Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

I, perhaps foolishly, put off buying a car after moving to the Coachella Valley—and, therefore, have been depriving myself of all that the Coachella Valley has to offer outside of Palm Springs proper.

However, I recently was able to get a taste of what I’ve been missing. It happened after an abortive trip to help my friend get locals’ Coachella tickets at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden; we decided to make the most of the trip and have an early lunch—and perhaps an adult beverage or two. We decided to try Eureka! in Indian Wells, a place that several people had suggested to me over the last few months.

The bartender, Kris, was super-attentive, guiding me through the cocktail menu as my companion desperately searched Craigslist for tickets (against my advice!). I settled on The Industry and Holy Smokes! to start.

The Industry is an easy-going mix of tequila, pineapple, ginger, orange and cilantro. Should you find yourself looking for a cocktail to mollify a disappointing morning, I highly suggest it. It is a tasty concoction (it’s hard not to be tasty with pineapple and orange; they go together like peanut butter and jelly) and went down smoothly on an empty stomach. Breakfast!

I waited until my (very tasty) burger showed up to get the Holy Smokes!, a riff on an Old Fashioned. It comes with no shortage of flash; they use a smoker with hickory chips to fumigate the Mason jar in which it is served. After waiting the recommended 45 seconds, I took the lid off and got my first taste of the smoke, bourbon, maple syrup and chocolate bitters. It tasted like childhood—minus the bourbon, of course, like summer by the lake in New England toasting s’mores over a campfire. Interestingly, it took a couple of sips to get that memory right. At first, I thought of campfires, then hard chocolate candy, then marshmallow; finally, I put it all together. I would prefer a tad less maple—the sweetness became a bit much as I sipped—but I would definitely order it again, because it is a really nice cocktail. (For heaven’s sake, though, never order a drink “less sweet” if you haven’t tried it before. Trust your bartender!)

Kris then walked me through the most impressive part of the place: the back bar. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I always judge a place by its back bar. The selection of whiskey was unique, to say the least. Not to toot my own horn, but it is rare for me to not know even one bottle on a back bar, and they had at least 10 with which I was not familiar. Since I wasn’t driving, and had already planned on a nap, I treated myself to a pour of their house label (!) single malt, Cask 311. It was served in a snifter, and the first thing that hit me was the alcohol—whoa, was it hot. After adding a few drops of water (trust and try, folks), I got maple and honey on the nose, changing to pecans and hazelnuts on the palate. It was a nice American take on a Highland Scotch.

Back in Palm Springs … speaking of back bars, I got a chance to see one of the best around at Truss and Twine. Actually, I got to see it twice—once before the bar’s opening, and once a few weeks into operation.

I always like to give a place a little time to find its rhythm before I show up with my obnoxious criticism. Full disclosure: Several of the guys who work here are buddies of mine … and that means I really want to bust their chops. That being said, there isn’t too much to bust here. The menu is unlike any in the Coachella Valley (that I have seen or heard about, at least), having been broken into cocktail eras. They cover it all (ambitious!), even the “Dark Ages” of the Surfer on Acid and the White Russian. Never mind that I began my bartending journey in the “Dark Ages”; we have come a long way in just a couple of decades, and reinventing these drinks has been a minor trend in the big cities for a couple of years. It’s novel to see it here in Palm Springs, as I do enjoy a quality White Russian now and then.

The first time I showed up—hilariously and accidentally in a blue denim shirt, which happens to be the Truss and Twine uniform—I got a sneak peak at bar manager Dave Castillo’s Game Changer, a marriage of the Eastside and the Oceanside cocktail with the mint replaced with … wait for it … onion brine! Kudos to him for using an actual original ingredient. (My experiments with muddled pretzels are not going as well as planned.) The onion brine brings a funky dimension to the drink. It’s not for everyone, but give it try if you’re feeling frisky.

For those feeling less-adventurous, I suggest the Queen’s Park Swizzle, a drink with Caribbean roots dating back to the 1920s. At its heart, it’s Demerara rum, lime, mint and Angostura bitters (or “ango” in the business parlance). The drink comes out looking like a traffic light, with the red ango on top, green mint on the bottom, and yellow in the middle—an inviting presentation. It goes down easy.

Sadly, I was not really in a cocktail mood, as I’d been dosing myself with tiki drinks before arriving, so I mostly accompanied the (excellent) steak tartare with a couple of glasses of nice rye whiskey. The whiskey options are great, and the DJ spinning throwback jams added a nice touch. The cocktails run between $10 and $16, but there are several nice happy-hour options for us thrifty locals looking to unwind in the afternoon.

And afternoon drinking is a basic right in the desert, yes?

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Seymour’s/Mr. Lyons and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Here are the results of the third annual Best of Coachella Valley readers' poll!

An all-time-high number of people voted in both rounds this year—and the slate of winners and finalists represent all parts of the valley.

Come celebrate the winners with us during the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017 Awards Show and Celebration, presented by Renova Solar. It will take place at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Copa Nightclub—this year's Best Nightclub winner.

Thanks to all of you who voted in this year's poll!

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017.

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene


Runners up:


3. Heather James

4. Melissa Morgan


Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre


Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Date Shed


Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. McCallum Theatre

4. La Quinta Arts Foundation

5. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre


Best Local Band

Venus and the Traps


Runners up:

2. The Flusters

3. Brightener

4. The Myx

5. War Drum


Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha


Runners up:

2. DJ Day

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Pwee

5. Tommy Locust


Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika Von Rabbit


Runners up:

2. Nico Flores

3. Keisha D

4. Kal David

5. EeVaan Tre


Best Local Visual Artist

Sofia Enriquez


Runners up:

2. Elena Bulatova

3. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

4. Marconi Calindas


Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD


Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres


Regal Palm Springs Stadium 9

Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

5. Century Theatres at the River


Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Coachella Valley History Museum

4. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

5. La Quinta Museum


Best Outdoor Venue

Empire Polo Club


Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Coyote StageWorks

5. Dezart Performs



Best Alternative Health Center

La Quinta Wellness Center


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Healing Center

3. Desert Hot Springs Health and Wellness Center


Best Farmers’ Market

College of the Desert Street Fair Farmers’ Market


Runners up:

2. Certified Farmers’ Market Old Town La Quinta

3. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Springs

4. Palm Springs VillageFest

5. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Desert


Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Coachella Valley Rescue Mission


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Animal Shelter

3. Desert AIDS Project

4. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

5. Shelter From the Storm


Best Gym

24 Hour Fitness


Runners up:

2. World Gym

3. EOS Fitness

4. In-Shape

5. Planet Fitness


Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans

3. Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon

4. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors


Best Yoga

Urban Yoga


Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Palm Desert-El Paseo

3. TIE

Evolve Yoga

Yoga Central

5. Bikram Yoga University Village


Best Bowling

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes Bowling at Morongo


Best Auto Repair

Palms to Pines Automotive


Runners up:

2. Desert Classic Cars

3. Desert Lexus

4. L&L Automotive

5. Singh’s Automotive Repair


Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Indio Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash


Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center


Runners up:

2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Bob Williams Nursery


Best Pet Supplies



Runners up:

2. Bones ’n’ Scones

3. PetSmart

4. Miriam’s Poochella Grooming

5. Desert Feed Bag


Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars (AIDS Assistance Program)


Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

3. Ramblin’ and Gamblin’ (Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Desert)

4. Dinner in the Canyons (Agua Caliente Cultural Museum)

5. Center Stage (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)


Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29


Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3


Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2


Best Local TV News Personality

Ginger Jeffries, KMIR Channel 6


Runners up:

2. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6


Best Local Radio Station

Mix 100.5


Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin 99.5 FM

4. K-News 94.3

5. La Ponderosa 96.7 FM


Best Local Radio Personality

Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3 FM


Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Mozingo, Mix 100.5

4. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, Sunny 103.1 FM


Best Bookstore

Barnes & Noble


Runners up:

2. Rancho Mirage Public Library Booknook

3. Revivals

4. The Book Rack


Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley


Runners up:

2. Best Buy

3. Barnes and Noble


Best Comics/Games Shop

Game Stop


2. Desert Oasis

3. Interstellar Comic Books and Collectables


Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club


Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. The Riviera

5. The Saguaro


Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty


Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Spencer’s Gifts

4. GayMart



Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s


2. Wil Stiles

3. Glossy


Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Angel View


Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Gypsyland

4. Penny Lane Boutique

5. Plato’s Closet


Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers


Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Ashley Furniture Homestore

4. Mor Furniture for Less


Best Antiques/Collectables Store


The Estate Sale Co

Victoria’s Attic


Runners up:

3. Misty’s Consignments

4. Classic Consignment


Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers


Runners up:

Leeds and Son


Daniel’s Jewelers

Robann’s Jewelers


Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon


Runners up:

2. Salon 119 and Spa

3. Dishwater Blonde Salon

4. Revive Salon and Spa

5. Read Brown


Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Spa La Quinta (La Quinta Resort)


Runners up:

2. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

3. Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Well Spa at Miramonte


Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy


Runners up:

2. Desert Zen

3. Studio M Salon and Spa

4. Revive Wellness Center

5. Bliss Chakra Spa


Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop


Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Palm Springs Florist

5. Lotus Garden Center


Best Tattoo Parlor


Art and Ink Tattoo Studio

The Tattoo Gallery


Runners up:

3. Flagship Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab


Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer



Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Milauskas Eye Institute

4. Walmart

5. Old Town Optometry



Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo


Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Downtown Palm Springs


Best Public Garden

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Sunnylands

4. El Paseo

5. Ruth Hardy Park


Best Place for Bicycling

La Quinta


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs

3. Palm Desert

4. Highway 74

5. Frank Sinatra Drive


Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree


Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon

3. Whitewater Preserve

4. Lake Cahuilla

5. Coachella Valley Preserve


Best Hike

Bump and Grind


Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Tahquitz Canyon

4. Palm Springs Museum Trail

5. South Lykken Trail


Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Runners up:

2. TIE

Freedom Park (Palm Desert)

Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Las Flores (Coachella)

5. Demuth Park (Palm Springs)


Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart


Best Bike Shop

Palm Desert Cyclery


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Cyclery

3. Tri-A-Bike

4. Joel’s Bicycle Shop


Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

5. PGA Tour Superstore


Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort


Runners up:

2. PGA West

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course at Fantasy Springs

4. The Golf Club at Terra Lago

5. The Lights at Indio Golf Course



Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Mirage Community Park

5. Cathedral City Town Square


Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys “R” Us


Runners up:

2. Mr. G’s for Kids

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Big Lots


Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy


Runners up:

2. The Childrens Place

3. Tillys

4. Fallas

5. Revivals


Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s


Runners up:

2. Shakey’s Pizza

3. Red Robin

4. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

5. Old Spaghetti Factory


Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Boomers

4. Chuck E. Cheese

5. Desert Ice Castle


Best Place for a Birthday Party

Chuck E. Cheese’s


Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Boomers

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Desert Ice Castle



Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. In-n-Out Burger

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eureka!

5. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro


2. Lavender Bistro

3. Jennifer’s Kitchen and Catering

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Cello’s Pantry


Best Diner

Keedy’s Fountain Grill


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

3. Elmer’s

4. John’s

5. Rick’s Restaurant


Best Organic Food Store

Trader Joe’s


2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Whole Foods

4. Harvest Health Foods

5. Clark’s Nutrition


Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Real Italian Deli

5. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace


Best Custom Cakes


Over the Rainbow

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Exquisite Desserts


Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. French Corner Café

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Manhattan in the Desert


Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery


Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Ben and Jerry’s

4. Brandini Toffee

5. Creamistry


Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden


Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes


Best Frozen Yogurt



2. Beach House

3. Golden Spoon

4. Jus Chillin

5. Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt


Best Bakery

French Corner Café


Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Over the Rainbow

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries


Best Barbecue

Smoke Tree BBQ Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit


Best Burger

In-n-Out Burger


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Tyler’s Burgers

4. Eureka!

5. Smokin’ Burgers and Lounge


Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Trio

5. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge


Best Sandwich

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills


Best Pizza

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Bill’s Pizza

3. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

4. Piero’s PizzaVino

5. Blaze Pizza


Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings


Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Wingstop

4. Neil’s Lounge

5. Billy Q’s


Best Bagels

Townie Bagels


Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Einstein Bros. Bagels

5. Manhattan in the Desert


Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar


Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Juice It Up

4. Beach House Yogurt


Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo


Best Coffee Shop for Coffee



Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. IW Coffee

4. Vintage Coffee House

5. Ristretto


Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out



Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Old Town Coffee

4. IW Coffee

5. Ernst Coffee


Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf


Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Teavana

4. Koffi

5. Ristretto


Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s Café


Runners up:

2. Elmer’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Sunshine Cafe

5. John’s


Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Cliffhouse

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Spencer’s Restaurant

5. Trio


Best Brunch

Pinocchio in the Desert


Runners up:

2. Wilma and Frieda’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Louise’s Pantry

5. The Tropicale


Best Chinese

PF Chang’s


Runners up:

2. City Wok

3. Wang’s in the Desert

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. New Fortune


Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Miro’s Restaurant

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Athena Gyro


Best French

La Brasserie


Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. Le Vallauris

4. Cuistot

5. Chez Pierre


Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine


Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House


Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Shogun Restaurant


Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Cafe


Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Castelli’s

4. Trilussa

5. Livreri’s Palm Springs


Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar


Runners up:

The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

Shogun Restaurant

Dragon Sushi

Edoko Sushi


Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Spencer’s Restaurant


Best Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House

3. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

4. TIE

Morgan’s in the Desert

Steakhouse at the Spa


Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Thai House

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Le Basil

5. Blue Orchid


Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu


Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

5. Pho Na


Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. Café Jasmin


Best Upscale Cuisine

Spencer’s Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Wally’s Desert Turtle

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s


Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch


Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

4. Lavender Bistro

5. The Tropicale


Best Late-Night Restaurant

Yard House


Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Alicante

4. Smokin’ Burgers

5. Bongo Johnny’s


Best Mexican

La Casita


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill’

5. Casa Mendoza


Best Salsa

Las Casuelas (Original)


Runners up:

2. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Las Casuelas Quinta

5. Felipe’s


Best Burrito

Taqueria Guerrero


Runners up:

2. Castaneda’s Mexican Food

3. Chipotle

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza



Best Beer Selection

Yard House


Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Eureka!

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House


Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House


Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter


Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hunters

4. Bart Lounge

5. Score the Game Bar


Best Cocktail Menu

Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar


Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Eureka!

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Trio


Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club



Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. Hunters

4. The Tropicale

5. Spurline


Best Happy Hour

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Applebee’s

3. The Tropicale

4. La Quinta Cliffhouse

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo


Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza


Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hair of the Dog

4. Red Barn

5. Score


Best Margarita

Las Casuelas (Original)


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza


Best Martini

Sullivan’s Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Mitch’s on El Paseo

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. The Tropicale

5. Trio


Best Nightclub



Runners up:

2. Zelda’s

3. Hunter’s

4. Bart Lounge

5. Chill Bar


Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter


Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Buffalo Wild Wings

4. Alicante

5. Village Pub


Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro


Runners up:

2. Sullivan’s Steakhouse

3. La Rue Wine Bar

4. Vue Grille and Bar

5. Dead or Alive


Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More


Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Costco

4. Trader Joe’s

5. Fame Lounge



Best Bar Ambiance



Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. The Tropicale

4. Matchbox

5. Workshop Kitchen+Bar

Published in Readers' Picks

I’m leaning back in a comfy bucket seat behind the driver of the Troutmobile—a Ford SUV. My tummy’s full of breakfast: poached duck eggs and mimosas from a wine bar in Arcata, Calif.

This is a fine way to start a quirky Humboldt County wine-tasting tour. I’ve joined an adventure that will end tonight with a private tasting at Coates Vineyards.

The winery is remote—in the Six Rivers National Forest, not far from the bustling unincorporated community of Orleans, which is 12 miles east of Weitchpec. Surely you’ve heard of Weitchpec. No? It’s at the juncture of the Trinity and Klamath rivers in Humboldt County—not far from the Pacific’s Lost Coast. This area is better known for crops other than wine.

The Coates Winery is a 12.5-hour drive north from Palm Springs and a mere 2.5 hours from Humboldt’s largest center of commerce, Eureka. About 15 wineries are listed as members on a Humboldt Wine Association website. Several more listed as nonmembers. Coates is one of the latter.

This is northern Northern California. In my vast 15 minutes of Internet research, I can’t find another California winery further north than Coates. Robin and Norman Coates’ all-organic vineyards are so remote that the grapes can grow on their own rootstock: They don’t have to be grafted to disease-resistant rootstock, as happens pretty much everywhere else. This fact, touted on the Coates Winery website, means that the grapes are “generally more healthy, vigorous, and … can better express their varietal characters.”

As the afternoon begins, we turn inland from the Pacific Coast drive and head into the mountains. Sitka spruce. Second-growth redwood. Invasive pampas grasses.

The Troutmobile slows through a residential area. A familiar smell wafts through the window—pungent, spicy, potentially intoxicating.

“Someone’s burning trim,” observes a co-adventurer.

The sun shines, a rarity. Recent rains have made the hills green alongside Highway 299, a logging road that moves inland from the Pacific Coast to Redding. The drive to Coates takes us off 299 in Willow Creek, well before Redding. We’re driving north toward Hoopa. We’re on the way to Weitchpec, a place written about in Vice magazine’s “War in Weed County.”

Before today, I knew only one person in this van—the journalist who invited me along. No matter. A love of wine makes us all fast friends.

We share memories of remarkable tastings in Amador County, Sonoma, Paso Robles and Southern Washington. Advice is shared, recommendations made. I take notes.

Because the drive is long, and we’re a thirsty bunch, we stop beyond Willow Creek at a private home overlooking the Trinity River. There, we sample local and regional wines—some we’ve brought along, like an award-winning 2009 Moonstone Crossing Barbera. Today’s tour organizers had spent the previous afternoon at the Moonstone tasting room in Trinidad. Moonstone’s Sharon Hanks had poured dozens of tastes of wine made from grapes imported from Amador, Lake and Mendocino counties by local genius winemaker Don Bremm. The winery is among the county’s best known. It’s open to the public and easy to find on Main Street, just off Highway 101.

We drink other fine bottles. Standouts include a Dutcher Crossing Carignane ($36, Sonoma winery and Mendocino grapes) and the 2010 Dogwood Mea Culpa ($65, Humboldt winery and Napa grapes). So tasty.

These are my kind of people.

Our designated driver herds us back into the Troutmobile. Then we’re going north-er and north-er. In Weitchpec, we turn east and drive along the Klamath River to Orleans. The winery isn’t in Orleans, but beyond it, of course—a few more miles up winding narrow roads.

“I forgot how early the sun goes down,” someone says.

Even in the dark, the Coates’ home and vineyards form a lovely oasis. A fire crackles in a woodstove. Robin Coates ushers us into the kitchen where bottles of red wine are lined up on a bar. Robin ladles out lentil soup, which pairs perfectly with the estate’s sangiovese and zinfandel.

A wine connoisseur in our group declares the 2012 Sangiovese ($18) the best he’s tasted all day, which is saying something. The varietal makes me think of Tuscany. Ah, Tuscany.

Our talk turns to wines with which one might start the day, and Norman Coates suggests his trebbiano, the Italian white from grapes he planted in the 1990s.

“If you have to drink wine for breakfast, that’s the one to drink,” he says.

Debate ensues as to whether one drinks the wine before coffee or after it.

My wine journalist friend seems disappointed that she can’t give readers the inside scoop on how to visit the Coates Winery. The winery is not open to the public. The couple prefers that people visit the website and, you know, buy the wine at area stores.

“We’re not as social as some winemakers,” says Norman.

Talk turns to crime in Humboldt County. We crowd into the Coates’ living room and watch the trending YouTube video series featuring a “Boondocking” guy—the Nomadic Fanatic—who makes a stop in Eureka. He encounters a Starbucks-drinking vandal, fends off the theft of his solar panels by a felonious meth-head, and parks a block away from a McDonald’s that is the site of a recent officer-involved shooting.

“Let’s get the hell out of Eureka,” concludes the nomad at the end of the YouTube video.

Laughter ensues. We taste the syrah and a delectable cabernet sauvignon—lighter than many California cabs and superbly drinkable. We eat cheese and pate and sourdough rye baked this morning.

Bliss ensues.

Before leaving, we hike up an unlit road to the Coates’ warehouse, where cases of wine are stacked alongside crates of ripe organic kiwi. Those grow here, too, and this year’s harvest was abundant.

We buy wine and tote two cases down the dark road. Giggling in the moonlight, we climb back into the Troutmobile and head back to the coast.

I seem to remember someone passing around a bag of gummy peach rings. But I might have been dreaming, dozing in the comfy bucket seat.

Ah, Humboldt County.

Published in Wine