Just below Los Angeles, Orange County is known for its competitively luxurious lifestyle. Like its seaside Hollywood neighbor, the O.C. is full of the rich and beautiful, from Huntington Beach through Anaheim. We’re talking about rich and beautiful bars, that is.
The area has a wide array of watering holes to choose from, but we think that these are the 10 best bars in the Orange County.
Check out our other Orange County Guides:
1. Trader Sam’s
Anyone booked in to a vacation at Disneyland shouldn’t write it off as a kids’ holiday. There’s plenty of 21+ fun to be had at Trader Sam’s, a tiki bar – scratch that: an enchanted tiki bar – in the Disneyland Hotel area.
Trader Sam’s was set up by its namesake explorer who traveled to all places tropical to find inspiration for his legendary cocktails.
Their mixed drinks call on inspiration from the Congo to the Amazon and beyond, with names to match their origins like Zambezi Sour, Krakatoa Punch, and Shipwreck on the Rocks.
You can sip your sweet nectars in an immersive experience, surrounded by souvenirs and artifacts from across the globe.
The theme doesn’t end with the drinks, though. Their food menu is also choc full of jungle inspiration, with dishes from Hawaii, Polynesia, Japan, and more.
It’s important to note that, even though there’s a non-alcoholic cocktail menu for the young ones, there’s no one under 21 allowed in after 8pm.
Plus, you can only have your table for 90 minutes, so it’d best to reserve in advance.
1150 Magic Way, Anaheim, CA 92802
2. Strong Water
(photo: Lin W.)
If you haven’t quite got your sea legs yet, you can try a taste of the pirate life without setting sail thanks to Strong Water.
This fully immersive restaurant leaves no stone unturned, from cocktails served in tiki glasses to gift cards in the shape of doubloons, everything keeps to the theme.
Even their Asian-fusion menu is broken up between “Embark” (appetizers), “Set Sail” (mains), and “Dock” (dessert).
They also have an extensive rum listing, with 19 different varieties on their menu: perfect for the thirstiest pirate.
The whole idea of Strong Water was actually inspired by Trader Sam’s, but the owners wanted to created a more intimate tribute to tiki bars.
Entering the place feels a bit like a speakeasy – perhaps a tribute to the owner’s first venture, Blind Rabbit, a 1920s style speakeasy – as the entry door is rather insignificant compared to the opulent interior.
The only giveaways are seahorse door handles and blacked-out windows at the address. Once you enter, the bar is first-come-first-serve.
For the best experience, it’s recommended to book for a table.
270 S Clementine St, Anaheim, CA 92805
3. The Bungalow
The first location being so popular, the owners of Bungalow decided to open a second location in Huntington Beach. It has the same charm as its Santa Monica predecessor, but with Surf City’s history echoed in its vintage and rustic interior.
Different relaxation spaces allow for a variety of experiences, from the Entry Lounge to the Main Bar, past the Study and Salon out onto the Outside Patio. Every inch is decked out in stunning décor that brings the last century back to life.
Enjoy the ocean views while sipping on one of Bungalow’s signature cocktails from their uniquely curated spaces.
Their house cocktails range from sweet to sour and spicy. You can also sate your hunger with food from Bear Flag Fish Co. who offer snacks like fries or chips and guac, or more substantial meals like tacos, ceviche, and poke bowls.
You can even rent Bungalow out for special events like personal celebrations or corporate gatherings. It’s the type of venue you have to see to believe.
21058 CA-1, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
4. Pie Society
Pitfire Pizza is a great place in Costa Mesa to get some delicious pizza, but go a step further and you enter a whole different domain.
Pie Society is a speakeasy hidden behind the pizzeria. Like all speakeasies, there’s no signage pointing you in its direction.
However, there is a gate that stands wide opening inviting you in to the party. Pie Society has both an indoor and outdoor space, both of which fill up quickly and, being a speakeasy, they don’t take reservations.
They’re open every day of the week and serve a full menu: from soup and sharing knots, to full salads, pizza pies (of course), pasta dishes, and dessert.
There are craft beers and a wine menu to choose from, plus an impressive house cocktail list that goes beyond your usual Old Fashioned.
Try The Perfect Gin-tleman with gin, green tea, lemon, and cinnamon; or Life of the Party with vodka, cava, lavendar, hibiscus, and lemon.
Pie Society guarantees delicious food and drink in a retro, ‘70s style bar with Mohammed Ali printed across the back wall.
353 E 17th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
5. Vacation Bar
While Trader Sam’s and Strong Water are everything traditional tiki, Vacation Santa Ana is a tribute to modern island style.
Every piece of furniture in the bar is custom designed, inspired by the owners’ travels across North and South America, Europe, and Asia.
Where the others are dark, close-knit, and populated with ephemera, Vacation is light, bright, and airy.
The space itself was stripped back to its bare bones, the walls painted white with the industrial ceiling exposed and black.
There is limited artwork on the walls; most of the color in the space comes from the many plants growing up and down from their various perches throughout.
Each cocktail on their list is named after the city its inspired by.
There’s a Bangkok(-tail) with lime, coconut, and basil and a Tokyo cocktail with green tea and sake. An unexpected blend, the Islay cocktail features Scotch whiskey, pineapple, sherry, and chocolate.
You can go on Vacation every night of the week and pair your drink with small eats, like a Cubano sandwich or Cusco ceviche.
204 W 4th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701
6. The Cauldron
(photo: My Viet N.)
The Cauldron is a wicked place to indulge. Its exterior may seem like your average Spanish Colonial Revival-meets-the 21st century commercial space, but the interior is everything Spirit and Brew.
The tin tiled ceiling is criss-crossed by exposed wooden beams and the floor is covered in stone.
The wood paneled bar ends with an ancient library wall at one end and faces a cozy stone fireplace on the opposite wall.
The overstuffed armchairs will put you under a comfortable spell once you sink into them.
We’re not joking, this bar is absolutely bewitching. Just have a sip of one of their house cocktails and you’ll be under their spell.
Food from their full menu will also leave you utterly enchanted. Just be sure to finish off with the boozy homemade ice cream.
8028 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620
7. Kitsch Bar
Go to Kitsch Bar to treat yourself to drinks in complete mid-century glamour. Iconic red, tufted leather booths line the metallic damask walls.
The 360 bar is built up with a screen block wall, another icon of the California coast, reminiscent of the walls local mansions hide behind.
The mood is set by chandeliers hung from the ceiling and walls. Meet for an intimate drink at the bar or share a booth with a group of friends.
They regularly have a DJ playing music that you can dance to. Order one of their house cocktails – allegedly the best Mai Tai one Yelp user had – or a round of shots.
The Kitsch Bar tends to have a pregame youthful vibe, but play music until late.
891 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
8. Ruin Bar
Ruin Bar’s motto, “social equity” is also their goal: to bring everyone and anyone together. That’s achieved through their microscopic floorspace.
There are only a handful of tables squeezed into the space bar, most well suited for pairs or trios. Any larger group would have to hope for space out in the courtyard, where there is more space and more seating under trees wrapped up in knit and hung with sparkling lights.
The vibe is eclectic, with vintage furniture, a bison head on the wall, a collage of framed cat photos, seemingly peeling wallpaper, a retro radio-cum-table, and even a vintage ski lift booth to sit in.
This also isn’t your simple neat whiskey dive. They have a superior cocktail list that includes Moscow Mules in hammered copper mugs, Spritzers with burnt tyme, and more.
There’s no food served, so a greater chance of turn-over, i.e. finding a place to sit when you get there.
2930 Bristol St a111, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
9. Mission Control
Mission Control may not be the exact origin of the portmanteau “barcade,” but it is the epitome of one.
Found in McFadden Public Market, it’s one of the vendors in this trendy food hall. The bar looks like the sign-up desk at a laser tag arena – something straight out of the 1980s. From there, there is limited seating space.
Every inch of the walls are lined with retro arcade games – from pinball machines to classic arcade games like The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Buy a branded tube of tokens from the bar to get gaming.
Mission Control doesn’t skimp on flavor. You may be drawn in by the games, but there are plenty of good drinks to choose from there.
Their bar is backed by a row of 20 craft beer taps, plus they have a list of signature house cocktails named after some of our favorite games as well as a full list of martinis named after Street Fighter.
515 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92701
10. Johnny’s Saloon
Johnny’s is a self-purported world-famous bar and pizzeria and is a local favorite. They’ve been in business for 18 years, serving whiskey, beer, pizza, and good times.
They’ve won many awards, including “Best Bar in All OC,” and have been rated in the Top 50 Whiskey Bars in the US.
Step inside and you won’t know where to look. The whole bar is plastered ceiling to floor in music memorabilia, from country to rock. Johnny Cash overlooks the pool table (and many other spots throughout) while a mural of the Ramones covers the back wall.
If you’re looking for a no nonsense, grungy dive bar with pizzas named after musicians and famous songs, look no further.
Their two page whiskey menu is broken down into categories: bourbon, Tennessee, rye, wheat, barley, white, Irish, Scotch (with its own subsections), and flavored.
Drink your way around the world from the casual comfort of Johnny’s.
17428 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach, CA 92647