The walls of Sports & Spirits are adorned with tin signs and engraved mirrors that tout popular brands of beer, along with an entire squad of flat-screen TVs streaming sporting events. Dart boards and pool tables entertain patrons between sips of their cocktails, and one corner of the bar is even devoted to live musical acts on select nights.
The beer craftsmen at Pismo Brewing Company slake thirst with a rotating array of six craft beers brewed in-house. In the tasting room, which is open seven days a week, bartenders pour pints of Pismo pale ale and the toasty, caramel-tinged Roadster red ale, complemented by a smattering of pub fare. Root beer is also available to fertilize the tubers of underage youngsters. The brewery's selection of logo-emblazoned T-shirts, hats, and sweatshirts displays affinity for craft brews and implicit disdain for lesser beverages, such as horse tears. Occasionally on Friday nights, the bass rumblings from live musical performances send ripples through pints of cool brews.
The snug's the thing, at least according to Rooney's owners Tim and Jane. A good Irish pub contains plenty of snugs—cozy little nooks, typically tucked near the fireplace—where "conversations flow and revolutions ferment" around a table topped with pints. Most importantly, snugs grant an atmosphere of intimacy even when the place is packed, much like the honeymoon suite found inside most clown cars.
Rooney's snugs hold to the traditions of Eire's famed watering holes, but Tim and Jane have crossbred those traditions with central California culture, most notably in Chef Anthony Endy's hearty gastropub cuisine. This melding of old and new has snagged the attention of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, which in 2012 named Rooney's Irish Pub the best Orcutt restaurant. The menu's most popular dish, "The Lost" shepherd's pie, exemplifies the blend by replacing ground beef with Guinness-braised Angus short ribs. Similarly, old sod standbys such as Guinness and Harp pour out of taps next to Rooney's own microbrews, such as the Bonny Blond Ale and the Irish Ambush IPA.
Rooney's has established some of its own traditions as well. The trivia-night league convenes on Wednesdays for no-holds-barred fact downs. Each Friday, Chef Anthony stacks california red oak into a 10-foot smoker to slow cook brisket, ribs, and whole hogs—some of which are locally raised on grains recycled from the microbrewery. The staff dishes out the meat to pub patrons on Smokin' Saturday, and also uses it for catering events or parties of up to 100 guests in the banquet room. Smokin' Saturday devotees can nurse their heads the morning after with "Bloody Sunday" brunch, where they get to doctor up their own cures at an award-winning bloody mary bar.
Viking Garden Restaurant is right at home in historical Copenhagen Square, part of Solvang, a Danish-American colony founded more than 100 years ago. Beneath the eatery's crosshatched roof and stork's nest, cooks craft Danish classics such as Norwegian salmon smothered with lemon-dill hollandaise. They even lend Danish flavors to American favorites, such as beef burgers crowned with Danish blue cheese. Before they whip up these entrees, however, Viking Garden's cooks create Danish-inspired breakfasts with everything from kielbasa-filled omelets to Danish-style hotcakes. Imported and domestic pours from an extensive beer list can complement any of Viking Garden's hearty feasts.
Between the disco ball that glitters above the dining room, the toy sharks swimming in bucket-sized cocktails, and the Pop Rocks that crackle in watermelon margaritas, it's pretty obvious that Baja Sharkeez is a lot of fun. These playful touches are the handiwork of Ron and Greg Newman, a father-son team for whom Sharkeez is a labor of love. Ron had found success with the Red Onion chain of restaurants in the '70s and '80s, but upon Greg's graduation from USC, the pair decided to start fresh with a new concept. According to The Tasting Panel, Greg enlisted some of his fraternity brothers to help develop the brand, and today, the small chain maintains a boisterous, beachy vibe that reflects Greg's Hermosa Beach upbringing.
In that spirit, Sharkeez hosts plenty of special events, including July 4th hot-dog-eating contests and bachelorette parties with drink specials and party favors. But even on a normal day there's generally a crowd, whether it be families ordering off the kids' menu at lunch, or coworkers stretching happy hour into a late night. The kitchen cooks up an extensive selection of Baja-Mexican dishes, such as burritos stuffed with mesquite chicken or the very popular mahi-mahi tacos. Those looking to drink with their meal can order spiked lemonades and fresh-fruit margaritas or build their own cocktail at the bloody mary bar.
An ideal place for anybody looking for a slower-paced atmosphere that still offers plenty to do, Uptown Bar & Lounge seeks to serve as a neighborhood bar for all types. The recently renovated lounge is divided into distinct sections. A gleaming granite bar supports 12 taps and shelves full of high-end spirits, and visitors perched on leather chairs at high-top tables gaze at 13 flat-screen TVs broadcasting sporting events. Classy touches?an old-fashioned cash register here, a piano there?elevate the space from the typical sports bar.
Elsewhere, two red-felted pool tables are an outlet for the casually competitive, while a seating area appointed with sofas provides a refuge for guests who can't watch a shot clock count down without turning into a pumpkin at the buzzer. Also, parts of the bar are converted into a rousing music venue to host open-mic nights, DJ sessions, and live bands. The back patio, with its couches, fire pits, and additional TV, is a pleasant spot to enjoy a cool Santa Barbara evening, especially when you include a pizza cooked in the outdoor oven.