Distance and time have funny ways of shaping your perception. The first time we visited The Cigar Lounge in Granada Hills we found a simply laid out shop with great regulars and a strong humidor well-stocked and well-priced with everything you’d expect, and some things you wouldn’t. A real cigar smoker’s shop.
Fast forward a year and a half and we’ve been derelict in our return. After all, Granada Hills is so far from Long Beach (more on this later). Fortunately we were drawn recently for a boutique cigar manufacturer’s event, and managed to surprise ourselves.
Gone are the small humidor and intimate seating, replaced by a large, spacious humidor (still very well stocked and priced) and super-sized lounge. Following the lead of other shops, the owner Ashley decided to expand into the space next door and allocate a full 60% of his space to lounge seating. Several TV’s and seating areas are laid out to make the large space conducive to conversations and meetings, as well as a tastefully decorated semi-private meeting room in the back. It’s clear that Ashley set out with the intention to make his locally well-known shop into a regionally well-known shop. Count me as an impressed believer.
The Cigar Lounge has always been known for its’ pricing, selection and strong contingent of regulars, but if the event the other night was any indication, Ash knows how to throw a party. There were snacks on every flat surface, as well as hot food in the back. The traditional “buy three get one” deals on the featured line of cigars, in addition to the Philly Cheesesteak Truck and a Sushi Truck parked outside the shop dishing up extraordinarily good food- especially considering they arrived on wheels!
The real lesson I took away was on the drive home. A 40-minute blast on the 405 is nothing for us Angelinos, and The Cigar Lounge is certainly worth the short trip. I can’t say that I’ll be back on a Tuesday or Wednesday, but I can certainly see myself making the pilgrimage to the valley a weekend a month.
The Cigar Lounge is located at 17545 Chatsworth Street, Granada Hills, CA 91344
Here in 2011, things are slightly tougher than they used to be. The advice most frequently given to small business is to knuckle down, work harder, and reinvest in your business. And the Tobacco Barn in Lake Forest, CA is the poster child for this advice.
An old, comfortable shop, Tobacco Barn has long been known as a mecca for Orange County pipe smokers, and boasts a large selection of cigars at competitive prices. The only let-down was their lounge. Small, dark and oddly placed, it was never inviting. No more.
The old lounge has been turned into a shipping department, and the shop has expanded aggressively. They took over the space next to them, added a door between the two sides in the back of the shop, and doubled their size. And the best part? The entire new half of the store is the lounge.
With nearly 30 seats, a massive projection TV with 3 others hung throughout the lounge, 2 dart boards and a shuffleboard table, Tobacco Barn boasts one of the largest lounges in Southern California- only the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills and “888” in Fullerton rival the Barn.
If you’re south of the El Toro Marine base, Tobacco Barn is a must-visit. It’s nice to see a company put its’ money where its’ mouth is. They deserve their 40-year old reputation.
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Some shops shout their existence from the highest mountain tops, while others languish in obscurity. There is one more type, though- the under-the-radar. We’ve visited as many cigar shops as everyone, and yet, somehow we missed the Hollywood Smoke lounge. The name Hollywood Smoke was inspired by the idea that Hollywood celebrities are often associated with the finer things in life.
Located at 3110 Main Street, Santa Monica (near the corner of Main and Marine) for the last 15 years, Hollywood Smoke is as established as it gets. Photos of the owner, Greg Shabazian, with Schwarzenegger adorn the walls, competing with the nude photography (it’s very artistic- seriously) for your attention. Several well laid out, comfortable seating areas make for easy conversation and the well-stocked humidor makes selecting your smoke an exercise in self-reflection… “what do I feel like smoking today?” The humidor is complemented by a wide selection of exquisite lighters, humidors and ther accessories.
Perhaps most importantly, the shop is located next door to a Starbucks for quick caffeine fixes and on a street packed with restaurants and shopping. Parking- usually a challenge in this neighborhood- is easily handled by the lot beneath the building.
Greg told us a story of people who lived in the lofts across the street from him for 10 years walking in looking perplexed, asking “are you new? Did you just open?” He’d been in the neighborhood longer than they had. And if I were a betting man, I’d say he’ll still be there after they’ve moved away.
Many shops try to be a little bit of everything to everyone, and they usually fail. Dana Point Cigar succeeds. You’ll notice that the majority of the shop is spent on wine and a wine bar, and this isn’t a web site about wine. As you walk into the humidor, it seems kind of small, but then you keep going. They you walk up the stair. The massive humidor has just about anything you could possibly want, and some things that you probably haven’t seen before. The selection alone makes it worth the trip.
The lounge is small but comfortable, with a couple large couches and big screen tv. But if you’re going to hang out, the place to be is outside. Sit on the patio under the heater, and watch the world go by. It’s usually an interesting crowd that hangs out, and you’re guaranteed to be welcomed by someone with loafers and a Tommy Bahama shirt.
Dana Point Cigar and Wine is located at 34255 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Dana Point.
Most people associate the space in between Dana Point and San Diego as empty. Full of outlet malls and nothing, there never was a real reason to go. Most people are wrong. Located in downtown Oceanside, Cigar Grotto is defined by three things, in no particular order. 1. A good selection. 2. A cozy, inviting lounge full of friendly people. 3. Greg and DeeDee, the welcoming, friendly, warm owners. The clientele consists mostly of Marines from the local base, and seating is at a premium back in the corner. You’ll find average prices on most of the cigars in the humidor, but the high-end stuff- Liga Privada, Opus X, Padron 1926- is all kept in it’s own humidor just past the end of the register. And it’s priced to move.
If you’re passing through, it’s a great place to grab a few sticks, and hang out to chat if you have the time. It’s guaranteed that everyone there will be friendly and talkative. They also do a lot of events, so make sure to check the board.
Cigar Grotto is located at 220 N. Coast Hwy. in Oceanside. www.cigargrotto.com
Tucked away in a non-descript strip mall, deep in Orange County, is a special cigar shop. The shop, in it’s current form, was founded in 1972, and upon entering The Tobacco Barn, you’re struck by the sheer amount of inventory and history pressing down on you. The entire right hand side is loaded with quality cigars at competitive prices. The other side of the shop though is what gives it it’s true character. A massive selection of pipes- both new and pre-owned, and tons of pipe tobacco beacon you to try something new. Mini-pipes start at just $4.50, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t own one to smoke occasionally.
The lounge of the shop reminds you of the mid-west. The low-ceiling, dark furniture and wood paneling make this a warm place to enjoy a cup of coffee on a rainy day. Or, a dark, cool cave during the depths of summer. All in all, a comfortable, unique, cozy shop.
The Tobacco Barn is located at 23432 El Toro Rd. in Lake Forest. www.tobaccobarn.com
Downtown Los Angeles is a unique city- full of office buildings, professionals scurrying about, and restaurants. And in the evenings and weekends, it all disappears. Most people flee the city, but the smart ones find themselves posted at Rob and Al’s Cigar Lounge. Located on 2nd Street, Rob and Al’s offers you a place to go and wait out the traffic, and an ideal place to host a networking event.
Rob & Al’s (formerly 2nd Street Cigars and Gallery) is located at 124 W 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
The humidor is packed, and the events the shop hosts stuff the place full of professionals. Or you can sit outside with a cigar and watch people hurry by, while you treat yourself to a little bit of mid-day relaxation. You know you deserve it.
Tony of The Cigar Guys at a CAO event at Rob & Al's Cigars