The Top 10 Bars In Santa Cruz, California

Drinks © Pexels
Drinks © Pexels
Photo of Allen Mark Arañas
9 February 2017

Santa Cruz is a city that is still figuring out how to balance its small town identity with the constant flow of college students. In spite of this, there’s always one place where it can all come together – the bar. Whether you’re an eccentric local, an student, or even an interested visitor, there will always be a place to grab a quick drink. Here’s a list of ten must-visit Santa Cruz bars.

KC’s Sports Bar & Lounge

Bar, Pub Grub, American, $$$
Map View
For the longest time, there was never a stand-out place to grab drinks, eat some bar food, and watch the big games in town. Finally in 2014, owners Kanten ‘KC’ Venemon and Calvin Lee opened KC’s Sports Bar and Lounge, adding a different flavor to Santa Cruz’s downtown. They have both indoor and outdoor seating with numerous televisions both in and outside, making it impossible to miss your favorite team playing on the field. Plus, it’s only a two-minute walk from the Kaiser Permanente Arena, home of the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Poet & Patriot Irish Pub

Pub, Bar, Pub Grub, American
Map View
For a more bohemian and intellectual ambiance, the Poet & Patriot is the place to be. The faces of poet Padraig Pearse and patriot James Connolly are painted on a large, beautiful mural on its outer wall, greeting every patron as they walk in. The establishment embraces a pub-like theme with dart boards and occasionally having live Irish music. Every town needs a fun Irish pub and Poet & Patriot is exactly that.

515 Kitchen & Cocktails

What it lacks in space, 515 Kitchen & Cocktails makes up for in charm – it’s a classy establishment with a slower pace where you can enjoy yourself with a date or with a few friends. The drinks are on the pricier end, but they’re delicious and pair well with the small range of dishes provided. If you want to take a break from Santa Cruz’s quirkiness, 515 is an intimate and sophisticated getaway.

515 Kitchen & Cocktails, 515 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA, USA, +1 831 425 5051

The Red Cocktail Lounge

Bar, Restaurant, Cocktail Bar, American, Pub Grub, Cocktails
Map View
The Red Room
The Red Room | Courtesy of Chuck Jose
What’s great about ‘The Red Room‘ is that it’s technically two places; the main bar downstairs and the upstairs restaurant and lounge. The bar offers a classic early 20th-century vibe that’s illuminated with red lights, thus the name. Upstairs leads to the restaurant – filled with tables by day, becoming a lounge filled with couches by night. Later in the night it can get crowded when the DJ plays music, so arriving early – before 10pm – with a group of friends is advised in order to grab some comfortable couch space.

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Beer lovers, 99 Bottles will be your haven. The name isn’t just an ode to a classic, if annoying, American folk song for long car rides; they’ve selected 99 specific brews out of their never-ending beer menu for their 99 Bottles Card. If you drink all of them, then you’ve earned yourself a shirt, certificate, and a plaque on their Wall of Fame. If you’re really hungry, they also have the Kegger -a monster 9-inch, 2-pound burger. This is definitely the place to hang out with a group of friends and knock back a beer…or 99.

99 Bottles, 110 Walnut Ave, Santa Cruz, CA, USA, +1 831 459 9999

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

Priding themselves with their organic brews, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is a quintessential spot to try great beer. Their beer selection consists of their seven flagship ales (brown, amber, pale, IPA, wheat, stout, and porter), plus a choice from their seasonal options. Seating in the indoor Taproom is quaint and cozy, while the large outdoor Beer Garden is dog-friendly and perfect for soaking in the sun. In spite of not being located on the coastline, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is still able to offer the perfect beach vibe for which the city is known.

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, 402 Ingalls St, Santa Cruz, CA, USA, +1 831 425 4900


Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing | Courtesy of Chuck Jose

The Asti

Bar, Cafe, Pub Grub, American
Map View
Every town needs a solid dive bar, and The Asti is definitely the place to go in Santa Cruz. A Simpsons pinball machine greets you at the door, providing the welcome into a bar that’s usually filled with town locals. It feels a little somber in here – with their long bar, high wooden (but surprisingly comfortable) booths, dim lighting and cheap pool tables in the back, but it’s all this that brings out the dive-like charm. If you want a quick Jameson and Pabst Blue Ribbon before hitting up the rest of downtown, The Asti is your place.

Seabright Brewery

Restaurant, Pub, Pub Grub, American, $$$
Map View
Want to check out Santa Cruz’s oldest brewery? Always filled with locals and only a few blocks away from Seabright Beach, Seabright Brewery is a great place to experience the city’s beachy charm. While the establishment is more of a restaurant that offers traditional American food, they offer their hand-crafted brews that are more than worth a try – the Oatmeal Stout is highly recommended. Seabright Brewery is an obvious stop for easy summer days and a full Santa Cruz immersion.

Vino Prima Wine Bar

Bar, Wine Bar, Wine, American
Map View
Vino Prima sits right at the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf, so though it may attract a lot of beach tourists, the view and wine more than make up for it. No matter where you are seated, the Monterey Bay coast can be seen from almost every angle, and they offer over 35 different wines daily, either by flight or by glass, making sure you’ll find one to your liking. Vino Prima is a perfect place to end a long day of fun on the beach.

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