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The Best Big Cantina in Calabasas

Welcome to the Sagebrush. Sit down, stretch your legs, stay awhile. It's not going anywhere.

May 22, 1997|HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Somewhere under the Calabasas night sky and the twinkle emitted from hundreds of bright white Christmas lights that stretch year-round from one side of the Sagebrush Cantina's enormous patio to the other, a phenomenon is occurring: For 22 years, they have come. And then they've come back, and after that, they return again.

"They" are the customers. The cantina is one of the very few clubs in the Southland to remain so popular for so long. We're not talking merely consistent; we're referring to the Sagebrush Cantina's ability to pack 'em in on a nightly basis since the mid-'70s.

This marvel warrants an analysis. Sitting on 6 1/2 acres of prime Calabasas real estate, the Cantina truly is an immense venue. The place seems to stretch on for days, and each time you visit, the enormity of the Sagebrush still amazes. The likelihood of anyone snagging seven acres of property in the '90s to build such a thing is near impossible, and this is part of the Sagebrush advantage.

People like to go out and stretch their legs a bit and not feel like sardines. The fact that the Sagebrush offers multiple amusement potential also tips the scale in its favor: It has Mexican and California cuisine for diners; planes, trains and automobiles for the model enthusiast; a spacious cowboy bar for, well, cowboys, and enough tables and chairs to seat the country of Lichtenstein.

But here's the Sagebrush's ultimate coup: The outdoor patio, which is the size of an Oktoberfest beer garden in Munchen, features "comfort" music. During the summer months, the Cantina begins booking this brand of music Tuesday through Sunday. For visitors and regulars alike, it's as soothing as a bubble-bath after a hot, hard day's work. From solo artists to full-blown rock bands, the performers play the familiar tunes from pop music's annals, and many include present-day hits in their set list.

Whether going down memory lane compliments of Van Morrison, Van Halen or the Beach Boys, you'll feel giddy. There's really nothing like a warm evening at the Cantina or, for that matter, a hot day.

One of the biggest splashes at the Sagebrush is the Sunday afternoon beer bust, which offers the Harley Davidson contingent a change to show off their primo bikes before finding a table and mingling with fellow hog heads. The rows of tony choppers alone make it worth the trek.

According to one Sagebrush Cantina insider, the demographic breakdowns work in everyone's favor. Friday evening has evolved into a mixer for the single set--a nice thing for lonely hearts--while Saturday is date night. Possibly, the main reason the Sagebrush Cantina has defied L.A. law and has been so successful for so many years is it manages to offer something for everyone without offering a bad time. No small feat.

BE THERE

Sagebrush Cantina, 23527 Calabasas Road, Calabasas, (818) 222-6062. All ages, no cover, with exceptions: 21 and over in bar; 21 and over, no children, in patio area after 10 p.m. nightly and on Sundays; $5 cover for patio area Sunday afternoons.

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