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.
As Renaissance's resident nail artist, Lori Gonzales wields thoroughly sanitized equipment to trim nails and dress them up in flattering coats of color. Feet ease into a tub padded with disposable liners as they undergo a toe-coddling pedicure, and fingertips receive similarly luxurious treatment above sea level as Lori deftly swabs nails with eye-grabbing shades of polish. Because she emphasizes safety through sterility, Lori employs mostly single-use tools.