It’s no secret that Californians knows how to fuel a good time, from craft brews to frozen boozy concoctions that are surprisingly potent. Here are the top watering holes to grab a drink throughout the state, whether you prefer a pirate-themed bar where rum is king or a spot dedicated to the 70’s where after a few drinks you will think you time traveled back a few decades.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
1. Good Times at Davey Wayne’s (Los Angeles)
Step through an oversized refrigerator at Good Times and dance the night away to 70’s music, fueled by alcoholic snow cones and delicious secret-family-recipe BBQ. Drinks are strong, with names like “The Fat Elvis,” and the “Village People.” The dress code is California casual, but no athletic wear or shorts after dark.
2. Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco)
For those who like their drinks fruity and strong, this pirate-themed bar is one-of-a-kind. You are transported into a lawless place, where dimly lit lanterns light your way. Rum is the poison of choice here. Check out one of the specialty drinks, like their classic Mai Tai. If you are with a group, the Top Notch Volcano is an adventure in itself for those who are daring enough.
3. Gestalt Haus Fairfax
Gestalt Haus is the perfect spot to refuel after a bike ride on one of the nearby trails. The clientele is mostly clad in body-tight spandex and proudly hang their rides on the full-wall biker’s rack inside. There are delicious wursts to choose from, flavorful sides like potato salad and a collection of German (as well as local) brews on tap.
4. Shotwell’s (San Francisco)
From the mysterious bullet holes in the bar panels to the original back bar that survived a train trip from coast to coast, this century-old dive bar is one of the city’s treasured haunts. The drink menu is limited to wine, beer and ciders. You can bring your favorite food from a nearby restaurant to nibble on – and your four-legged friend.
5. Angel City Brewery (Los Angeles)
One of the best places to find California’s craft beers is ACB in the heart of downtown LA’s Arts District. Grab the “Marilyn Blond” and take a seat at one of their upstairs picnic tables. There is always a food truck downstairs. Board games to live music at night make this brewery a must-stop. Stop by the angel wings mural on the wall outside for a perfect Insta shot.
6. The Trappist (Oakland)
This well-loved neighborhood spot, specializing in Belgian and other specialty beers, is housed in an 1870’s Victorian building. The interior pays homage to Belgian pubs with plenty of beer décor adorning the walls. 25 rotating taps are available. Leave room for food, as they offer delicious sandwiches and cheese boards.
7. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens (San Diego)
This craft brewery, housed in the historic Liberty Station, is the tenth largest craft brewer in the U.S. There are a beer garden, a large indoor dining area and the brewery itself (tours are recommended). The beer is the star here (including a delicious gluten-free option), but the food holds its own, with options like duck tacos and shrimp and grits. You can get a variety of their beers in growlers to go in their shop.
8. The Shady Lady Saloon (Sacramento)
The Shady Lady features a New Orleans-like dark interior and live jazz. Come for the drinks like the Horse’s Neck or Gin Daisy, but do not overlook crowd favorites like biscuits and gravy and shrimp po boys. Brunch is served on the weekends, with items like buttermilk pancakes and duck sausage breakfast scramble.
9. Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (Anaheim)
Trader Sam’s is in the Disneyland Hotel. From the tropical island décor to the surprisingly strong blended drinks, it feels like you have been transported to the South Pacific. The Mai Tai is a popular choice with a blend of rums, sweet orange, agave and lime flavors, or their OH-HA! that comes with its own souvenir tiki bowl.
10. Brew Cruz (Santa Cruz)
Let local beer enthusiast Annie Pautsch show you the way around town in Betty Jane, a renovated 1989 school bus. You’ll travel with plush seating, installed sound system, hardwood floors and plenty of coolers where you can stash your own store-bought beers in. Get ready for a memorable night out.
11. Drake’s Dealership (Oakland)
Situated in a former car sales lot in part of Oakland’s Auto Row, Drake’s is a great place to catch some rays in their garden, as you sip on a cold brew. Go for their Electric Owl (coffee ale) or their Pomegranate Cider or any of their excellent drinks. All ages are welcome, as well as Fido.