10 Bucket List Bars to Visit Slideshow
May 14, 2013
The ultimate saloons, pubs, and dives you absolutely must visit
City Tavern, Philadelphia
Originally built in 1773 and then rebuilt in 1976 by the Department of Interior, City Tavern was one of the most important places to the Founding Fathers. This is where George Washington and John Adams first met. It is also where one of the biggest parties in history took place after the signing of the Constitution. Now, a replica of the tavern and bar sits in the historic neighborhood of Philadelphia and serves patrons traditional Colonial dishes and drinks.
El Chapultepec, Denver
At one time this small, divey-looking place in Lower Downtown in Denver was called the "Best Bar in the World." That’s when Ella Fitzgerald would park her car in the alley behind the bar, roll down the windows, and just listen to the jazz being played. Celebrities like Frank Sinatra (who used to ask the owner to cook him some Italian sazeech), Tony Bennett, and even President Bill Clinton have played at El Chapultepec. Today you'll still find plenty of jazz artists there jamming late into the night.
Heinold's First and Last Chance, Oakland, Calif.
Built from an old whaling ship in 1880, this waterfront saloon (opened in 1883) saw sailors and pirates drinking at the (now very slanted) bar and playing cards at the original tables you can still sit at today. The bar still sits upon tilted floors, the after effect of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The pilings under the floorboards made fixing the floorboards impossible, so don’t be alarmed if you feel a bit off-kilter even before your first drink. (You can even see when the earthquake struck by the original clock still hanging on the wall.) The saloon also became a home to one of America’s most celebrated authors, Jack London.
Green Mill, Chicago
Originally founded to be Chicago’s answer to Paris’ Moulin Rouge in 1907, this jazz club became a notorious speakeasy run by one of the most terrible gangsters of the day, Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn. While it was a favorite of Al Capone in the day (he once used the basement of the building to smuggle bootlegged liquor throughout Chicago), it now hosts Grammy Award-winning jazz musicians and serves great drinks.
McSorley's Old Ale House, New York City
The oldest continuous running bar in New York City was established in 1854 in the heart of the infamous Bowery. This place is practically a museum, its walls cluttered with old newspapers, photos, and memorabilia that tell the story of the city, its immigrants, and (most importantly) its bars. From the beginning, the bar has sold only two beverages on tap: its own light beer, a pale ale, and dark beer, a black lager. And for New York City prices, it’s still just about the cheapest beer you’ll get on draught, two beers for $5. Its grimy interior makes for the ultimate dive bar in New York City. (And yeah, don’t wear sandals — you will get a shoe full of sawdust.)
The Old ‘76 House, Tappan, N.Y.
One of the oldest bars in America sits in Tappan, N.Y., and has been serving drinks since 1668 when the Dutch settled the area. During the Revolutionary War the tavern served as a prison for the most notorious war criminal, British spy John Andre, and as a meeting place for George Washington and his many generals. It took two years to restore the tavern to its original state, and it's now a restaurant/bar every history buff should visit.
Pioneer Saloon, Goodsprings, Nev.
Out in the desert a stone’s throw from Las Vegas sits this 1913 throwback to days when the West was still wild (as the bullet holes in the wall can attest to). It became especially known as the spot where Clark Gable spent his time in mourning — drinking, crying, and smoking cigars — while authorities recovered the body of his beloved wife, Carole Lombard, after her plane crashed into the mountains behind the bar. It’s now on the State Register of Historic Places and still draws in plenty of tourists itching for the Wild, Wild West.
Rosa's Cantina, El Paso, Texas
Yes, this is the place that inspired the famous song "El Paso" by Marty Robbins in 1959. From the doorstep of this roadside saloon you can clearly view the "badlands" of New Mexico and understand how Robbins could have imagined the tale of his song. People travel to Rosa’s from all over the world to listen to this famous ballad and enjoy some cold beer. Not much has changed at today's Rosa's Cantina: same jukebox, same vibe.
Scholz Garten, Austin, Texas
This beer garden has been serving thirsty Austin residents since it opened its doors in 1866. When founded it was immediately popular with the large German immigrant population; since then, it’s become the place to watch UT football games, and the unofficial meeting house for the state legislature. You'll still find plenty of German-inspired dishes at the beer garden, plus barbecue, burgers, and well, beer.
Townhouse Venice and The Del Monte Speakeasy, Venice Beach, Calif.
This bar is Venice Beach's oldest watering hole (established in 1915). During Prohibition, owner Cesar Menotti created a speakeasy (The Del Monte) downstairs and smuggled booze in through tunnels under the Abbot Kinney Pier. It was a run-down dive when current owner Louie Ryan bought and restored it to its early 20th-century glory. At the downstairs Del Monte, you can still find classic cocktails and updated ones (like the P-Funk Julep and the Bianco Negroni) in a historical, yet very hipster, party atmosphere. Come for the drinks, stay for the dancing and burlesque shows every Wednesday.