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Author D.J. Palladino shows off his other skills at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Paul Wellman

Author D.J. Palladino shows off his other skills at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.


Best of Santa Barbara 2012: Going Out


Dance Club

Wildcat Lounge

15 W. Ortega St., 962-7970

Competition!” said Wildcat owner and well-know bon vivant Bob Stout, explaining his bar’s unflaggable popularity. “There are some great clubs downtown, and I think that pushes us to constantly try and give our customers more. And at the end of the day, or night as it is in our case, everyone looks better in red lighting!”

FINALIST: EOS LOUNGE

Place to Hear Live Music

SOhO Restaurant & Music Club

1221 State St., 962-7776

“We are thrilled to win, especially during these tough times,” said SOhO co-owner Gail Hansen, who nonetheless has seen the business for her 18-year-old concern start to pick up again. “I think it’s a combination of great shows, great food, but mostly it’s about seeing music in such an intimate setting. I mean, you get to see Foster the People three feet away, Grace Potter three feet away. Santa Barbara likes the face-to-face experience of it. Great people in a small place.”

FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA BOWL

Gallery

Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery

7 E. Anapumu St., 730-1460

For 28 years, this has been the Santa Barbara gallery success story. Though others may have more longevity, and certainly a few have been more adventurous, the space that Frank Goss opened in the shadow of the Santa Barbara Art Museum has been nearly miraculous in its ability to become the hub of all downtown art crawls. Its inventory — something that few other galleries even have — of artists ranges from plein air and other early Californian stars like Colin Campbell Cooper to Santa Barbara stars such as Nicole Strasburg, which strongly suggests a comforting unity to the diverse styles that have crossed our arty town. Throw in the completely charming Arts & Letters restaurant and considerate staff, and it hardly seems a surprise that this place is annually picked as the state-of-the-art art house.

FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA CONTEMPORARY ARTS FORUM

Museum

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

1130 State St., 963-4364

”Thanks for the good news,” said SBMA Director Larry Feinberg. “All of us at the museum, staff and board, are absolutely delighted that The Independent’s readers continue to recognize the museum as one of the community’s greatest cultural resources, and we hope that they have been enjoying the exhibitions and programs we have been offering.” Feinberg’s not only proud of the exhibitions they’ve been wowing the town with but happy to make the museum something everybody can enjoy. “We really hope [people] take advantage of our new free Thursday evenings, thanks to a grant from JPMorgan Chase.”

FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Dance Company

State Street Ballet

2285 Las Positas Rd., 563-3262

“Harriet Miller once said a very kind thing about us,” said State Street Ballet Artistic Director Rodney Gustafson, speaking of the late former mayor of the city who was an avid supporter of the arts. “She said not only did we represent the community well elsewhere when we tour, but we’d helped build an audience for dance here in our own town. I think that is very nice. I think you can weigh the strength of an organization by the way people in it are treated. There is a great sense of unity in State Street Ballet. I’d like that to be a legacy that goes beyond even my tenure here.”

FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA DANCE ARTS

Theater Company

Ensemble Theatre Company

914 Santa Barbara St., 965-5400

In the midst of rehearsals for the opening show of the season, Artistic Director Jonathan Fox took time to ruminate on winning the readers’ puffs and kudos this year, and at the end of the company’s long run at the tiny, soulful Alhecama, before leaping into their bigger fancier headquarters next year. “All of us at Ensemble are thrilled to be selected in The Independent Readers’ Poll. It’s such an exciting time for the company, especially with our move to the New Vic. I’m delighted that the community enjoys the work we present, and we look forward to terrific years ahead.”

FINALIST: SBCC THEATRE GROUP

Classical Ensemble

Santa Barbara Symphony

1330 State St., 898-9386

Brand-new marketing director Kevin Flint was excited and informative upon learning about the symphony’s big score. “I think Santa Barbarans know their symphony is a world-class orchestra led by internationally acclaimed conductor Nir Kabaretti,” said Flint, “and with musicians so talented that many also work in movies, on Broadway, and in orchestras all over the world. But just as importantly, with our mission to reinvest in the community through its music education programs, now thousands of local kids each year gain the experience and satisfaction of learning an orchestra instrument. And after all, isn’t reinvestment what it’s really all about?”

FINALIST: CAMERATA PACIFICA

College Night

Baja Sharkeez Mesquite – Mex Broiler

525 State St., 845-9572

After a rough week wrestling with Beowulf or biochemistry, there would seem to be no better place in town to forget the life of the mind than Sharkeez. Loud and blasty with music, sports television, tacos, hamburgers, and, of course, alcoholic inducements to inhibition-shedding, Sharkeez offers a brilliant panacea to those whose entire stressful existence hinges on the moods of some cranky academic expecting you to think. Not at Sharkeez on college night, and with Bill’s Bus fetching you there and back to campus, it’s responsible mindless pleasure, too.

FINALIST: SANDBAR MEXICAN RESTAURANT & TEQUILA BAR

By Paul Wellman

Shooting pool at Dargan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant challenges all comers, even author D.J. Palladino.

Place to Shoot Pool

Dargan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

18 E. Ortega St., 568-0702

Please note that the restaurant named above mentions nothing about pool (or billiards for that matter) nor is the idea of an Irish Pub likely to stir in the general public’s collective consciousness the image of cues, cue balls, or Minnesota Fats. However, this fine eating-and-drinking establishment routinely takes this prize away from institutions dedicated completely to the sport. The tables are nice (green is the color of the Irish), the jukebox is hot, and the Guinness is a little cool, just the way they serve it in pool halls in dear dirty Dublin.

FINALIST: DON Q FAMILY BILLIARDS

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