150 Best Bars in America

A spirited guide to the country's top watering holes

150 Best Bars in America
Arthur Bovino

Bars are wonderful institutions, part watering hole, part social hub, part cultural phenomenon — places where people go when they want to be out in a crowd or else to be alone; where they can (depending on the bar) laugh, talk, dance, sing, sulk, play, fight, flirt, and of course leave sobriety far behind if that's what they're after. Places where people just go.

Every bar has its own personality, influenced by location and décor, by specialty (music, featured booze, clientele), and by the personality of its proprietors and bartenders — but that personality can change over time, meaning either from hour to hour or year to year. There are reasonably sedate after-work places that turn into raging singles scenes as midnight approaches, and there are bluegrass bars that evolve into biker bars over the course of a decade.

Click here for the 150 Best Bars in America Slideshow.

There are bars with rigidly defined customer bases, bars with themes, bars with specific kinds of music, bars with encyclopedic collections of certain kinds of liquor… There are bars for everyone (even teetotalers) — because if there wasn't a bar for whatever kind of person you are, someone would open one.

It is a measure of both our thirst and worldliness here at The Daily Meal that we know bars, of all kinds and in many places, pretty well. In assembling this list of the 150 Best Bars in America, then, we drew first and most of all on our not inconsiderable collective personal experience. We also, though, solicited the opinions of some bar-savvy friends of ours — people like cocktail book author (and Bartender Magazine editor) Ray Foley, who likes the classic cocktails at The "21" Club in Midtown Manhattan as much as we do; and wine writer Roger Morris, who's the kind of guy we're likely to run into at Cibo, a great bar in the Philadelphia airport.

We spoke to Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge, a fellow fan of The Twisted Spoke in Chicago; and craft beer expert Joshua M. Bernstein, who tipped us off about the treasure-trove of Belgian beers at Ebenezer's in Lovell, Maine… Then we narrowed our choices down to 150 places and divided our selections into categories according to style, location, specialty, and clientele, offering more than one recommendation in each.

What we've come up with is an admittedly subjective — but well-researched and wide-ranging — collection of great places to drink all over the country. Every one provides a great drinking experience — no two alike, guaranteed. If your favorite bar isn't on our list, let us know in the comments below. We're always looking for new ones.

Click here for the 150 Best Bars in America Slideshow.

Click here for The Daily Meal's Summer Drinking Guide.

 

Best Dive Bars:

The 5 Point Cafe (Seattle, Wash.)

The Raven Grill (Washington, D.C.)

Marshall's Pub (New Bedford, Mass.)

The BAR (Hollywood, Calif.)

Replay (Lawrence, Kan.)

Specs (San Francisco, Calif.)

Best Bar Menus:

Holeman and Finch Public House (Atlanta, Ga,)

Father's Office (Santa Monica, Calif.)

Aviary (Chicago, Ill.)

Quinn's (Seattle, Wash.)

Best Free Bar Snacks:

Alligator Lounge (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Jbar (Chicago, Ill.)

Best Tequila Bars:

Mayahuel (New York, N.Y.)

Tommy's Mexican Restaurant (San Francisco, Calif.)

El Agave (San Diego, Calif.)

Las Perlas (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Best Whiskey Bars:

Seven Grand (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Twisted Spoke (Chicago, Ill.)

Char No. 4 (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Best Rum Bars:

Smuggler's Cove (San Francisco, Calif.)

Cuba Libre (Washington, D.C.)

Rhumbar (Las Vegas, Nev.)

Cana Rum Bar (LA, Calif.)

Best Tiki Bars:

Tonga Room (San Francisco, Calif.)

PKNY (New York, N.Y.)

Trader Vic's (Atlanta, Ga.)

Best Wine Bars:

Butcher Shop (Boston, Mass.)

Terroir (New York, N.Y.)

Bar Covell (Los Feliz, Calif.)

Best Honky-Tonks:

Station Inn (Nashville, Tenn.)

Rebels (Austin, Texas)

Billy Bob's Texas (Ft. Worth, Texas)

Best Political Power Bars:

Old Ebbitt Grill (Washington, D.C.)

Round Robin at the Willard (Washington, D.C.)

Hawk 'n Dove (Washington, D.C.)

Best Business Drinks:

Ace Hotel (New York, N.Y.)

Peninsula Hotel (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Best Intellectual Bars:

Backspace (Portland, Ore.)

The Association (Los Angeles, Calif.)

KGB Bar (New York, N.Y.)

Best Upscale Bars:

Brandy Library (New York, N.Y.)

Rose Bar at the Delano (Miami, Fla.)

Redwood Room (San Francisco, Calif.)

Best Speakeasies:

The Raines Law Room (New York, N.Y.)

Bourbon and Branch Tavern (San Francisco, Calif.) 

La Descarga (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Best Gay Bars:

Mary's Attic (Chicago, Ill.)

Bedlam (New York, N.Y.)

Blackbird (San Francisco, Calif.)

 



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21 Comments

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Probably the most obnoxious display of bias I have ever read. This is garbage rating. Around 40 bars on the list from California (where the writer is from coincidentally I'm sure), and not a single one from Wisconsin.....that's what I would call pure insanity.....or ignorance.

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Well - I love the Twisted Spoke in Chicago - so cant complain about this list. They however have the BEST bloody marys of all time. Sit on the roof deck on a Sunday morning, nursing a handover and eating some good grub with the bloody mary in hand. Cant get much better.

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What about the Midwest? I would like to nominate the Homy Inn in Omaha, NE as a "Best Dive Bar". Family owned since 1956 and features champagne on tap.

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Wow. Do you guys only go to crap bars on business trips or something? Live a little.

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No martini bar category? Also, the 5 point is AWFUL.

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It's great that you included a quote from the Jimmy Duff... but how could you not include Duff's Brooklyn as one of the best dive bars? Inconceivable! What a sham.

William Fizzappo's picture

Yes mostly west/east coast joints; what moron wrote this?; when Austin finally shows he picks what any local calls worst "honky-tonk" nobody but stupid bimbos & jacked-up macho pee-brains go to.. anyone knows in TX Continental, Broken Spoke, Gruene Hall, etc... but Rebels ?! Please !!!!

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I have a major problem with this entire exercise: aside from Atlanta, Austin, and Las Vegas, all but a handful (literally 5 or so) are NOT on the East Coast or West Coast, and if you discount the brewpubs you listed, only 1-2 are not in a major metropolitan area of over 200K. Some of the best bar experiences I've ever had have been in "flyover country"--Arizona, Indiana, Vermont, Wisconsin, rural Pennsylvania, etc.--that this article ignores, either stupidly or with prejudice.

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So the bar with the largest open Single Malt Scotch selection doesn't make the list (the Dundee Dell in Omaha, NE)? Around 900 open bottles of single-malt scotch. And they don't just have scotch, they have tons of beer, whisky, rum, tequila, vodka, gin, etc.

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Hello...Philadelphia has more Belgian Ale bars than other city. Why none of these establishments made your list shows how out of touch your writers are.

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Yeah, this list is kinda lame. The best bar in Seattle -- with the most widely hailed bartender in the U.S. -- isn't even listed. That would be the Zig Zag Cafe. Although the famous bartender, Murray, is moving to another place soon. And how can you not list any brewpubs in Seattle when there are dozens of them here?

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You do realize that a significant portion of the population lives outside of NYC and CA? I second that Milwaukee should have been mentioned on this list, but would challenge people look thoughout Wisconsin. Here in La Crosse, the Popcorn Tavern, Del's Bar, and Bodega are just a few fine establishments in our small city.

Also, adding a handful of Chicago bars and a St. Louis one doesn't offer a fair representation of the Midwest.

tdm-35-icon.png

Really? This looks like the result of a quick n' dirty google search, not extensive research. Anybody who had actually gone to these bars would know, for example, that Preservation Hall is not a bar at all.

Next time, pick a number less ambitious than 150 and actually do some real research.

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Seriously where is milwaukee? Coasties.

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Not a single mention of Milwaukee. I am from L.A. and this blows my mind.

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As much as I love Preservation Hall - they do not serve food or drinks and are a music venue not a bar. Should have put in the Spotted Cat instead.

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WTF is right! Only TWO Philly bars? Chickie & Pete's the eponymous sports bar missing? Where's Village Whisky? House-made bitters - it's Noble! Monks for beer and The Ranstead Room is amazing as a fine 'Speakeasy' and 'classic cocktail' venue. FYI - Franklin Mortgage should have been number 1 on that list!

gpiddy's picture

How could you have ignored Connecticut? Esquire Magazine has named The Griswold Inn in Essex, CT (opened in 1776!) as one of the Best Bars in America for years. Connecticut Magazine named the 'Gris' (as it is affectionately known) the best bar in Connecticut many times over. The New York Times, USA Today and dozens of others include the Griswold Inn on their lists.....what happened to you guys?? Looks like you didnt look outside the major cities or tourist destinations. Too bad you didnt look for the unique and special places we really want to here about.

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Specs in San Francisco, while great, is not outdoors.

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I can't believe that you missed the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, GA. It consistently wins top honors from all of the beer nerd organizations for their selection of Belgian ales.

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WtF!!! The Nassau Inn Tap Room (Princeton, NJ) makes the list as one of the Best College Bars.
Having lived in the area for almost four decades, I can tell you that it is indeed an attractive looking place, with decor that pays tribute to the university across the street. However, it stopped being a watering hole for students (undergrad or grad) many, many years ago...and now only caters to tourists, business travelers, and the clueless from neighboring towns who think it is a place to hang out.
Grad students frequent the D Bar in the Grad College, and undergrads drink it their so-called Eating Clubs.
Hope you didn't pay whatever correspondent fed you that line of garbage.

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