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.
Committed to providing fresh pours, the winetenders of Gather Wine Bar uncork only 25 to 35 of their carefully curated central-coast wines each week. Knowledgeable staff can recommend a bottle for customers to pair with charcuterie plates, flatbread pizzas, and gourmet pub snacks such as bacon-wrapped dates. Alternatively, themed wine flights can provide a cross section of a single varietal or eclectic tastes from an array of vines. Live music acts and singles events create an upbeat atmosphere on many nights, and catered parties can gather small groups around a fire pit or feed 100 or more people with unlimited appetizers from the bar.
At Java Joe's, guests sip freshly made coffee drinks and graze baked goods, rummage through a collection of eclectic clothing and merchandise, and tap toes to live tunes. Baristas blend aromatic shots of espresso with frothy milk riddled with chocolaty notes to create a 16- or 20-ounce café mocha ($3.85–$4.25). Utilitarian cups of joe ($1.95 for 16 oz.; $2.25 for 20 oz.) fill mugs for on-the-go sippers and bulk beans ($13.95/lb.) allow customers to bring robust flavors and caffeine-jolts home. Pluck a pastry from a bakery filled with treats, such as scones ($2.45), chocolate-filled croissants ($2.95), and cheesecakes ($3.75) that quench food cravings and hush grumbling tummies like a swallowed Paul Simon 8-track.
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.
A frequent finalist for Best Comedy Club according to Ventura County Reporter's readers, Ventura Improv Company offers the only improv comedy in Ventura and has been eliciting chortles and guffaws with family-friendly farce for the past 21 years. The VIC's veteran comedic combatants perform unscripted comedy through scenes, games, and music created on the spot. The VIC performs shows such as Spontaneous Broadway, a full-length musical whose plot is conceived through audience suggestions, and TheatreSports Team Match, a two-team battle where competitors perform a challenge set by the host.