Bars in Santa Barbara

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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.

525 State Street
Santa Barbara,
CA
US

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.

3126 Santa Barbara Street
Santa Barbara,
CA
US

For more than a decade, Bridget Malmstedt worked as a master aesthetician at a luxury resort. Currently she flaunts that expertise inside FaceForward Skin and Body Care?a Victorian home repurposed as a salon. These historic surroundings are a charming antithesis to Bridget's services, which draw on all the latest approaches to skincare. Her facials exfoliate pores and help clear up acne and signs of aging, and her customized peels minimize the appearance of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. When she isn't treating skin, Bridget soothes muscles by blending Swedish and deep-tissue massage techniques. Her enviable skill set even extends to eyebrows, which she shapes into perfect arches for clients who want to look sophisticated or into perfect umlauts for clients who want to look Danish.

53 S California St
Ventura,
CA
US

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.

34 N Palm St
Ventura,
CA
US

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.

2950 Johnson Drive
Ventura,
CA
US

From the ivy-covered outside in, Barrel 33 cultivates a cozy bar atmosphere conducive to long conversations and savored sips of wine. Their wine cellar, kept at a constant 56 degrees, hosts dozens of domestic and international red and white wines by the bottle. Reds include a hefty selection of cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir from Sonoma and Santa Barbara. French champagne, sparkling wine, and chardonnay from Napa and the Russian River valley, on the other hand, dominate the selection of whites. To accompany the wine, Barrel 33’s kitchen assembles plates of olives, duck pate, brie with Grand Marnier strawberry sauce, or crisp thin-crust pizzas.

Red walls stretch around the interior of the wine bar, complementing both the stone-topped bar and the dappled tulip lights hanging over it. Tall chairs with carved arms and plush crimson cushions sit at attention at the counter. Outside in the enclosed wine garden, palm fronds reach up to the strings of fairy lights stretched across the patio. A wood fire crackles in a fireplace made from the same chunky boulders as the building’s exterior, sending light flickering over wicker chairs and the glass tables’ ornate legs, which were donated by the late glass man, who lived in a glass house but never threw stones.

308 E Ojai Ave
Ojai,
CA
US