Best Country Venue (2012)
There aren't many clubs in the L.A. area where you can ride your horse up to the back entrance, mosey on inside and catch country-music legends like Red Simpson and Riders of the Purple Sage — for free. The Mexican restaurant Viva Cantina is uniquely situated next door to the L.A. Equestrian Center and across the street from the Pickwick Gardens ice rink and bowling alley, in that semi-mystical place where the concrete jungle of Burbank gives way to the pastoral wonderland of northeastern Griffith Park. Much like the Old West, there's plenty of elbow room, but if the frantically coiffed rockabilly revivalists in the front room disturb you, wander into the Riverside Rancho Room, where the experienced country ministrations of house fixture Cody Bryant await. Although the Cantina is best known for presenting stubbornly authentic, anti-Nashville holdouts, the booking policy also encompasses garage, Chicano soul, punk, roots, folk and surf. It's not unusual to see a raving mob of punk maniacs like the Bloody Brains back to back with iconic lounge-pop stylist Troy Walker and former '50s teen rock idol Jimmy Angel. At most restaurants, you're lucky if there's even a good jukebox. 900 Riverside Drive, Burbank. (818) 845-2425, vivacantina.com.
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