For 43 years in Laguna Beach, the bar in the Royal Hawaiian restaurant has provided the next best thing to a tropical vacation.
From blowfish lamps hanging above the bar to bamboo and woven mahala mats on the walls, to the full-size wa'a (outrigger canoe) hanging from the ceiling, there is nothing quite like it this side of Waikiki Beach.
But there is a better reason to visit the bar than to take in the decorations. The Royal Hawaiian specializes in those potent, exotically named drinks, the kind that go down smooth but guarantee that the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele will visit your poo hua'i lama (hung over) head the next morning.
The house specialty is called the lapu lapu , a lethal concoction of light and dark rums mixed with passion fruit, orange and pineapple juices. Our party tried a mai-tai, a fog cutter and a planters punch. All were very colorful, extremely strong, but none was overwhelmed by the taste of rum. Each was about $3.
Another indication that the Royal Hawaiian is one serious watering hole is the menu, on which the drinks listed outnumber the entrees.
The restaurant serves dinners that are simple, cheap and good. The management concentrates on steak and seafood, with only the lobster dinner running over $10. Everything we ordered came in large portions and was perfectly cooked.
Just two words of warning about the Royal Hawaiian: go early. The locals have long known about this spot, and the lounge is small.
The Royal Hawaiian, 331 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach . Open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. (714) 494-8001.
Cannons, 34344 Street of the Green Lantern, Dana Point. Open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays till 11 p.m., Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (714) 496-6146. Perched on sandstone bluffs high above Dana Point Harbor and Capistrano Bay, Cannons restaurant is known for its spectacular view. In the bar--choose either the tiled, outside patio or an inside lounge with lots of windows--drinks are a bit pricey, but on a clear day a visit here is more like a field trip than a pub crawl.