15 W. Ortega St., 962-7970
“What makes the WC popular?” asked owner Bob Stout, rhetorically. “Our staff. It’s kind of like the Santa Barbara Zoo — a little wild and very diverse. What people should know about the Kitty? Our farm-to-bar happy hour every Tuesday with Patrick Reynolds is our best-kept secret. Fun fact? Katy Perry penned her hit “Last Friday Night” after partying at the Kitty — and it was a Friday night. There are some great clubs downtown, and I think that pushes us constantly to try and give our customers more. And at the end of the day, everybody looks great under red lights.”
FINALIST: EOS LOUNGE
Place to Hear Live Music
SOhO Restaurant & Music Club
1221 State St., 962-7776
Regular schedule for the month at time of writing: indie rock; a night of campy television shows; a troupe of veteran edgy Santa Barbara jazz performers; a night of wine tasting and jazz; the lead singer from Toad the Wet Sprocket; a band of hot women rockers, all of whom have grown up children; and much, much more. The couple who started running SOhO a long time ago pledged themselves to insanely brilliant eclecticism. What we got was a club you could attend nearly any night of the month and see and hear something crazy good. And they beat out a lot of much bigger venues, too.
FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA BOWL
Sullivan Goss – An American Gallery
7 E. Anapamu St., 730-1460
Subtitled “An American Gallery,” Frank Goss’s gradual expansion from art bookstore to small gallery to major force in S.B.’s art world can be experienced easily on any First Thursday of the month when most of the galleries are open serving wine and chatting. Sullivan Goss is always mobbed, and the café — also a cultural center of town — doesn’t have anything to do with the crowds. The art is mainly representational, contemporary sometimes, but mostly from the respected ranks of early and mid-20th century artists. Goss is warm, welcoming, and discerning of eye. People go there because it’s always a pleasure and sometimes exciting.
FINALIST: WATERHOUSE GALLERY
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State St., 963-4364
“We once again feel extremely honored to receive this acknowledgement from The Santa Barbara Independent’s readers and the larger community,” said museum director Larry Feinberg. “We are so glad that the community appreciates and takes advantage of what the museum has to offer, has become very involved in our various education programs, and has been particularly responsive to the exhibitions that we have presented over the past year. We hope that they will enjoy the exciting, upcoming John Divola photography show and that of the works of the great 19th-century French master Eugène Delacroix.”
FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
State Street Ballet
2285 Las Positas Rd., 563-3262
A reader favorite for the last decade, State Street Ballet has been performing in town and touring the country since 1995. Founder and artistic director Rodney Gustafson is very happy to get the vote again. “We just got back from our big premiere of An American Tango in Los Angeles, and it was a big success with great reviews, he said, and outlined a busy 2103-14 season that will include The Nutcracker, The Taming of the Shrew, and Sleeping Beauty. “We have a very full season, and people here are very excited about getting the Best Of award.”
FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA DANCE ARTS
Ensemble Theatre Company
914 Santa Barbara St., 965-5400
After all these years of wishing, dreaming, and fundraising, the little once-upon-a-time radical theater company is moving into big new digs at the Victoria Theater just in time to inaugurate the (also long-dreamed-of) arts corridor. Ensemble, the new Alma del Pueblo, not to mention the Arlington, Granada, S.B. Museum of Art, and scads of galleries and fine restaurants, are interestingly coming into being as another neglected part of town — the Funk Zone — which is also taking off. Opening in December with A Little Night Music and winding through the year with four more plays of artistic and pop interest ought to tell us clearly something about the future of arts in this town. ETC, a favorite with the readers, is positioned nicely now in the hub.
FINALIST: OUT OF THE BOX THEATRE COMPANY
It’s hard to credit arguments that say classical music audiences are dying off, or even those who complain that people will only come out to hear the big guns like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. When you see how handily this chamber music ensemble, with its iconoclastic figurehead Adrian Spence at the helm, beats the big orchestra in town with musical line-ups that run mostly on 20th century and beyond. The ensemble itself is made up of regulars and friends, frequently invites guests into the fold, and plays a number of venues between here and Los Angeles. Exceptional, as they put it, for artistry and a sense of community, Camerata abides.
FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA SYMPHONY
Sandbar Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar
514 State St., 966-1388
“The kids just love us, I guess,” laughed Amber Heyer-Rasmussen, promotion manager for the Mexican restaurant slash nightclub on State Street, the hub of Thursday-night frivolities. “That, plus we have a late-night happy hour where you can buy one drink and get the second for a quarter with a student I.D. Besides that, the kitchen’s open till 11 p.m. We just want to say thanks so much to the people who voted for us.”
FINALIST: BAJA SHARKEEZ MESQUITE-MEX BROILER
Place to Shoot Pool
Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
18 E. Ortega St., 568-0702
Nowhere in the lengthy name of this establishment do the words pool, billiards, or even snooker appear. Yet on cue year after year, the readers pick this place as their favorite place to rack up and sink some balls. Maybe it has to do with the Irish color on the felt, though more likely it’s the friendly staff, great bar and pub food, and a jukebox conducive to getting behind the eight ball and staying there.
FINALIST: DON Q FAMILY BILLIARD CENTER