ll find a large bar supporting all sorts of hookah inside and even a dedicated smoking area outside as well. No matter your preference, the hookah will definitely satisfy your need for a good flavored smoke. (A.B.)

Aladdin Jr. Restaurant & Cafe, 3161 N. Garey Ave., Pomona, (909) 593-3887; www.aladdinjrrestaurant.com.

BEST JAZZ CLUB

Hip Kitty Jazz & Fondue

One of the best things about the western expansion of the Claremont Village was the opening of the Hip Kitty Jazz and Fondue. And it’s still one of the best: The venue’s got a gorgeous room with an excellent stage, well-stocked bar and a terrific patio area to hang out with friends. Plus, there’s always plenty of fondue goodness available while you’re catching a live swing tune (or rock song) being performed right before your own eyes. (F.L.A.)

Hip Kitty Jazz & Fondue, 502 W. 1st St., Claremont, (909) 447-6700; www.hipkittyjazz.com.

BEST JUKEBOX

Characters

What’s a bar without loud, surrounding music? Not much if you can’t get excited to hear your favorite. At Character’s however has a sweet Internet Jukebox containing a massive selection of awesome tunes that will definitely set the mood of your gathering, making you yell and scream for the line of Journey songs that you added to the playing queue. (A.B.)

Character’s Sports Bar, 276 E. First St., Pomona, (909) 622-9070; www.characterspomona.com.

BEST KARAOKE BAR

Duke’s Bar and Grill

Karaoke means empty orchestra in Japanese. Duke’s Bar and Grill might be orchestral at times, but it’s certainly never empty. With a full-service bar and a great grill (as the name implies), Duke’s is a great place to go with a group of friends. Once you’ve tossed a few back and gotten yourself a bit of the Dutch courage, head up on stage and belt out a few lines of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin‘” like everyone else. (K.L.)

Duke’s Bar and Grill, 3221 Iowa Ave., Riverside, (951) 248-1143.

BEST LOUNGE

The Dark Room at NY Delight

The Dark Room sounds like a horror novel or a new Batman movie, but it’s actually a great little place to relax and listen to live jazz on a Saturday night. It’s located within NY Delight in Pomona, and it’s only a recent addition. Although it is new, people have flocked to it because, like its site says, it’s concerned with art, food and music. So, it seems, are the people of the Inland Empire. (K.L.)

The Dark Room at NY Delight, 310 S. Thomas St, Pomona, (909) 868-6518; nydelight.com.

BEST MARGARITA

Mexico Cafe

Mexico Café bills itself as a purveyor of “Original Margaritas,” and those who have partaken of the fruitier concoctions will most certainly agree. Some blends, like strawberry, substitute vodka for the tequila. Plus, should one variety not agree with you, send it back and order another. Chances are the glass will have drained long before the waiter returns with that combination taco and burrito plate. (N.P.)

Mexico Café, 892 E. Highland Ave., San Bernardino, (909) 882-3000; www.mexicocafe.net

BEST MARTINI

Mission Inn Presidential Lounge

In 1903 the Presidential Lounge was a four-room apartment that hosted Teddy Roosevelt and served as the stomping grounds for Richard Nixon’s wedding in 1940. Martinis now commemorate each of the 10 presidents who walked the Inn’s hallowed halls. So while Teddy Roosevelt receives the most nods in taste, the Taft Appletini, Herbert Hoover Lemon Drop and JFK Cosmopolitan offer stiff competition as does a non-presidential raspberry crème brûlée martini. (N.P.)

Mission Inn Presidential Lounge, 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 784-0300; www.missioninn.com. 

BEST PICKUP BAR

Killarney’s

This Irish bar may not attract those with an authentic accent but as a pub it sure does attract a lot of bar hoppers. The place is packed with them, and quite a few possible fodder for interesting conversation and a good time. Who knows, you might get lucky! They don’t call it luck of the Irish for nothin‘. (A.B.)

Killarney’s Restaurant & Irish Pub, 3639 Riverside Plaza Dr., Ste. 532 Riverside, (951) 682-2933www.killarneys.com.

BEST PUB

Black Watch Pub

It’s déjà vu time! Last year, suds slinger Kitty Sweet at Black Watch won Best Bartender. This year, this purveyor of stout gets Best Pub. And for good reason. It really is a pub—not Pub Lite. Stop by here any day of the week and you’ll hear British accents (and maybe an Australian one) echoing back-and-forth across the bar. You’ll find some U.K. newspapers here as well. And soccer games—did you really need to ask? With Union Jack flags on the wall and a dedication to all things across the pond, Black Watch will have you saying “mate” in no time. Bloody hell. (M.T.)

Black Watch Pub, 497 Central Ave., Upland, (909) 981-6069.

BEST ROCK BAR

Galli’s

Unpretentious is the key word when it comes to Galli’s; this is a great place to relax in a mixed-age setting and watch some up-and-coming bands, cover bands and some interesting jazz as well. It’s small so you get a great view of the stage, and it’s inexpensive so you’ve still got some spare coins for the rest of the month. Galle’s also serves up some decent grub. “Rock” may have died 15 years ago, but it lives on at Galli’s. (B.G.)

Galli’s, 6620 Carnelian Ave., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 941-1100; www.gallis.net.

BEST SMOKING BAR

Worthington’s Tavern

Smoking may be phasing out, but it certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t demand for available smoking venues and there’s a need for a decent smoking bar ’round these parts. Worthington’s has a dedicated smoking patio where you can just sit back, relax and smoke in peace with friends. The place is mellow, just like your neighborhood bar should be. (A.B.)

Worthington’s Tavern, 3587 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 779-9169; www.myspace.com/worthingtons.

BEST SPORTS BAR

Black Horse

Sure, this is Horsetown U.S.A., but the recently remodeled Black Horse Tavern is a little different. It’s got a rustic vibe, what with its cast-iron accents and wood-heavy décor—but don’t go looking for a horse hitch out in front. That being said, with its big screen televisions and “town tavern” feel, Black Horse is ground zero for anything related to the studious and scholarly viewing of anything related to the NFL, the NBA or MLB (sorry, MLS). This place has a cool lunch crowd, it’s right off the 15 Freeway (location, location, location) and if you’re looking for drink specials, they start at $3. Give Trigger a rest and mosey on over here the next time you’re in the mood for some lovely liquid refreshment (M.T.)

Black Horse Tavern & Grill, 1825 Hamner Ave., Norco, (951) 278-2771; blackhorsetavernnorco.com.

BEST STRIP CLUB

Spearmint Rhino

So you have a hankering for a bit of strip tease and your home collection isn’t quite satisfying enough? This joint was voted the best place in town to see a good strip tease, pole dance, lap dance and whatever else kind of adult-related dances you can think of. We hear the girls are very talented over there. (A.B.)

Spearmint Rhino Gentlemen’s Club, 312 S. Riverside Ave., Rialto, (909) 873-2257; and 1875 Tandem, Norco, (951) 371-3788; www.spearmintrhino.com.

BEST WINE BAR

The Winery

From reds and whites to blush and fruits, The Winery at Canyon Crest imports the finest grapes for its bottles. The Winery is unique in its winery feel but bar-esque convenience. The boutique winery produces all of its wines at its Canyon Crest location. Daily tastings are offered or you can pick up a bottle or case to take home. (L.L.)

The Winery at Canyon Crest Towne Center, 5225 Canyon Crest Dr., Riverside, (951) 369-9463; www.canyoncrestwinery.com


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