The Best Bars in Orange County



Story bNicole Mormann

Eric Oymaian, a Saddleback College student, stands with his back to the license plate-covered wall of Goat Hill Tavern bar, feet up on the table in front of him and Rolling Rock frothy beer in hand. He reclines back in a squeaky leather chair, looking content as he observes the busy scene. This place appears to be his boozy kingdom.

Orange County bars draw thousands of college students like Oymaian looking for a fun place to hang out with their friends every weekend night.  Sometimes though, it can be difficult finding the right spot where everyone wants to go. Depending on the mood or energy level of the group, the type of bar students choose can vary from dive bar, if the energy level is low, to dance club, if everyone’s hyper enough.

Based on a survey with four options and a comment box per category taken by 22 Chapman students and locals, here’s a guide to the best nightlife by type in Orange County to help with planning your ideal night out:

Best dive bar: Goat Hill Tavern

Located in Costa Mesa, Goat Hill Tavern boasts 141 beers on tap and bizarre décor to match. With vintage car parts and bicycles, street signs, license plates, beer taps, and industrial lighting lining the ceiling and walls, the bar gives off the vibe of an American junkyard within a casual enclosed setting. For the average dive bar goer, this place is a dime a dozen in Orange County with a price to match the cliché. Pitchers of Rolling Rock cost $7 and a mug of domestic beer costs $2.75 “all day, everyday.”

“It has an actual old school bar kind of feel unlike a lot of other places in the Newport area. It feels more like ‘let’s shoot pool, smoke with friends, and get a cheap beer,’” said Saddleback College student Eric Oymaian

Honorable mention: O’Hara’s in Orange

Best place to drink and pig out: Slater’s 50/50 

Offering “burgers by design” across several locations in Southern California, Slater’s 50/50 is a go-to for students with hungry stomachs and thirsty minds. Former Chapman student and Slater’s fan Derrick Ly used to go to the Anaheim Hills location for the mac n cheese balls “with a beer of course.” 

“There’s something for everyone. You can make your own burger for crying out loud,” said Ly, referring to the restaurant’s customizable burger menu.

Aside from custom menu items such as the Peanut Butter & Jellousy burger, with (you guessed it) peanut butter and jelly topping a beef patty, Slater’s 50/50 also includes an extensive drink menu as well as bacon cocktails. That’s right: bacon cocktails. 

So if you’re looking for a place to drink and pig out, literally, Slater’s is where you’ll want to go ham.

Best Happy Hour: Lazy Dog 

From 3 – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday and 9 p.m. – close (patio and bar only) Sunday – Thursday, Lazy Dog offers a happy hour menu that’s hard to resist. With $3-$7 appetizers and drinks, Chapman students can go chill out at the restaurant’s Orange location on Katella and enjoy an array of cheap food and alcohol.

"Get the Strawberry Mango Lava Flow at Lazy Dog, it's the best drink there," said senior Chapman student Wyatt Lennertz.

Though the Lava Flow drink isn’t included on the Happy Hour menu, over 40% of survey takers agree Lazy Dog is still the happiest place around for happy hour.

Best pub: Olde Ship

Just down the street from Downtown Fullerton’s bar scene, Olde Ship looks more like a portal to a quaint English village than anything. The faux Elizabethan architecture and classic red telephone booth on the outside give preview to the old world feel inside the pub. Dim lighting, dark wood paneled walls, and ship-themed decorations accent the interior, transporting Orange County locals into uncharted territory. 

The atmosphere is family-friendly so if you’re planning on a crazy night out on the town, this probably wouldn’t be the place for you. However, if you’re looking for a good place to grab a pint and pie before heading out to DTF, look no further than the smooth-sailing Olde Ship.

Best place to go if you want to get hit on: Baja Sharkeez 

While Baja Sharkeez is typically known for its fish bowl cocktails and beach-themed setting, the bar attracts bar-goers for other reasons as well.

A whooping 50 percent of survey takers voted Baja Sharkeez in Newport Beach as the best place to go if you want someone to hit on you. To those who’ve frequented the bar, this comes as no surprise.

“Some guy came up to my friends and I and pinpointed out all of our best features. He said he could look into my soul through my eyes and he thought I had a husband,” said Chapman senior Emmy Gyori. 

Though they don’t necessarily have the best pick-up lines, men line up outside the bar each weekend night with their buddies, likely planning their proposals to the next woman that catches their eye.

Best beer selection: Goat Hill Tavern

In a landslide win, Goat Hill Tavern took first place yet again for having the best beer selection in Orange County. With 141 beers on tap, it’s not difficult to understand why.

For senior Riley Keating though, his reasoning for making the trek out to Goat Hill Tavern isn’t influenced by the beer selection, but rather the foosball. 

“When I first saw the mini soccer match captured on a table, I felt a familiar sense of victory reminiscent of middle school.”

You could say Goat Hill Tavern has a bit of everything for everyone.

Best area to bar hop: Newport Beach 

Within an estimated 15 – 20 minute drive from campus, Newport Beach offers the best nightlife scene in Orange County. Not only does it have a plethora of bar types to choose from, but also the accessibility of the beach.

 “It’s really easy to get from place to place for the most part. Plus the crowd is younger, so it’s usually a lot of fun,” said Chapman senior Jimena Grandez.

With a young adult vibe, beachy feel, and heel-friendly bar-to-bar walking distance, Newport is the preferred place to be for those under 23. 

Best bar worth the drive: The Abbey (West Hollywood)

Two-time winner of the MTV Logo Best Gay Bar in the World Award, The Abbey lands the number one spot for best bar outside of Orange County that’s still within a reasonable driving distance.

Upon first site, it looks like the cross between a small church and a quaint restaurant. However, once you go inside, it’s anything but.

Half-naked dancers scatter the bar, performing acrobatic moves on the ceiling bars and lap dances for generous patrons, celebrities frequent the VIP sections, and the dance floor packs in more people than a vacuum-packed can of sardines could.

It’s about a 57-minute drive not including the time it takes to park. Make sure to bring a fair amount of cash on you for paid parking areas. 

Best bar overall: Huntington Beach Beer Company 

Located in the heart of Main Street, Huntington Beach Beer Company serves up the best atmosphere, according to most of the 22 polltakers. 

With an intimate dance floor, outside balcony area, wide selection of beer and other alcoholic drinks, and casual seating around, the bar provides the best of both worlds – a nightlife scene in a relaxed setting. 

So if you’re looking for a great place to drink, dance, and hang out with friends, this bar seems to do the trick.

+ posts