Your Favorite Bar

by Jeff Abbott on October 30, 2008

I’m working on a new writing project that involves bars as a setting. (And that’s all I’ll say right now.) And I’d like to know about *your* favorite bar. If you can, please include a link in the comments if the bar has a website. If not, just let me know what are your favorite bars, which city they’re in, and why you love that bar. Emailing me is fine if you prefer not to leave a comment.
Thank you in advance.

    { 29 comments… read them below or add one }

    JT Ellison October 30, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Oh, this is hard to narrow down. The adult bar scene in Nashville is all about food and excellent wine. So here’s a few of our favorites:
    Rumba –
    Cool decor, great cuban/south american food, dark and intimate, well-stocked bar, valet
    Tin Angel –
    incredible Southern/American food, huge eclectic wine list, brick and wood, valet, chicken schnitzel and mashed potatoes is the best meal in Nashville, hands down.
    Wildwood –
    Close to home, great staff, lots of good food and wine. You tend to smell like woodsmoke when you leave, which can be comforting or annoying if you’re and ex-smoker.
    Sambuca –
    Great music, red velvet drapes and exquisite decor, nice rooftop deck with beautiful views, good wine selection, cigars and ports.
    Radius 10 –
    Cool LA aesthetic in downtown, valet, brilliant food with southern touches, great wine – lots of Australian selections. Better to make a reservation on weekends.
    Does that help???

    Nathan Bransford October 30, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    My favorite bar is Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco. It has an old-time speakeasy theme, and you have to either have a reservation to get in or know the password to get in the library in the back. They serve incredible hand-crafted cocktails (I recommend the Revolver and the Sazerac), the lighting is dim, and they play music from the ’20s. One of my favorite places in San Francisco.

    C.D. Reimer October 30, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Hooters in San Jose, CA. (Might be in Campbell since I have no clue where the city border is at that particular intersection). The food is awesome, and its the only time I get to watch sports.
    I don’t care much for the ever so young, rail-thin waitresses who make fashion models look fat in comparison, or the extra attention they pay when you order food. Since my friend and I are regulars, they take our orders without any extra fuss. Contrary to public perceptions about Hooters, I do see families eat there.

    Vince October 30, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    The Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle. A varied drink menu that extends back to classic cocktails of the 1920s. A flawless jazz soundtrack. And a corps of bartenders who not only know how to pour drinks, but how to serve as hosts. It’s a place that makes everybody feel welcome.
    In New York, Death + Company. For many of the same reasons.

    Janet October 30, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Deep Eddy, Austin
    Lovett’s, Port Aransas
    Regal Beagle, Three’s Company (okay, i’ve never actually been there)
    I like bars where people do serious drinkin, where happy hour is for amateurs, where Friday night feels the same as Monday night. Oh and I like bars with plenty of seating, because I’m not twenty-two.

    Jeff Abbott October 31, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you all for the brilliant bar suggestions!

    Mark Terry October 31, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Hmmm, tough one since I don’t actually hang out in bars, per se.
    But… always glad to make an exception.
    My favorite restaurant also happens to be a bar, which is Sagebrush Cantina in Lake Orion, Michigan. Fantastic Mexican food, typical quasi-Mexican decor, friendly, outgoing staff, live music on the weekends.
    Otherwise I would have to say, and I say this with some trepidation, The Ramp Room in Detroit. A black hole of a dive just off the ramp to the Lodge Expressway (M-10, I believe) off West Grand Boulevard. I think it’s the bedpans and dental instruments on the wall (it’s across the street, more or less, from Henry Ford Hospital) that says what you need to know about the decor.

    ML October 31, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    My favourite bar (or pub in this case) is my local, The Churchill Arms, in Kensington, London, UK. It’s owned by an Irish man who makes you feel welcome every time you come in. Dogs are a fixture in the place and slump under scratched tables that are literally on their last legs. A roaring fire adds to the already stuffy environment that makes the beer go down so easily! And to top it all off, they serve great Thai food.

    JES October 31, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Depending on what you’re after… if it’s beer and a hole-in-the-wall, you could do a lot worse than the Leon Pub in Tallahassee, FL.

    Dan October 31, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    My favorite bar over here in Rogers Park (neighborhood north of Chicago) is Morseland.
    The food is incredible. They got awesome greasy beer food (The Best Beef & Cheddar, aptly titled) and fine dining (the Black Tooth Char-Crusted Ribeye melts in your mouth). Staff is laid back and cool (no fake cheer present, but not rude either).
    Great beer selection. They got local brews on tap that are rare to find elsewhere in the city, not to mention a strong list of ales, IPAs and belgians.
    And they even have bands every night. Some of the best nights on the town I’ve had in Chicago were spent at Morseland getting wowed by unknown locals belting their souls out onstage, and hearing anything from rap to indie to singer/songwriters.
    Lastly, the atmosphere just rocks. Clean, professional, yet laid back and casual.
    The place rocks your socks, really.

    Annette October 31, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    The Olde Dublin Pub ( in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island is my favourite bar. Back in my university days, I spent many evenings (and more than a few afternoons when we should have been in class) there with my friends. Lots of great foot-stomping music, delicious homestyle food, and on St. Paddy’s Day — lots and lots of green beer. Ah, memories!!

    Scott October 31, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I’m a wood-paneled counter, jukebox in the corner, non-shot-measuring, conversation friendly bar guy myself. I like a place that breaks my balls about the dirt under my fingernails and employs at least one cute barmaid that you get to know so well you feel like you helped raise her kids.
    Darker is better, as is decent graffiti in the toilets. And by “decent” I mean “clever”. One place I used to go to a lot had a condom machine where an arrow pointed at the coin slot and the slogan attached to it read “For Refund, Insert Baby”. That was my favorite.
    I used to frequent another place that unfortunately got closed down after the witty and charismatic owner passed and I always marveled how, during the slower daylight hours, he would put on a movie and anyone coming in for lunch or whatever just knew to keep their voice down. Vinnie kept it open until at least 3am; longer if a few of the regulars were really enjoying themselves.
    Outside of that, there’s a pub in Cambridge, UK that had a snug with a fireplace and a bull horn on the wall that you swung a string with a ring onto for fun. The horn is gone now and they’ve since “spruced” it up for the wine crowd, so I don’t go there anymore. Nothing wrong with that sort of thing, but it gave it a “chain” feel and I’d rather drink at home, thanks.

    Elyssa October 31, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    One of my favorite bars is The Gingerman in Albany, NY:
    It’s not located in the middle of all the other bars but farther uptown. It’s not a huge building and inside it has this homelike atmosphere to it where you can run into different professions from teachers to college students to state office workers. It also has a great wine selection.

    Ryan Field October 31, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    “The Vault” in Provincetown, MA. It’s not for the faint at heart, but once you’ve been there you won’t forget it.

    Gerri October 31, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    My preference for bars is more in the dive category. I love to go to run-down bars that have live music, cheap drinks, and worn-out furniture. If they serve more than snacks or cheap, greasy food, they’re not a bar to me. Bars are where you go to drink, hang out, and try to look at the people around you through the haze of smoke, unless, of course, your city has been hit with the no-smoking ban stick of doom. But I mostly go for the live music. I love listening to local and road trip bands that play in these places. Gods, I miss doing all that.

    Juliana Stone October 31, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    The Dagobar in Quebec city rocks…three levels, three different kinds of fun….always full, live music and the atmosphere is incredible.

    Amanda November 1, 2008 at 12:39 am

    The College Inn, in Douglas, Wyoming. It recently celebrated its 100th year in 2006, and is on the National Historic Registry. It used to be a brothel, but now just serves great beer and a good time!

    Betsy Dornbusch November 1, 2008 at 9:19 am

    I have two. Can I have two? I have to, since I live in two towns.
    One is Conor Oneils in Boulder, CO. Irish pub, great music and food, very much a classic hangout with tvs going and folks talking politics and sports.
    The other The Lariat in Grand Lake CO. Tiny hole in the wall. Pretty good music, cheapest beer in four states, a very typical small town bar with crap all over the walls, like jackalopes and horses’ behinds and a mirror behind a toilet seat. It’s open 11 am to 2 am even on Christmas and I’ve never seen it without at least a couple of customers. Oh. And you can bring your dog.

    Justin Carroll November 1, 2008 at 11:24 am

    When it comes to bars, one would be hard-pressed to find a better one than Al’s and Vic’s. This hole is located a block from the train tracks in Missoula, Mountana. The floor is preminently filmed with stale beer and peanut shells. The jukebox is filled with punk rock, and if you don’t like this, be sure to keep it to yourself. The pawn shop next to the bar has had to replace its front window twice (that I know of)because someone’s head broke it. This place is rough, and it doesn’t have a website, but Al’s and Vic’s is definitely the place to be.

    martha November 1, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Die Heufel on the Prinzengracht in Amsterdam. Although barely a 10 minute walk from the craziness of the Leidseplein, it is a real locals hang out. I spent a month in Amsterdam a few years ago and the ‘gang’ would regularly bring in pizzas so we could watch the Ajax games. It is in an area with many antique shops and´galleries and I can imagine, some of the proprietors as the instigators of many a dodgy deal. No food to speak of – just lots of drink and fabulous customers.

    Sara November 1, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    It’s not there any more (I don’t think) but Jack’s Sugar Shack in LA, corner of Hollywood and Vine, hosted some of the best known musicians ever (Blondie played there in 1996). It probably only held 100 people, the decor was LA polynesian, the bartenders were studly actors-in-waiting (of course), there were surfboards on the wall and execs from the record company across the street hung out there. As did celebrities both major and minor. But it was The Perfect Bar, and worth driving the 75 minutes (at 9:00 p.m.) or 45 minutes (at 2:00 am) to and fro my apartment in Manhattan Beach.

    cheryl November 2, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    ooh…bars! My most recent fave is a little pub called Mavreen’s, an Irish joint that’s in a basement right next to the railroad tracks in Cartersville, GA. The ceilings are real low, all the staff are truly Irish, it’s dark, has great food, and lots of sitting areas with sofas and coffee tables. Perfection! You can drink at noon in there because noon or midnight, the lighting is the same.

    joan2u November 3, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    My favorite bar doesn’t exist anymore. It was called Poor Willie’s and the most fun I have ever had at a tavern was at this small, simple, far out of the way little place. It was off a main highway. They tore it down when the highway department decided to expand the route. Bastards will never appreciate what that pile of rubble meant to a lot of people.
    My friend and I would go there on the occasion I could actually make it out. It was down to earth…or maybe earthy would be more accurate…and relaxed. The juke box held everything from hard rock to classic and downhome country from Clint Black to Hank Williams, Jr. We never knew who we would meet there. Cowboys to hard core bikers, factory workers and farmers. It just didn’t seem to matter there.
    People put their smokes out on the floor, some scrapped a little. Some made out a little. Me? I just liked to hop on the counter to reach the home jarred pickles for a quick snack. Buck, the bartender, never seemed to mind.
    I’ve been to other bars since then, of course, but Poor Willie’s will always have my heart.

    ABB November 3, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    The Dreigroschenkeller, Munich, Germany
    In the Dreigroschenkeller – the Threepenny Cellar Bar – the lyrical / musical work of Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill come together in the basement layout, the menu and Thursday night opera student performances.
    It’s dark even on the brightest day, one corner has red velvet benches round candlelit tables, another is ‘the jail’. It feels wonderfully grotty even though it’s spotless. The food is excellent and the drinks a usual range of best Munich brewed beer, amongst cocktails and others.

    JSC November 3, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    a little different from others… i really like
    great interior and laid back everything goes kind of attitude…
    not sure if a bar in prague is very helpful… but what the hell?

    Jeff Abbott November 3, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    JSC: Bars from all over the world are helpful–thank you so much, everyone, for the bar tips (no pun intended).

    cristy November 4, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    My favorite bar was/is the late, great LIME SPIDER in Akron, Ohio. Known nationally for bringing in fabulous touring bands, the owner also catered to local acts and special events. The beer selection, scrawled on an enormous blackboard behind the bar, encompassed all the best in micro-brews as well as major brands.
    As if that wasn’t enough, they devised a patio on the roof, complete with DJs who spun nothing that wasn’t originally released on vinyl, and a grill the size of a VW bus.
    One of the all-time great annual parties was the Cashathon, where local bands played nothing but Johnny Cash covers all night long. The hangover was always well worth it.

    Linda Lou November 5, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    My all-time favorite bar is the Spirit Room,a saloon in the Connor Hotel in Jerome, Arizona. All the bikers go there on the weekends, and every Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. they have great live bands. Jerome is a cool little ghost town/artists’ colony about 25 miles from Sedona. You’ll love it!

    Justin T January 24, 2009 at 12:51 pm Coolest glass ever. Best bar is piano bar in Urbana illinois.

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