If you like to find hidden treasures when you travel - secret spots, diamonds in the rough and all that jazz - then there's a gem of a bar for you in Goleta, CA. Tucked away in a rather unassuming parking lot in this suburban town (which borders Santa Barbara on the north side), not particularly far from the Nissan dealership, The Imperial lies waiting to enfold you in its swanky, velvet-clad arms.
Who's in the mood for a Manhattan? — Photo courtesy of MsSaraKelly
From the outside, all you see is an exceptionally ordinary door. It could really lead to any kind of place. But walk through it, and you're in for a treat.
The Imperial is a dimly lit and thoughtfully decorated bar and lounge that transports you back to the golden years of drinking. No TVs. No blaring DJs. No distractions. Just a nice selection of whiskeys, a few cozy leather booths and comfortable perches and a warm, friendly atmosphere.
The specialty cocktail menu boasts carefully crafted libations that you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else. Their signature drink, The Imperial, is a mix of Aviation gin, dry vermouth and Luxardo liquer. Locals rave about their cucumber margaritas and marmalade sours.
Not sure what you're in the mood for? Ask the bartender for a recommendation. The bartenders here are generally alcohol enthusiasts who will happily make a suggestion based on your particular tastes. They may even improvise a drink just for you.
Just down the road from The Imperial - either a very brisk walk or a very short ride away - is the Mercury Lounge. Owned by the same enigmatic proprietress, this beer and wine bar has been a local favorite for over a decade and is also well worth a visit. Enjoy a fine selection of European brews and local wine, as well as free popcorn, fresh air on the back patio and the occasional live band.
Both the Mercury Lounge and The Imperial are great settings for showing off your finest vintage duds, but feel free to come just as you are. Both drinking destinations aim to be a comfortable haven outside of the busy downtown melee.
The Imperial is the perfect setting for those date nights when you want something a little stronger to be enjoyed in an atmosphere a little more intimate. The Imperial is open nightly from around 5 p.m. on for covert liaisons, sophisticated imbibing and even catching up on girl talk.
Note: There is plenty of free parking out front, but you may want to take a cab.