It all began with a young wanderer named Ernest Gantt. Inspired by the culture of the South Pacific, where he sometimes worked on film sets, he opened a small watering hole just off Hollywood Boulevard in the mid-1930s. He decorated it with old fishing nets and trinkets he’d picked up during his travels to the South Pacific and created a menu of exotic rum drinks, which he etched onto a board hanging behind the thatched tiki bar. Back then, drinks cost a quarter, or five wooden nickels.
Today, Don The Beachcomber still serves some of Ernest’s original rum cocktails—including his signature mai tai—in a tiki lounge inspired by that 1930s watering hole. A few things have changed over the years, however; the joint now serves a full menu of Hawaiian specialties such as ahi-tuna tacos and Kalua pulled pork piled on sweet a hawaiian bun. On Friday nights, live musicians perform Hawaiian tunes next to an indoor waterfall.
More than 100 whiskeys and a comparable bounty of beers flow at Johnny’s Saloon, an eccentric neighborhood bar that dubs itself a “twisted Cheers.” Opened in 1982, the bar emanates a charm stemming from its appreciation of the rock 'n' roll generation and a rejection of anything that represents the status quo, such as walls. The jukebox is stocked solely with vintage rock 'n' roll and country, steering clear of Top 40 pop and hip-hop, and in the spotless bathrooms, 20 scented lotions keep hands smelling fresher than the Snuggle bear’s dance moves. Though the bar doesn’t serve food, the staffers happily order in from the nearby famous Donuttery and pour libations from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. They serve up single shots of spirits such as Midleton Irish whiskey and Macallan 21-year, but patrons can also purchase a private bottle of liquor that’s held behind the bar under lock and key.
It would be easy to spend an entire evening simply staring at the walls of the 2nd Floor dining room, as they are covered in striking portraits and vivid design work from local tattoo artists. Cocktails in hand, guests leave the comfort of their cushy black booths for a closer look at haunting Day of the Dead skeletons, macabre circus figures, and intricate abstracts. Every Wednesday, their art-viewing experience is enriched by strains from live musicians playing classical covers of rock music from the likes of Journey and Jimi Hendrix.
As visitors take in the music and art of the dining room, chef Wendie Huffman is hard at work in the kitchen, whipping up the innovative contemporary American dishes lauded by reporters from OC Weekly. Pulling from her years of classic culinary training and experience in high-end restaurants, the expert chef folds tangy sauces and imaginative ingredients into steak and seafood specialties, such as the blackened mahi-mahi with fresh mango salsa and the grilled filet mignon kebabs with garlic chipotle pepper. She piles natural-beef patties with mountains of decadent toppings—from teriyaki pork to chili—to craft her signature Colossal burgers. Her culinary creations take on playful names like Confused salmon and Pearl Jammin bread pudding, rather than solemn names such as Sad Jim’s Tear-Stained Spaghetti.
Pouring beer is an art form: glasses need to be titled just so or they’ll fill with foam. Fortunately, it’s a skill that’s easy to learn, especially at Tap House, where brews gush forth from 94 taps. Bartenders decant 60 beers in the main room and pour from 12 taps in the downstairs area. Alternatively, patrons who wish to take a hands-on approach can fill their own glasses at a beer wall with 12 self-pouring taps and at a self-serve 10-tap system on the outdoor patio.
Served at a frosty 29 degrees, beers—from light ales to double IPAs—can complement Tap House’s upscale bar food. As tap masters fill pints, cooks in the kitchen top locally farmed Angus burgers with ingredients such as shredded pork and A1 sauce. They also coat swordfish steaks in garlic lemon butter and flavor ribs with house dry rub and BBQ sauce marinated in citrus wheat beer.
These meals unfold in Tap House's elevated dining room, where more than 50 televisions always stay tuned to the night's biggest sports games, never to the night’s biggest mathematical lectures. Bands and DJs take to the main floor's stage on weekends, when the restaurant also hosts Sunday brunches with bottomless champagne and Budweiser.
Effortlessly blending upscale good times and a MMA-centric sports bar environment, Ringside Lounge maintains a classy environment equally suited to a delicious meal or to cheering on fights. Low lighting, red leather seating, and a menu of borderline gourmet American fusion cuisine such as the grilled strawberry lime burger lend themselves well to fine dining and quiet drinks. The bar also boasts a massive 100" projector which they use to great effect on fight nights, as well as eight flatscreen TVs which line the bar to broadcast big games and commercials loaded with subliminal messages.
Pours from extensive wine and beer lists mingle with sea air and classic Italian flavors at Luggatti's Italian Grill. Pinot grigios such as fruity Corte Giara pair with scallop-and-clam-smothered pastas, and an Antigual Uno malbec pairs well with a 12-ounce new-york strip. Other featured wines include Educated Guess cabernet, Plungerhead zinfandel, and Zaccignini montepulciano. Taps froth with craft brews such as Allagash Curieux, Flying Dog Doggie Style IPA, Chimay, and Shipyard Brewery Monkey Fist IPA. On weekend nights, guests can sip to the sounds of live musical performances in the indoor space decorated with snappy art, or carry glasses outside to enjoy the breeze off the nearby beach and the warmth of an outdoor fireplace.