***Orange County information provided by Alex from Newport
(email@example.com), OC Regional Listings Coordinator, unless noted.
An interesting cigar phenomenon has taken place in Orange County (OC). As recent as two years ago (1995), OC frowned upon cigar smoking and only housed a handful of cigar stores and cigar friendly establishments. OC is stereotyped as Los Angeles' "squeaky clean" suburban neighbor: pristine/clean beaches, gated communities with strict guidelines for its residents, Disneyland, little graffiti, BMWs, Mercedes, low crime, numerous malls, little culture, many children, etc. True to this "image", OC cigar smokers were limited to the places where we could buy and/or smoke our beloved cigars.
However, with the recent cigar boom, OC has flourished with a "new attitude" towards cigars. Interestingly enough, this transition has taken place over the past year (1996). Many new cigar shops/lounges have opened and restaurants/bars are slowly beginning to embrace cigar smokers, even holding monthly cigar dinners. For example, prior to 1995, Newport Beach had one cigar shop. In 1996 alone, five cigar shops opened, bringing Newport's total to six. As with any rapid growth, there are some negative aspects. Many new retailers are highly priced; purchasing cigars from large retailers/mail-order and marking them up accordingly.
Below is a listing of cigar shops, cigar lounges and cigar friendly establishments in OC. You'll notice that the majority of listings are centered around the "beach cities" as this is where the "social scene" and "nightlife" tends to gravitate. The cigar listings have been rated from the greatest compliment "Highly Recommended", to the average "Take It or Leave It", to the lowest "Not Recommended: Gougers". Also for your convenience, a sample OC cigar crawl is listed with the objective of minimal travel and maximum recommended cigar spots.
If you have any additions to the listings or general comments/suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me, Alex from Newport, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
(submitted by Tony M.) The original Romeo et Juliette is located in a small strip center, next to Russels on PCH. If its meal time, stop in at Russels where you can get the fixin's to complete a SoCal tradition - the Chili Size Smoker. Although the humidor at R&J is cramped, they offer an excellent selection of cigars at reasonable prices. This location also serves coffee, soft drinks (including some very interesting micro-brewed soft drinks), pastries and chocolates in addition to fine cigars. There are several tables out front; the weather's almost always cigar friendly in Seal Beach. Worth a visit if you are in the northern part of OC.
(submitted by Tony M.) Located on busy PCH, there's little parking and even less room inside. The major plus is that its open late, but don't expect to go there with a large group. It is a great place to hang out if you have a break during the day or as an after dinner place to enjoy a cigar. The staff is friendly and the humidor is well stocked, especially considering its a fairly new establishment. They serve coffee drinks as well as soft drinks, tea and pastries. Worth a look if you're in the area, but don't go out of your way.
This shop has been open for about 2 years. Probably the second largest humidor in OC.
When K&B first opened, their prices were very fair. Problem is that lately prices keep creeping up. For example, a recent LGC Torp was at $28! K&B carries few "hard to find" cigars, but they do carry virtually everything else, including most of the new cigars to enter the market. K&B also carries their own line of cigars, which are hit or miss in terms of quality and taste. The work staff is a bit aloof and they carry a very extensive line of accessories including great cigar art and cigar box labels. K&B hosts three cigar dinners per month at various OC restaurants and they are usually a good value. IMHO, success has "ruined" this shop with proof in their rising prices and aloof attitude.
Highland's is a cigar chain similar to Tinder Box, but not located nationwide. The work staff is friendly, however not very knowledgeable. Highland's has a large humidor with a somewhat boring selection (Astrals, Hugo Cassar, Habana Gold, etc). Prices are fair and private humidors are available for a yearly fee. They have a good line of accessories and comfy chairs if you choose to stay for a smoke. You won't miss much if you skip it.
her relatively new store which opened in June '96. A friendly and knowledgeable work staff, although they always seem to be on the phone trying to locate cigars. The humidor is large and has a very good selection with all sizes from the manufacturers they carry. They usually carry LGCs, Fuentes, Partagas 150s and have the best selection of Padrons. You'll also find Tony Muller's new cigar, the Conquistador. Prices are fair and they carry a good line of accessories, including very nice Cohiba t-shirts at $20. Solid store, solid supplies - worth a visit.
Hugo's is a new shop which opened in Nov '96. The work staff is friendly, but not very knowledgeable. Hugo's has a medium sized humidor, high prices and boring cigar selection (Siglo 21, Habana Gold, Hugo Cassar, etc.). There is a large couch and big screen television towards the front of the store, but because the shop is somewhat small, one gets a cramped feeling. Accessories are limited and carry high prices. If you miss Hugo's don't lose any sleep as it doesn't have much to offer.
A relatively new cigar shop which opened in May '96. Friendly work staff, although not very knowledgeable. Medium sized humidor with a decent selection and fair to high prices. This shop always seems to have some "hard to find" cigars like Partagas 150s ($13-$17), Afs, LGCs ($6-$12), and AF Don Carlos ($10). H&H is the only OC store where I've seen the Opus X ($13-$17). Small line of accessories. The shop is worth a quick visit if you are in the area as you'll never know what "gems" you might find.
Located off the 405 Hwy and Bristol, this Tinder Box (TB) location has been around for many years. Although most TBs are "hit or miss", this TB is a hit. With a large humidor and pleasant (not overly friendly) work staff, TB has a good selection and fair prices. Cigar selections include Diamond Crown, Savenelli, Avos, Zinos, Davidoffs and on occasion, Fuentes, Hemingways, Don Carlos and LGCs (great LGC prices!). As with most Tinder Boxes, there are more than enough accessories, however few cigar related items. Although not terribly exciting, a very solid store.
ong time OC tradition. Hi Times has been around for years before the cigar boom and has many loyal customers. One of the larger humidors in OC, with a friendly and knowledgeable work staff. A large selection of cigars (HUGE selection of Davidoffs, Avos and Zinos as they are the local Davidoff distributor), although a bit boring since they do not carry "hard to find" cigars, except for LGCs. Hi Times DOES NOT carry any Fuente or related (Montesino, La Unicas, etc.) products due to a "dispute" (long & bitter story) with the company. Prices are fair, but the LGCs run a bit high, $8+. Very large selection of accessories, with the BEST wine shop in OC located next door.
A relatively new cigar shop/lounge with other locations throughout SoCal and one in Las Vegas. A private cigar lounge is located in the back of the store, with admission reserved for members who pay a yearly fee (also includes private humidor). Memberships are valid at all other RCS locations. The lounge area is not too exciting, but it is functional with free beverages, munchies, sofas and a big screen TV. A fairly large humidor boasts a solid selection of cigars. Although not many "hard to find" cigars, RCS does carry all Flor De Florez lines and a private label cigar (a wonderful and affordable smoke) from the makers of Bahia. Prices are a bit high (but not gouging), which is typical for a shop that includes a lounge. The work staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the shop carries an extensive line of accessories. These guys are VERY ASC friendly - stop by!
IMO, the BEST cigar shop in OC. Opened in Oct. 1996, this is the second R&J to open up in SoCal. This shop is HUGE, easily the largest walk-in humidor in OC. A friendly and knowledgeable work staff, with a very large selection of cigars, all at fair prices. R&J is a good place to locate those "hard to find" cigars like AFs (including Hemingways and Don Carlos), LGCs (lowest LGC prices in OC), Padron Anv, R&J Vintage and Diamond Crown. Good line of accessories including humidors, cutters, lighters, clothing, books and more. If you are in the area, this shop is a must!
The friendliest cigar shop/lounge in OC which opened in July 1996. This shop is the perfect place to buy a cigar and smoke it in their cozy lounge area (open to the public, no membership or fees required). The ambiance is very laid back, with cool, smooth sounds of jazz in the background. No alcoholic beverages are available, however you can bring your own. The work staff is knowledgeable and again, VERY friendly. Johnny Bee (the cover artist for The Cigar Monthly) usually works at Lido four times per week and is always a great source for conversation and laughs. The humidor and cigar selection is large, while prices are fair to high (typical for a shop with a lounge). Lido has a small line of accessories and hosts various cigar related events (cigar tastings, barbecues, live music, dinners, etc) about three times per month. Future plans include private humidors and big screen television sets (they currently have two 26 inch sets). A must if you are in the area!
Unlike the Costa Mesa location, this shop/lounge is a disappointment. The ambiance and decor are sterile (reminds me of a hospital), while the work staff is aloof (good luck starting a conversation). There's a private lounge area (uh, a rat cage), but don't even bother. Although the humidor is fairly large, prices are almost as high as a gouger. A recent AF Double Chateau was at $7, while Partagas #10 at $10. Skip this shop and visit the Lido Cigar Room which is 1 mile up the Peninsula.
Another new shop which opened in Sept '96. Work staff in knowledgeable, but not very attentive or friendly (I spent 15 minutes alone in the shop without one word spoken to me). Portofino has a medium sized humidor, boring cigar selection and high prices. Private humidors are available for a yearly fee and couches are set-up so you can smoke on the premises. The only thing going for this shop is a very extensive line of cigar related antiques: humidors, ashtrays, lighters, art, etc. The owner travels worldwide in search of these antiques and sells them at his store for a sizable profit. If you are an antique lover, check them out - if not, skip it.
Located in the "ritzy" (read: high overhead) Fashion Island Mall, this place is horrid! They've been around for quite awhile and it still amazes me how they stay in business. The work staff is aloof and will say anything to make a sale ("Why is this bullet cutter $20 when everywhere else its $13?" - "Oh, that's because I has a ring for your keychain."). A fairly large humidor, with a decent selection. However, if you buy a cigar, you will be gouged: LGCs $13-$17. High priced accessories with a small wine selection. This place is a tourist trap and should be avoided.
The newest cigar shop (opened Nov '96) of the Hiland's chain (started in 1962), this location is relatively small and a pool table takes up most of the store's space, creating a cramped atmosphere. Eddie, the manager, is friendly and knowledgeable, while the humidor is of medium size. Cigar prices are a bit high (LGC Torps at $14, Partagas Aristocrats at $11) and the selection is boring (Micubano, Habana Gold, Teamo, CAO). Unlike most Hiland's, there are very few accessories. You'd be better off visiting Romeo and Juliette which is about 2 miles away.
Established in 1929, AA is OC's oldest cigar shop. Problem is that they did not expand with the cigar boom and are left with a very small humidor and selection. Prices are fair and they usually have a few boxes of Fuentes at the lowest prices in OC. The shop is run by a friendly and knowledgeable elderly gentleman. If you are in the area, stop by for a quick visit - if not, don't worry about it.
Located in downtown and overpriced Laguna Beach, this is another shop which is horrid! Work staff is aloof and humidor is of medium size. Mr. Bones carries the usual Avos, Macs, Partagas and "hard to find" LGCs and Fuentes. However, beware - you will be gouged. LGCs are $13-$20 and Fuentes are $8-$17. As with most shops in downtown Laguna, this place is a high priced tourist trap.
(submitted by Tony M.) Although a "newer" shop, these guys have the goods! A very good selection of hard to find items - they even had some of the elusive Opus X at one time. Great selection of cigars @ fair prices, plus they recently added a lounge with a pool table, a few chairs and a TV. The large humidor is well stocked and they usually have some Fuentes (including Hemingways & Don Carlos) and LGCs.
(submitted by Simon C.) A new cigar shop located which has an inviting lounge atmosphere. This is a great place to relax, watch sports, play chess or socialize with the locals. Red Cloud has a 500 sq ft humidor, containing various cigars at slightly higher prices (although this is typical of cigar shops which have lounges). The lounge area contains 50 personal lockers (at $375/year), a sofa, leather chairs and cable TV. Future plans include building a backroom with a patio for poker, drinks, etc. If you're in the area, say hi to owners Patrick and Arleen Robeson.
If you find yourself in OC on Fri, Sat or Sun night and you'd like a change from the bar/club/restaurant scene, check out The Revere House for some live entertainment. Starting at 8:30pm on Fri & Sat night, live music (usually jazz/blues) is played in their lounge area. Sundays, starting at 5pm, a jazz jam session also goes on in the lounge, where cigar smoking is encouraged. Bring your favorite cigar(s), order a drink, sit back and relax to some fresh jazz grooves - the place in an old and unique OC tradition.
Submitted by Tony M.) Located just north of the 405 Hwy near MacArthur & Main, McCormick & Schmick's is an upscale restaurant with a cigar friendly bar. They brew their own beers and frequently have beer and cigar nights at the bar. A limited selection of cigars is available, but save several dollars and bring your own. They also serve food in the bar, so if you choose to eat and smoke at the same time, you can do it here. The bar's a bit noisy for casual dining, still, its a nice place to enjoy a cigar without hassles.
Goat Hill is a long time OC tradition and a true classic! If you are a beer and/or scotch lover, this place is heaven. Goat Hill boasts 141 beers on tap and over 50 scotch whiskey brands. Their tap selection is the world's largest and officially listed in the Guiness Book Of World Records. To top it off, Goat Hill is VERY cigar friendly and signs are posted encouraging cigar smoke. Actually, Goat Hill welcomed cigar smokers long before it was the trendy thing to do. Be sure to bring your own cigar since their selection is limited. Goat Hill is very casual (you won't feel uncomfortable in a t-shirt and jeans) and the crowd ranges from 20s-60s. If you feel like a lunchtime beer and cigar, Goat Hill opens at 11:30am on weekdays and 10:00am on weekends. This place is a must - don't miss it!
A medium sized Cuban restaurant and bar which opened in July '96. Smoking is allowed in the small/cramped bar area as well as the large outdoor heated patio. You can also dine outside comfortably while you smoke. The food is very tasty traditional Cuban (pressed sandwiches, fried bananas, etc) and prices range from $6-$12. One of the few places in OC where you can eat while enjoying a cigar. As a bar, Habana is too small - as a cigar smoking restaurant, Habana is rare for OC and a must visit.
This is a newly opened cigar lounge (Nov '96) located inside Trophy's Sports Bar & Grill. The cigar lounge is somewhat small and the AC makes the place feel like a meat cooler. It is furnished with a couch, several leather chairs and two big screen televisions which have satellite capabilities for viewing "out of the area" sporting events. Although Trophy's has a decent cigar selection, bring your own as their prices are very high. The lounge offers full menu service, but you'll end up eating from a low coffee table or your lap (stick to appetizers and drinks). If you are in the area, stop by - if not, no big deal.
Simply an over-priced, small and stuffy cigar lounge located inside the Hyatt Newporter. Very small humidor, very small selection and very high prices (gougers). Some prices include Padron 300 at $9, Bauza Grande at $10 and Avo Belicosos at $17. Do yourself a favor and travel the 4 miles up to Lido Cigar Room for a "real" cigar shop & lounge.
A microbrewery/restaurant, NB Brewing is located about 5 blocks from the Lido Cigar Room and 2 blocks from the beach. NB Brewing serves delicious brewpub food (hamburgers, fish & chips, pizza, pasta, etc.) at reasonable prices ($5-$8). A variety of beers are brewed on the premise (usually seven beers are on tap) and are quite tasty. Cigar smoking is allowed at the bar and late night (after 10pm) on the heated patio (bring your own). NB Brewing hosts one cigar dinner per month and they are always a good value - call them for details. Although they claim the inside bar is cigar friendly, a bartender once told me that it is not allowed - so its possible if a patron complains, you'll be out of luck.
An Italian restaurant, Dolce offers delicious cuisine priced between $10 & $18. Cigars are welcomed (bring your own) on the heated patio where you can also enjoy courtyard dining. Problem is that the outside area is situated a bit too close to Pacific Coast Hwy, so some traffic noise is inevitable. Cigar smoking at the inside bar is up to the manager's discretion - which means if a diner complains, you'll be booted outside.
Situated on a bluff 150 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the Ritz Carlton overlooks two miles of sandy beaches known as Monarch Beach at Salt Creek. As with all Ritz Carltons, this place is "ritzy", so be sure to show up dressed appropriately. The Ritz has two areas which cigar smoking is allowed, The Library and The Lounge. Both areas feature comfy chairs/couches and full bar service. The Lounge offers a full service menu, so dining and cigar smoking is feasible. Although the Ritz has a decent (but small) supply of cigars, I suggest bringing your own as prices are very high. Although the Ritz is a bit stuffy for my taste (heck, I even hate wearing ties), it is a very nice, upscale and classy establishment. It is a perfect environment for meeting a business client, a romantic evening with a spouse or impressing a lover. A most romantic beach is situated below the Ritz, which makes for a great smoke while walking.
(submitted by Tony M.) Opened in Jan '97, Cigar Cafe is a Japanese restaurant and cigar lounge. They feature a sushi bar (cigars and raw fish, very SoCal!), beer & wine bar, restaurant and cigar lounge all in one! The cigar lounge is well ventilated and fitted with plenty of tables, couches and comfy leather chairs for enjoying the big screen television or simply relaxing. A full menu is available to those located in the cigar lounge with VERY reasonable prices (lunch special at $4, dinner specials at $5-$6). There is also a decent selection of cigars, but be : they do not allow you to bring your own cigar - buy food and/or cigars at the Cafe.
The following outlines a sample crawl of various cigar shops and cigar friendly establishments. This crawl attempts to limit the distance traveled, while exposing the crawler to the greatest number of recommended cigar listings. Addresses are provided and crawl stops have been chosen in a logical travel manner. The crawl starts in Huntington Beach, travels south down the 405 Hwy and turns west towards Newport Beach. Bring a map for more details. If the entire crawl is followed, the crawler will have traveled approximately 20 miles, visited eight of OC's finest cigar establishments, stopped a bar listed in the Guiness Book Of World Records, take in a gorgeous walk along the Pacific Ocean and dine at an outstanding Cuban restaurant. If you have one "cigar day" in Orange County, this crawl's for you, because once the crawl is completed, you can say with pride, "I did Orange County, DUDE"!
Located in shopping center by Toys R Us off the 405 Hwy. This is a solid shop with a large humidor, good selection and fair prices. Maybe even purchase a lovely Cohiba t-shirt. Spend about 20 minutes here.
Just off the 405 Hwy and 5 minutes from HB Smoke Shop. Although the humidor is relatively small, stop in for a 5 minute visit as H&H tends to carry hard to find gems at fairly decent prices: LGCs, Partagas 150, Opus X, Hemingways, Don Carlos, Fuentes and more. If you feel lucky - stop by, if not - go directly from HB Smoke Shop to Stop #3, Romeo & Juliette.
(Optional Stop - If you have time, check out the Tinder Box in Crystal Court by South Coast Plaza Mall. Weekend traffic can get busy at the South Coast Plaza offramp, therefore this stop is purely optional)
After a 10 minute drive on the 405 Hwy to the 73 South Hwy to Jamboree exit to Bristol, you'll be visiting OC's best cigar shop and largest humidor. A very extensive cigar selection (Fuentes, Diamond Crown, Hemingways, Don Carlos, LGCs, R&Js, etc.) and the best prices in OC. Stay at least 30 minutes, its worth every minute.
I suggest taking a 10 minute drive on surface streets from R&J to Goat Hill (Bristol, left onto Irvine Blvd, right onto 17th St, right onto Newport Blvd). Located across from Triangle Square and Niketown, its time to relax at the Goat. Bring your own cigar and sample any of the 141 beers on tap or over 50 scotch whiskey brands. Smoke a toro, stay an hour - you'll enjoy the Goat's laid back and casual atmosphere.
After potent potables at Goat Hill, leave the car at the Goat and take a 5 minute walk to Royal Cigar Society. Check out their medium sized humidor and peek into their private cigar lounge. Be sure to purchase their private label cigar from the makers of Bahia - its affordable and a must. 15 minutes at Royal should be plenty. Be sure to mention ASC!
Once you are back in your car at Goat Hill, head west towards Newport Beach on Newport Blvd. Take a left at 17th Street, make your first right and then your first left. You'll be on Ogle Street where one of OC's oldest cigar shops is located - Hi Times. It has a large humidor, decent cigar selection (Avos, Zinos, Davidoffs, etc) and fair prices. If you love wines, you can spend hours here since the largest wineshop on the West Coast is located next door (also called Hi Times).
When your are finished at Hi Times, get back onto Newport Blvd, make a left and head towards Newport Beach. You'll pass over Pacific Coast Highway and enter Newport Peninsula (notice the beautiful harbor on your left) - a 5 minute drive. Make a left at Via Lido and turn right into the Pavilions parking lot. Lido Cigar Room is located next to Pavilions. Here is your second chance to sit back and relax. Purchase a fairly priced cigar from their medium sized humidor and enjoy it in a comfy leather chair. You'll be completely at ease in Lido, with smooth jazz music and a very friendly workstaff. Lido Cigar Room is the friendliest cigar spot in OC, enjoy it. After you completed your smoke, buy another, light it and walk one block to the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy your cigar "California-style" while you walk the paved boardwalk along the beach, admiring the beautiful Pacific, checking out the surfers and noticing people as they rollerblade or jog by. Very therapeutic.
If you have a review of the following establishments or know of others, please forward info to Alex from Newport at email@example.com. Thank you!