Countless watering holes are scattered along the 3-mile stretch of the Balboa Peninsula, with the harbor on one side and the beach on the other. Whether you want to drink in style or tear up the dance floor on the north end of the peninsula, it’s the start of summer in Newport Beach, and all are welcome.
Hit the Dance Floor
Baja Sharkeez | 114 McFadden Place
Half sports bar and half beach cantina, the newly renovated Sharkeez is a stop on this tour for two reasons: The DJs know how to get the entire room moving and grooving, and the Baja tacos are off the charts. For visual stimulation, giant TV screens are always tuned to the sporting event of the day. Try the signature cocktails, or make up your own with a selection from the countless premium tequilas on the top shelf. Themed events—like Talk Derby to Me and Singles Awareness Day—add to the festive fun on the dance floor.
Woody’s Wharf | 2318 Newport Blvd.
The dance floor here might be small, but that doesn’t stop virtually everyone from gravitating to this oceanfront bar and restaurant. Maybe it’s something about the docked boats and the views of the harbor that gets everyone into the mood—our guess is that the heavy pours and Thursday drink specials are a deciding factor. Enjoy beats from a DJ Friday and Saturday nights, plus karaoke on Tuesday until midnight.
The Blue Beet | 107 21st Place
In a past life, the landmark building built in 1912 may have been a jazz club, but you wouldn’t discern that from the looks of it today. Ignore the 1980s hockey posters and the slightly musty smell, and head straight upstairs. This place boasts the only rooftop patio on the peninsula, with a view some would say is better than the one from the pier. Long after the sun sets, get sweaty on the dance floor to some live music—that’s when this place really comes alive. Nightly entertainment ranges from reggae and rock to jazz and cover bands.
21 Oceanfront Restaurant | 2100 W. Oceanfront
The elegant 21 Oceanfront is the place to be when the sun sinks into the horizon behind the pier. Local jazz musicians, guitarists and vocalists serenade lounge patrons as they enjoy classic martinis at the bar. If you have time for a decadent bite or two, the menu is traditional seafood and steakhouse fare; however, regulars can’t stop proclaiming their love for the lobster bisque and oyster selection. A glass of wine or Champagne sets the mood for what’s sure to be a memorable night out.
Cassidy’s Bar & Grill | 2603 Newport Blvd.
If ever there were a book that shouldn’t be judged by its cover, it would be Cassidy’s. One glance at the bathrooms and you’ll realize this is undoubtedly the diviest of all dive bars. But, if you’re willing to look past the decor (or lack thereof), you’ll soon find the bartenders are the most attentive and cheerful on the peninsula and can pour a stiff drink. Regulars also swear this joint has the best burger in town. Two pool tables and an arcade game or two should keep your friends focused on the fun instead of the sketchy surroundings.
Blackie’s by the Sea | 2118 W. Oceanfront
The interior of this place hasn’t seen a facelift in decades—it’s packed with nostalgic surf memorabilia, photographs and license plates. It doesn’t accept plastic and it doesn’t boast a craft beer selection. But, despite all these “shortcomings,” you may still have a hard time accessing the bar. Even on a Saturday night, this place is filled with die-hard regulars thanks to the strangely addicting pickled eggs and low prices on ice-cold brews. Stick around, however, and soon everyone will know your name.
The District Lounge | 121 McFadden Place
Despite being less lounge and more dive bar, The District Lounge is a winner in our eyes: First, your beer is served in a milk jug; second, the jukebox is at your disposal. Here, no one minds if your makeup is smudged or your shirt is wrinkled. You can capture it all on film with a quick snap in the photo booth, then fight your way to the front of the line for a game of pool.
—Written by Alina Orozco