On a recent trip to Southern California I decided to check out some of the cigar shops and lounges. There’s really only one lounge in my area that I go to frequently, so I like to get a feel for some of the regional differences in cigar culture. My working hypothesis after this trip is that cigar culture shares a lot of similarities no matter where you go. I’m looking forward to continuing to research this hypothesis. Here are some notes on the places I visited in Beverly Hills and Orange County, California.
Buena Vista Cigar Lounge – Beverly Hills, CA
9715 Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
This was my initial target for my visit, but incorrect hours listed on Google landed me there two hours before they were set to open up for the evening. Fortunately the owner, Rigo Hernandez, was there and he allowed me to take a look around. The place is full of well-loved leather chairs and could be best described as your home away from home. The whiskey selection that I saw on the bar looked solid for a non whiskey bar in SoCal- there were three bottles of Michter’s right up front and center along with a couple of Four Roses and a couple of James E. Pepper. The best thing about this place is it’s open to anyone who comes in- no membership required. When I asked Hernandez whether he had any private label cigars that were only available in his shop his response was probably one of the best I’ve ever heard: “Everything is for everybody.” I love this guy’s attitude and I can’t wait to return during business hours on my next trip. Check out more info about this club on Cigar Aficionado.
Kramer’s Pipe & Tobacco – Beverly Hills, CA
9531 Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Just two blocks up Santa Monica Blvd. I stumbled across this little shop. It was opened in 1949 by relocated Chicogoans Allen and Tina Kramer, and it is still run today by their daughter and her husband, Marsha and Jim Keller. The emphasis in this shop seemed to be on pipes-they have several of their own pipe tobacco blends- but they had a solid selection of good cigars, including My Father, Arturo Fuente, and Partagas. In fact, the owner was smoking an Arturo Fuente Anejo when I walked in the shop- the no. 77 Shark is one of my all-time favorites. Finding not one but two family-run businesses within a stone’s throw of Rodeo Drive was amazing. The fact that both were totally laid back and open to all was mind-blowing.
Club Aficionado Cigar and Sports Bar – Lake Forest, CA
23825 El Toro Road
Lake Forest, CA 92630
This was the only “members only” club I visited during my trip, but I did so after several recommendations telling me this is the best cigar lounge in Orange County. It’s in a shopping center across from a Pho restaurant, totally hidden in plain sight. There were a few dozen Davidoff facings, so I ended up smoking a Davidoff Nicaraguan Box Pressed sitting in a comfy leather chair watching hockey on a giant projector screen. For a Saturday night, especially with a hockey game on, it was very quiet and relaxing. The humidor also featured plenty of Rocky Patel, Oliva, and Punch. This is a great home-away-from-home neighborhood hangout type place with lockers, a full bar, and a full-service kitchen.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl