Best of 2018: Captain Cocktail in After Hours


Whiskey and June

5950 El Camino Real, Atascadero

Cocktails? Swanky vibe? Jukebox tunes? I'm in! Whiskey and June owners Daniel and Erin Green describe their vision as "being one that preserves the vibe of a good old fashioned street bar that you would expect to walk into during the '50s or '60s, with the added luxury of modern amenities and inventory." Boasting more than 150 whiskeys and a flair for classic cocktails, this place is popular. "We have a bar that is welcoming to anyone and everyone and is truly a comfortable place to just be who you are," Green said. I know where I'll be getting my next Manhattan.


runner-up: Pappy McGregor's

HIP AND HAPPENING Bartender Jessica Doyle serves up a cold one at the best North Coast bar in the county, The Siren in Morro Bay. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • HIP AND HAPPENING Bartender Jessica Doyle serves up a cold one at the best North Coast bar in the county, The Siren in Morro Bay.


The Siren

900 Main St., Morro Bay

With the motto of "Rhythm and Booze," it's no wonder The Siren has won the hearts of SLOcals, especially live music enthusiasts. With five shows happening weekly, this place is keeping groovers on their feet. Manager Monte Schaller describes his vision for the place as one whose "overall vibe pays homage to what this place used to be and the local scene of Morro Bay." The Siren still boasts the same comforts of a local watering hole, where you can shoot pool, watch the game, or hang out on the patio, nestled against a warm fire ... not to mention see great live acts from near and far.


runner-up: Old Cayucos Tavern


SLO Brew

736 Higuera St., SLO

About two years ago SLO Brew closed its doors on Garden Street and moved front and center on Higuera Street. Now the whole atmosphere of the bar is different; enjoy a Growler burger for lunch outside, with a view of downtown or the creek. Waltz in during the evening, and the dance floor comes alive. "We think the key to our success is the diversity of our programming at SLO Brew during the late night hours, which sets us apart as the leader in downtown nightlife. We also started a Rockin' $5 Happy Hour," Marketing Director Johnny Kenny said.


runner-up: Black Sheep Bar and Grill


Mason Bar and Kitchen

307 Mason St., Arroyo Grande

When Mason Bar and Kitchen opened its doors in May 2015, it was reminiscent of a modern-day speakeasy, adding another element to the tiny slice of Village nightlife, albeit with a slight twist. There isn't a whole lot to do in this little town after the sun sets, or beforehand for that matter. Mason didn't have the typical bar crowd—it's a little more adult than that, but it did and does have great small craft beers (cider, too) on rotation and umpteen slyly crafted cocktails to get a little fancy. There's also a gastro pub with fun food like lobster corn dogs.


runner-up: Bill's Place


Mr. Rick's

404 Front St., Avila Beach

A day in Avila Beach almost always ends—or begins—at Mr. Rick's. With open seating on a large front patio that's good for people-watching, running into friends, and staring at the ocean, it's pretty much the Avila spot. Keep those cocktails flowing and eventually the drunk munchies will start gnawing. Luckily, they've got nachos for that or a fish sandwich, wings, or a burger. Monday through Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m., you can enjoy $3 well drinks, beer pitcher specials, and discounted appetizers. And catch music most weekend evenings for a spin, or seven, around the dance floor.


runner-up: Harry's Night Club and Beach Bar

STILL OF DREAMS Re:Find Distillery owner Alex Villicana built one of the first (and best) distilleries in SLO County with his wife, Monica. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • STILL OF DREAMS Re:Find Distillery owner Alex Villicana built one of the first (and best) distilleries in SLO County with his wife, Monica.


Re:Find Handcrafted Spirits

2735 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles

True to its name, Re:Find distillery is committed to putting every part of the winemaking process to use, including using coveted free-run juice to craft delicious, clean spirits. Thus was born the distillery that proprietor Monica Villicana describes as "committed to using all-natural local ingredients, bringing locally grown and crafted farm-to-bottle spirits to the Central Coast." Spirits range from vodka to whiskeys and liqueurs, and their tasting room is open daily for educational tastings and tours. Monica puts it perfectly, saying, "Re:Find started the craft distilling movement on the Central Coast, and you can taste the authenticity."


runner-up: KrŌbar Craft Distillery


Mother's Tavern

725 Higuera St., SLO

With DJ dance parties Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and the occasional live band, there's always a line stretching down Higuera Street around midnight. Those wee hours are made for bumpin', grindin', and booty shakin'—and that's definitely what's going down after the dinner tables are moved into the back and the lights dim. But, there's more than that at this downtown SLO nightlife staple. Karaoke on Sunday/Monday, Pint Night on Tuesday, TOT Night (taters) on Wednesday, and two-for-one drinks on Thursday mean this establishment is interested in more than being your one-night-a week dance party stop.


runner-up: The Graduate


SLO Brew

736 Higuera St., SLO

Daily, a team of SLO Brew experts is listening to music, searching the charts, and looking for the best, trending up-and-coming acts, according to Marketing Director Johnny Kenny. "Music is like the ocean; no matter how much you explore, there is still so much yet undiscovered. We are on a constant search for new music and the hottest acts to book," Kenny said. The venue's team is also listening to its patrons. The venue now removes the booths (that are used for seating during the lunch and dinner hours), freeing up dance floor space, and has added more lighting.


runner-up: The Siren


Novo Restaurant and Lounge

726 Higuera St., SLO

Although the menu is a tad pricy (but worth it), Novo Restaurant and Lounge remains a popular spot for first dates. "It's probably because it's sort of upscale casual. It's not too fancy," owner Robin Covey said. "The outdoors helps to make it casual, and the menu is really diverse; it's really accessible to everyone. Covey said that people in their 20s often come in for date night, to nibble on popular appetizers like the spring rolls with shrimp and avocado or the calamari and sip on Moscow mules or a local pinot noir.


runner-up: Giuseppe's Cucina Rustica

GRAB THE MIC  (Left to right) Marcy Maretti, Megan Brewer, Jenny Taylor, and Lynda Basil belt it out during karaoke at Bill’s Place. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • GRAB THE MIC (Left to right) Marcy Maretti, Megan Brewer, Jenny Taylor, and Lynda Basil belt it out during karaoke at Bill’s Place.


Bill's Place

112 E. Branch St., Arroyo Grande

So you've had a few drinks and now have the courage to get up and show the world that you can belt out "Don't Stop Believin'" like no one else. Whether you're the next undiscovered singing superstar or someone who couldn't carry a tune in a wheelbarrow, Bill's Place in Arroyo Grande is the place for great karaoke. The bar offers karaoke Thursday through Sunday. Thursday and Sunday are dedicated to country western karaoke, so shine up yer boots and practice that Nashville twang. The remaining days are for any type of music. Have at it, SLO County songbirds!


runner-up: Harry's Night Club & Beach Bar


Bear Market Riot

"Seven instruments from two guys with beards trying to do as much good as we can with our music," Bear Market Riot's Nick Motil said about his band of two. Motil and Kirk Nordby came together in 2014. The dynamic duo sings and plays acoustic guitar, drums—a makeshift hat/kick drum and foot-tambourine— baritone acoustic guitar, and harmonica. The two try to evoke joy in their concerts even if it comes from a place of sadness. "You're tapping your feet and maybe even dancing and singing along to someone else's heartaches, but it makes you feel so good," Motil said.


runner-up: Soundhouse


Central Coast Brewing

1422 Monterey St., 6 Higuera St., SLO

Now that Central Coast Brewing has two locations, you can enjoy twice the amount of local, award-winning beer. The brewery's new, bigger location on Higuera Street boasts an outdoor fire pit, a family-friendly arcade-style game room, pizza and sliders, and taps with Monterey Street Pale Ale, Luck of the IPA, and whatever hazy beer is in stock. "It's always been a local favorite, but it's not very big," head brewer Brendan Gough said of the Monterey Street spot. "The opening of our new location is an opportunity to share our beer and culture with more people."


runner-up: Libertine Brewing Company


Sidecar Cocktail Co.

1127 Broad St., SLO

From mezcal to gin to whiskey to bitters, Sidecar Cocktail Co. in SLO has without a doubt the fanciest, most carefully curated boozy confections on lockdown. "We've demonstrated that we're willing to take risks, " owner Josh Christensen said. The bar recently slimmed down its famously large menu to just 12 cocktails, including hits like bourbon-based drink The Cubin Missile Crisis along with The Bed Took Fire, featuring tequila and Velvet Falernum. "It's a super eclectic menu," Christensen said. Sidecar Cocktail Co. offers drinks half off every day during happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m.


runner-up: Luna Red


La Esquina Taqueria

1049 Nipomo St., SLO

From a table with a window view, owner Leonard Cohen points to a wall in the kitchen area that's visible from the table. "We have about 10 or 12 different infusions of tequila. So when we make our margaritas, we're using an infused tequila. It means in the infusion process, the fruit flavor goes into the tequila," Cohen said, "so you're getting this smooth fruity tequila that you're putting into this tequila." Cohen prides himself on doling out hand-crafted margaritas: no lime juice out of a bottle, no premix, no sweet and sour. It's pure, fresh, and delish.


runner-up: Fish Gaucho


Sidecar Cocktail Co.

1127 Broad St., SLO

For several years, readers have voted Sidecar Cocktail Co.'s bloody mary the best in the land. Little did they know, they have yet to vote on the same exact boozy morning beverage. "Every single year we've changed the recipe for our bloody mary," owner Josh Christensen said. "Every single change is an improvement." The current iteration boasts 42 ingredients, including fresh horseradish, ginger, cardamom, celery seed, Worcestershire sauce, house-made hot sauce, roasted jalapeños, and heirloom tomatoes. Each batch is prepped Wednesday or Thursday for the weekend brunch. "It just gets better as it ages for a few days," Christensen said.


runner-up: Custom House


Luna Red

1023 Chorro St., SLO

For a classy night of delectable apps and boozy cocktails, Luna Red's happy hour can't be beat. Bacon-wrapped dates, sangria, wine, beer, and more are all just $6 every day from 3 to 6 p.m. "I don't know that you could find a better deal," General Manager Tyler Cotton said. "And there are a lot of options." While sitting on the patio overlooking the mission, patrons can enjoy everything on the tapas menu, from split pea hummus to papas bravas, at a steep discount.


runner-up: Sidecar Cocktail Co.


Firestone Grill

1001 Higuera St., SLO

There are a lot of places to watch the game, but there's only one Firestone Grill. That's where New Times readers like to watch a ballgame. Maybe it's the rows of big-screen TVs, showing multiple games across several sports and the support for Cal Poly's Mustangs on display, but local sports fans feel at home there. It might also have something to do with the cold beers on draft, friendly bar staff, and of course, the food. Nothing brings the communal spirit of a sports game together like a reasonably priced basket of onion rings, some fries, burgers, and drinks.


runner-up: Buffalo Wild Wings


Tolosa Winery

4910 Edna Road, SLO

With new wine equipment and a new attitude, Tolosa Winery is ready to pour you a glass of their finest pinot noir. "We've undergone a lot of changes in the past few years," General Manager June McIvor said. "We're really focused on the quality of our pinot noirs, which is our specialty, and improving the level of hospitality." Tolosa's Primavera, the winery's new flagship pinot noir, is "the best of the best," according to McIvor, while its 1772 pinot noir is "a beautiful, pure expression of pinot noir."


runner-up: Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards


Chamisal Vineyards

7525 Orcutt Road, SLO

When it comes to chardonnay, Chamisal Vineyards has something for everyone. "We're known for chardonnay here," trade liaison CJ Sigler said. "The quality has been there over the years. We have a spectrum of chardonnay that suits all tastes." Don't like the typical buttery chard? Then the stainless chardonnay with a cleaner, crisper taste is perfect. Those looking for a creamier style of chardonnay can happily sip the reserve Califa. Right now you can also get your hands on the winery's rosé made from pinot noir, which Sigler expects will be sold out by the end of May.


runner-up: Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards


Laetitia Vineyard And Winery

453 Laetitia Vineyard Drive, Arroyo Grande

To choose between a selection of seven sparkling wines, drop by the only established sparkling wine house in San Luis Obispo County: Laetitia Vineyard and Winery. They use the Champagne region of France's method of producing sparkling wine in-house. "It's affordable, it's local, and there's a history," said Georgie Hackett, sales/marketing manager for the winery. Favorites include the brut rosé ("It's pink and it's dry," Hackett said) and the Cuve M ("Lots of yeasty notes. It's also dry.").


runner-up: Tobin James Cellars


Firestone Walker Brewing Company

1400 Ramada Drive, Paso Robles

It's crazy how much Firestone Walker has grown in the past two decades. It's no longer just a brew for the 805. It's spread into states near and far, but Central Coast residents are still in love with what that brewery is cooking, cooling, and fermenting in its ever-growing Paso brewhouse. The Lion (David Walker), The Bear (Adam Firestone), and The Brewmaster (Matt Brynildson) have created a beer monster. And Firestone has three more medals to add to its awards cabinet. The C-Hops pale ale, DBA, and STiVO all won gold at the 2018 World Beer Cup. Yeah, buddy!


runner-up: BarrelHouse Brewery


Edna Valley Vineyard

2585 Biddle Ranch Road, SLO

Wine tasting with a view has reached new heights with Edna Valley Vineyards tasting room that opened up last year. The tasting room is equipped with large windows and outdoor seating next to a stone fire pit. The view displays the beauty of San Luis Obispo and the Edna Valley. Green hills and rows of grape vines on a sunny day is the perfect backdrop for a few sips at Edna Valley. The tasting room offers new tasting experiences such as the 18 Barrel Flight, an engaging tasting experience that features five of the vineyard's most exclusive limited release wines.


runner-up: Tolosa Winery


Luis Wine Bar

1021 Higuera St., SLO

For five years, readers have voted Luis the best wine bar in SLO County. "The location is great, we have a wide variety of wines and craft beer, and I think people like that our wines are always changing," owner Vanessa North said. Enjoy a glass or two out on the back patio. Throughout May, the bar will focus on wines from the Valle de Guadalupe region in Baja, Mexico, with a white and red flight representing that area, along with a local wine that emulates that region's style of wine.


runner-up: Stax Wine Bar and Bistro


Hop On Beer Tours

San Luis Obispo

When asked about his favorite part of Hop On Beer Tours, founder Brant Myers chuckled and said, "You mean besides drinking?" But Myers is passionate about the bus itself. Designed to look like a pub, it has all the trimmings—hardwood floor, artwork on the walls, windows to enjoy the the Central Coast, and a bar with snacks and water. Myers said he created the company because there was a need for a tour that showed off more than wine. The tour covers 30 breweries, traveling 60 miles along Highway 101. "We like to say from Firestone to Firestone," Myers said.


runner-up: SLO Safe Ride

DRINK IT IN A jalapeño margarita enjoys one of the best views in the county, from the Ventana Grill deck, perched above the Pacific in Pismo Beach. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • DRINK IT IN A jalapeño margarita enjoys one of the best views in the county, from the Ventana Grill deck, perched above the Pacific in Pismo Beach.


Ventana Grill

2575 Price St., Pismo Beach

People come from far and wide just to get a seat at Ventana Grill, especially as the sun goes down. Enough New Times readers have enjoyed the vista while sipping some of Ventana's specialty drinks that the picturesque locale has won Best Drink with a View over and over. Windows surround the bar and dining areas, so there isn't really a bad spot in the house. And if you haven't stepped out on the balcony perched on the Pismo bluffs with a sparkling sangria or cucumber ginger martini in hand, what are you waiting for?


runner-up: Marisol at the Cliffs


Josh Christensen, Sidecar Cocktail Co.

1127 Broad St., SLO

Josh Christensen, owner of Sidecar Cocktail Co., is a busy guy and doesn't spend as much time behind the bar as he used to. Still the good people of SLO have dubbed him best beverage slinger. "It's probably because I talk a lot," Christensen joked. He can be heard on the radio once a week chatting about cocktails, and he often tends bar at catering events off-site. "I think the community associates me with the bar staff," Christensen said, adding that all his employees focus on education, technique, and serving people with a genuine spirit.


runner-up: Nicole, Black Sheep Bar and Grill


Scout Coffee Co.

1130 Garden St., 880 Foothill Blvd., SLO

Now with two locations, there are even more opportunities for SLOcals to get their Scout Coffee fix, whether your drink of choice is a honey tea bowl, an almond milk latte (with house-made almond milk), a sparkling iced tea, or a simple cup of joe. Scout Coffee is owned by Sara and Jon Peterson, who dreamed of opening their own coffee shop. The duo also has their own coffee roasting biz, HoneyCo, which offers a wide range of styles and roast profiles, with coffees to fit nearly every coffee drinker—from light and bright, to extremely balanced and chocolatey blends and espresso options.


runner-up: Nautical Bean Café


SLO Roasted Coffee

1172 Los Olivos Ave., Los Osos

Siblings Julie and Chris Galloway are the third-generation owners of SLO County's favorite coffee roaster—thriving since 1984. Julie said what keeps them going strong is a tried-and-true European roasting touch and dedicated customer base. "We really have the best following and the best clientele," she said. In 2017, Julie and Chris introduced a cold brew to the mix that you can find in California Fresh Market in Pismo Beach and the Lassen's Natural Foods stores. "That's something we went big on," Julie said. This roaster is also mobile now, so you can add an "espresso cart" to your next event!


runner-up: Coastal Peaks Coffee

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