The 16 best bars in the North OC

Los Angeles

The 16 best bars in the North OC
The 16 best bars in the North OC

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Los Angeles Proving that the OC is about more than just a troubled youth from a broken home who somehow manages to win fights versus well-coiffed surfers and date the hottest, most boring girl in Newport until his ex comes to town and announces she's pregnant, we've put together this guide on where to do the one thing worth doing in the OC (other than the bisexual chick at The Bait Shop): drinking. And because we're awesome, we divided the thing by neighborhood (in North OC, because really once you go further South, aren't you in, like, San Diego already?).

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Hopscotch Tavern (click here for address and deets)
With 125 brown spirits and 24 taps of craft beer, you're probably not going to be able to do any actual hopscotch after leaving this place. Luckily, though, HT's got plenty of fortifying fare: the chef's a Le Cordon Bleu alum who's doing Southern-style dishes prepared with French flare. It’s as gorgeous as it is delicious.

Bootleggers Brewery (click here for address and deets)
Still Fullerton’s only brewery, Bootleggers is a throwback to Prohibition, if Prohibition had great outdoor beer gardens and giant lawn Jenga. Pro tip: stick to the hoppier beers, like Far Out IPA, Lupulin Thrill IPA, or Knuckle Sandwich DIPA. If hops aren’t your thing, definitely go with their coffee chipotle stout on Nitro.

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The Cellar (click here for address and deets)
The Cellar's an old-school-feeling, underground bunker of relaxed classiness, and a stellar place to close out an evening. Do yourself a favor: grab a ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ and let the bartender surprise you.

Playground

The Playground DTSA (click here for address and deets)
What makes this corner eatery on Fourth St special is Cicerone Jarred Dooley's dedication to a tuned draft/bottle list of varying pour sizes at a small fixed price -- all of which they'll pair on the spot with food from a constantly revolving menu. And the service is, uh, wow.

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The Little Sparrow (click here for address and deets)
Coincidentally, a little birdie told us about this spot -- a speakeasy in the back of a chef-driven, matchbox-sized cafe. It sounds weird to say, but even as Joe's booze-ninja-ing crazy ingredients into crazier drinks, it'll feel like you’ve known him your whole life... a true sign of a great, down-to-earth mixologist.

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The Bruery Tasting Room (click here for address and deets)
Although technically in Placentia, let's be honest, nobody likes to say that word unless they're in search of a birthing trench. So yeah, after five years, this ANAHEIM craft beer destination has whipped up quite the beer style arsenal: sour beers, malty beers, hoppy beers, roasty beers, and weird beers. The pro move? Grab a flight (and a bite [rhyme!] -- most weekends, some of OC’s best food trucks are parked outside serving up food pairings).


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Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar (click here for address and deets)
"OOGA CHACKA, OOGA CHAKA". No joke, that's what the bartenders will chant while they mix you any number of on-fire island treats inside a Tiki oasis where thunder and mist both rain down from the ceiling and a nearby volcano spews magma into the bay outside the window. And just so we're on the same page: Trader Sam's is fully enchanted and full of island creations. Don’t freak out when the animatronic seats move!

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Noble Ale Works (click here for address and deets)
Walking distance from Anaheim Stadium (free parking!!!), Noble isn’t any ordinary brewery. Beers like Naughty Sauce (a blonde coffee/milk stout on nitro... think: frothy beer-ca-cino) show the awesomely weird vision that brewmaster Evan Price has. And don't forget their Tongue Tickles Double IPA, which won the award at LA's IPA Fest for SoCal’s Stiffest Hop Bomb competition.

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Rio Vista Inn (click here for address and deets)
The Rio is split into two parts: the right-half is your standard dive-y watering hole; the left is where the magic happens. Late Friday and Saturday nights, the freaks come out to play over some old-school karaoke, dirty dancing with Walmart moms, and cocktails/Sierra Nevada Pale Ale being poured by a lady that was crazy-hot 20 years ago and, thankfully, still dresses the part today.

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Hollingshead's Deli (click here for address and deets)
Hollingshead’s Deli is like walking into a 1979 sitcom based around a Wisconsin beer bar. 50 years after being open, they can easily boast being the first to serve craft beer in Orange. Pickled eggs and Pliny the Elder on tap? Perfect food pairing. It’s one-part deli, one-part bottleshop, and one-part draft list from Heaven.

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Old Towne Orange Beer Crawl (The Orange Circle)
Three spots make Old Towne Orange one of the best spots in the county for an easy beer crawl: Haven Gastropub occupies one side of the traffic circle, and Provisions Markets on the other, plus Citrus City Grille now has great craft beer too, along with one of the best happy hours in the county -- available all night if you sit on the patio. So, y'know, sit on the patio.

Valiant

Valiant Brewing Co. (click here for address and deets)
Finding Valiant is half the battle! Once inside, sampling their big, boozy beers will quickly make you forget you’re in a construction business park next to the Santa Ana River. Though they've only been open for one year, their beer line-up is broad and gets dialed in by the day.

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Beachwood BBQ (click here for address and deets)
Beachwood BBQ won 2013 Best Mid-Size Brewpub at the Great American Beer Festival. Their original BBQ pub still sits near the beach, boasting one of the most ridiculous tap and bottle lists in the county. Oh, and they've got one of the best mac and cheeses in the LA area, according to... us.


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ARC (click here for address and deets)
There’s nothing quite like sipping a cocktail called a 'Cigarettes & Coffee' by the glow of a wood oven. ARC is probably one of the highest-ranked spots you'd find on a list of "places to take a date if you want to get some bathing suit-area action".

Greg Nagel is the Editor of OCBeerBlog. You can also tweet at him at @ocbeerblog.

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1. HopScotch 136 E Commonwealth Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832

Microbrews and whiskey drinks are what's on tap at this American pub in Fullerton. They've set up shop in an old train depot and the vintage Americana vibe extends to the menu: think elevated comfort food classics with a twist. If your'e dining in, this resto has one simple rule: draw a chalk outline of a whiskey bottle and jump one-legged to the bar. Bottoms up!

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2. Bootlegger's Brewery 130 S Highland Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832

Downtown Fullerton's Bootlegger's Brewery began as a small seven-barrel warehouse in 2008 before becoming one of the largest breweries in Orange County. Its craft beer selection includes year-round staples and seasonals, like the crowd fave Golden Chaos, a Belgian golden ale that's brewed with rock candy. Brewery tours are available by appointment only, but you can get beer by the pint or glass -- and get a case or keg to-go -- at the outdoor tasting room.

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3. The Cellar Restaurant 305 N Harbor Blvd, Fullerton, CA 92832

This modern European gastropub is a classy option for sipping great brews and eating fancy (and delicious) caviar.

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4. Playground DTSA 220 E Fourth St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

The Playground has a dedication to a tuned draft/bottle list of varying pour sizes at a small fixed price -- and their ever-changing menu is truly as impressive.

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5. Little Sparrow 300 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

This mixologist-laden, chef driven, matchbox-sized cafe's got a speakeasy in the back and delicious grub. Get munching on globally inspired share plates at this vintage inspired locale that's got one of the best bottomless brunch deals in town: pay only 12 smackers and you'll gain access to endless mimosas all morning long. Little Sparrow's dinner service is also worth checking out.

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6. The Bruery Tasting Room 717 Dunn Way, Placentia, CA 92870

The Bruery has more beer styles than you can imagine -- sour beers, malty beers, hoppy beers, roasty beers -- all crafted in barrels that have traces of everything from tequila and rum to bourbon and regular ol’ oak. The trick is in its arsenal of wood, which helps the brewmasters craft a seemingly endless onslaught of flavors, from the annual Black Tuesday (19% imperial stout) to the sneaky sweet Mash barleywine. There are 40 beers on tap at any given time, so get a flight and a bite -- most weekends some of OC’s best food trucks are parked outside the taproom.

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7. Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar 1150 W Magic Way, Anaheim, CA 92802

Thunder and mist fall from the ceiling. A nearby volcano spews magma into the bay outside the window. Though it's a Disneyland resort bar, Trader Sams is fully enchanted and full of island creations. Don’t freak out when the animatronic seats move!

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8. Noble Ale Works 1621 S Sinclair St, Anaheim, CA 92806

Steps from Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, Noble Ale Works is prime for game days. You can park in the brewery's lot for free, down a few of their flagship and limited edition beers (the tasting room has a selection of 20) and munch on whatever food truck speciality is on offer.

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9. Rio Vista Lounge 200 S Rio Vista St, Anaheim, CA 92806

This Anaheim bar gets as rowdy as possible, with some old-school karaoke, dirty dancing, and great brews.

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10. Hollingshead's Delicatessen 368 S Main St, Orange, CA 92868

50 years after being open, they can easily boast being the first to serve craft beer in Orange. Pickled eggs and Pliny the Elder on tap? Perfect food pairing. It’s one part deli, one part bottleshop, and one part draft list from heaven.

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11. Valiant Brewing Company 2294 N Batavia St, Orange, CA 92865

This family-owned microbrewery makes a variety of beers -- the simple year-round roster includes Belgian-styles, a double IPA, and a blonde lager. The seasonal varieties are a serious draw though, like a massive quadruple IPA that clocks in at 14% ABV. A 20-barrel system guides the whole operation and the house motto, "be valiant" keeps things honest.

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12. ARC Restaurant 3321 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

There’s nothing quite like sipping a cocktail like their "Cigarettes and Coffee" by the glow of their wood oven. Chatting with the chefs as they prepare uncommonly sexy food is a great time on its own.

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13. Haven Gastropub and Brewery 42 De Lacey Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105 (Pasadena)

HG&B's the second outpost of a semi-local gastropub mini-chain (the first one's all the way in Orange), with the new wrought-iron-chandelier and leather booth-enhanced Pasadena location doing what its sister restaurant does not: beer brewing, with a plan to roll out five varieties including an IPA, a Bavarian Hefeweizen, and and Imperial Stout, which is already clearly on the Dark Side.

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14. Beachwood BBQ & Brewing 210 E 3rd St, Long Beach, CA 90802 (Long Beach)

Beachwood's Long Beach location is perfect for relaxing after catching some surf -- get a few brews, an indulgent entree (mac and cheese, without a doubt), and kick back. Beachwood specializes in BBQ fare in a laid back, diner-style setting. Quaint midcentury modern touches take the decor one step farther and go perfectly with the "so good it must be homemade" plates.

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15. Citrus City Grille 122 N Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866 (Orange County)

This American grillery doles out awesome speciality 'tails and delicious grub by the hour. This spot is upscale casual aka it's a good choice for family outings, birthday dinners, date nights, and laid back brunches. Speaking of brunch, Citrus City's breakfast and lunch buffet is one of the better ones we've seen in a bit. There's a waffle bar, meat carving station, a seafood tower AND bottomless drinks.

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