Courtesy of The Aviary
Every single state in our nation (plus our capital) has hundreds, if not thousands, of bars, not to mention restaurants that also have bars. Is it even possible to accurately pick the best one? Probably not, but that hasn’t kept us from trying. With so many watering holes to choose from, we’ve often had to get more specific — we’ve covered the best sports bars, the best beach bars, and even the best college bars.
So how do we determine the best bar overall in every single state plus D.C.? We looked at reviews, stories, and even hype to pick just one watering hole to represent an entire state. The process was painstaking, but we’re confident that each one of the following bars is worthy of being called the best bar in the state. Some of them are the oldest, while others are the most famous, and some simply just have that “it” factor or a signature drink that makes them the talk of the town. Regardless of the reason, each of these bars is special and deserving of recognition.
Apologies in advance for any long lines that form at these bars that are the best in their state.
Photo by Ashley M. via Yelp
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club is currently the pride of the state after being named the South’s Best Bar by Southern Living magazine this year. Since 1946, Callaghan’s has been bringing together the local Irish community, as well as all others who want to join in the fun of live music, drinks, and delicious burgers.
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The Salty Dawg Saloon was established in 1957 and is housed in a late-nineteenth-century building, one of the original cabins from the town site in Homer. If you’re tall, you’ll have to duck to enter this low-ceilinged bar, but inside is some really fun décor that includes life rings, dollars, and endless bric-a-brac (for years, the eclectic curios even included a prosthetic leg, until someone stole it to take it back to its owner). Ask the friendly bar staff, some of whom have been tending the same bar for decades, for signature cocktails with interesting names like the Salty Dog (vodka — the original was made with gin — and grapefruit juice with a salted rim) and the Duck Fart (a shot purportedly originating in Kodiak, composed of Kahlúa, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Crown Royal).
For over 50 years now, Kon Tiki Restaurant & Lounge has brought an island vibe to Tucson. The tiki bar looks almost exactly as it did when it first opened — complete with gas-powered tiki torches, the world's largest collection of Milan Guanko tikis, and assorted island curios. With plenty of films being shot in the Tuscon area, the likes of Clint Eastwood, Robert Mitchum, Lee Marvin, and Robert Wagner have stopped in for a drink. Indulge in signature island drinks like the Koko Pino (tropical pineapple and coconut blended with shaved ice and rum) or the Kanaloa (banana, orange, and pineapple mixed with Absolut Mango). Kon Tiki’s frosty drinks also pair nicely with the delicious food offered by the restaurant. Don’t miss the Kon Tiki pupus (appetizers) like Monkeys on a Stick (tender cubes of sirloin skewered, marinated, and charbroiled, and served with a teriyaki glaze) and Birds on a Stick (same idea, but with chicken); Tiki Chips (sugar-coated wonton chips served with teriyaki or sweet and sour sauce); and the Hawaiian barbecue chicken (seasoned, grilled, and finely basted chicken breast with house recipe barbecue sauce, all topped with a pineapple ring).
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White Water Tavern was recently named one of Esquire magazine’s best bars in America, and while it’s not the oldest bar in Little Rock, it has quite an interesting history. Originally opened in the 1940s as a beer bar called The Pitcher, the place was founded under the White Water name in 1976 by two canoe enthusiasts. Thirty days later, it was badly damaged in a fire — an intentional fire set by Ron O’Neal, whose family owned another bar in town, and who also torched another local bar, Bennigan’s Tavern, on the same night. O’Neal wasn’t done setting White Water on fire, however, and he did it again in 1982. (In all, O’Neal was responsible for fires at a minimum of six local businesses, and is currently serving a life sentence for an unrelated murder.) A third fire ravaged the establishment in the late ‘90s, this time accidental, and the business changed hands shortly after. However, it continues to thrive, mostly off of sales of PBR and Jameson, along with other whiskey and beer, and simple staples like vodka, gin, rum, and Jägermeister. The walls are still adorned with some of the same bric-a-brac from the old days, even though a lot of it was removed by patrons prior to the change of ownership in the ‘90s. Eventually many of the mementos returned after it was clear the beloved White Water Tavern wasn’t going to hell under the new owners and would remain the same solid hangout that it always was.
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You’d think California’s best bar would be located somewhere in Los Angeles, given the city’s legendary food & drinks scene, but it’s actually right in the Bay Area. Another one of Esquire’s best bars in America, Bar Agricole (which means “farm bar” in French) is still quintessentially Californian. With a true contemporary look, their menu offers natural wines, farmhouse-distilled drinks, and delicious NorCal food full of organic ingredients from local and biodynamic farms.
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Located within an old foundry building-turned-marketplace called The Source, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project has 22 taps filled with a variety of sour beers, wild ales, and saisons. The industrial-chic bar’s sour beers have gained a cult following, and their “Tap-it! Tuesday” is extremely popular as well. Cocktail lovers are out of luck here, but there are plenty of beer and kombucha blends like Happy Leaf Kombucha, which can be blended into one of the brewery’s core brands of beer (Surette Provision Saison, Vieille Artisanal Saison, and St. Bretta Citrus Wildbier). The taproom features stainless steel gates, brick walls awash in old graffiti, a custom wood tap tower, stave tap handles, and colorful murals. There’s no food, but that isn't a problem as allow customers are more than welcome to carry in food from two restaurants also within The Source (Acorn and Comida), and Mondo Market prepares cheese and charcuterie plates for customers on weekends.
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Connecticut’s best bar is as old as the nation itself. The Griswold Inn opened its doors in 1776, promising “First Class Accommodations, Fine Food and Spirits.” Some 240 years and six family owners later, the inn, its wine bar, and its Tap Room at The Gris (which opened in 1801) still lives up to that promise. Popular with yachters, locals, and celebrities alike (Katherine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billy Joel, and many others have had drinks here), the hotel and Tap Room are filled with maritime art, brass bells, and binnacles. There is live music every night, from Dixieland and swing to sea shanties. The Tap Room has an elegant domed ceiling that evokes a time gone by, part of what New York Magazine once called “the best looking drinking room anywhere in America.” Additionally, a Christmas tree sits year-round on top of a potbelly stove in the center of the room, and there’s an antique popcorn machine that continuously pops popcorn. There are several beers on tap including the bar’s own Revolutionary Ale. Cocktails change seasonally, but perennially popular ones are the Connecticut Mule and Liberty Lemonade in the summer, hot buttered rum in the winter, and the Bloody Mary all year round. Tavern food is served from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily, and includes award-winning New England clam chowder.
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Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats describes its beer as “off-centered ales for off-centered people.” Indeed, atypical ingredients are used to craft a range of unique beers at this brewpub established in 1995. The Rehoboth Beach location has a rustic, beach-casual vibe and a small brewery where experimental batches are made. There are 23 beers on tap from Dogfish Head (No. 4 on The Daily Meal’s list of best craft breweries in America) including cask and exclusive house-made varieties. There is also a selection of Dogfish’s eponymous bottled beer including vintage brews. For non-beer drinkers, the brewpub offers nearly a dozen cocktails made from spirits like vodka, gin, and rum, all distilled upstairs. The signature cocktail is the blood orange cosmo (house-made Dogfish Head vodka infused with blood oranges and limoncello). Pair this with brewpub food like the crab and corn chowder, a staple of the menu and a favorite of regulars.
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Miami Beach is home to many of Florida’s best bars, but The Broken Shaker takes the crown. Another one of Esquire magazine’s best bars in the country, The Broken Shaker is very small and quite romantic. You have to go inside the Freehand Hostel to access its creative cocktails and spacious courtyard. It’s the perfect drinks spot for your tropical vacation.
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Holeman and Finch Public House was at the forefront of the burgeoning craft cocktail movement in Atlanta back when it opened in 2008, and it remains a leader in the industry. To keep things exciting, head bartender Kaleb Cribb rotates the cocktail offerings seasonally; each new cocktail menu has a thematic continuity. There are six beers on tap, plus a rotating bottle and can list of a dozen or so brews; a carefully curated 50-bottle wine list; and the cocktail list, which has 10 original creations and six specially highlighted classic cocktails. The Atlanta establishment originally had only 24 burgers that were served nightly, but the burgers were so popular that they are now offered on the daily menu and at H&F Burger locations across the city.
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Mai Tai Bar is the quintessential Hawaiian experience, complete with open-air bar, palm trees, koa wood couches, and one of the best pau hanas (happy hours) on the island. Of course, the Mai Tai (Bacardi Gold Rum, Myers’s Dark Rum, Kraken Black Spiced Rum, and freshly squeezed orange and pineapple juices) is a staple of the drinks menu, but the bar’s signature drink is the Icy Mai Tai, made with shaved ice and tropical fruit juices. Live music is also offered at the Mai Tai Bar, along with a range of sharable appetizers. Diners can enjoy fried calamari rings served with pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, and chile ancho and cocktail sauce for dipping; seared rare ahi tuna (caught fresh daily) with a Cajun crust, served with wasabi and pickled ginger, and soy sauce; and Baja-style fish tacos served blackened with tomatillo sauce on soft corn tortillas.
Although it was actually opened in 1976, Pengilly’s Saloon has an early-twentieth-century theme that features pool tables, mounted animal heads, vintage wallpaper, and pool tables. Found in the Old Boise Historic District, its 114-year-old hardwood Brunswick bar serves all kinds of drinks. Tabs are rung up on a turn-of-the-century National Cash Register, adding to the old-school vibe. On most nights, there is no cover charge for the live music.
Courtesy of the Aviary
Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas' cocktail venture in Chicago, The Aviary, is an experience: From the setting and the cocktails to the service and the food, no detail is overlooked at this “redefined” cocktail bar. Even the ice that is used to craft the cocktails is elevated to high art; the ambitious ice program churns out more than 25 types of ice, from miniscule ice balls to flavored spheres to enormous blocks for hand-chipped ice. Tickets are sold on the bar’s website and come in three varieties: as a deposit that goes toward your bill, a three-course package that includes three cocktails, and a five-course package of five cocktails, each paired with food ranging from one bite to a small course. You can also try your luck at the door. Even more exclusive is the basement speakeasy, The Office, which is available by invitation only or can be rented out for intimate private parties.
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The Red Key Tavern is an institution that has been in the Settle family since 1951, and it truly is a family establishment. The bar’s late proprietor, Russ Settle, was famous for his list of “the rules” that every patron had to follow. His wife Dollia has been the bartender for decades now, and along with her son Jim and granddaughter Leslie, continues to enforce them today: no feet on the furniture, no chairs in the aisle, cash only, hang up your coat and hat, use your indoor voice, don’t swear, and, most importantly, the bartender is always right! Frequented by locals, touring musicians, and writers, the bar is known for its ice-cold bottled beer and straightforward cocktails. The place itself is a throwback. From the neon sign over the door (four musical notes depict the old boozy song “How Dry I Am”) to the post-war selection of 45s on the jukebox to the original 1950s Formica tables and straight-back chairs, the bar’s décor has remained virtually untouched since the day Settle bought the place. The linoleum-tiled floor has a path worn between the jukebox and restrooms, and there’s plenty of kitsch here, too, like the stuffed antelope head behind the bar and the World War II-era model planes hanging from the ceiling. Don’t miss the cheeseburgers — cooked on a flattop grill — or Dollie’s potato salad.
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It’s all about craft beer here at El Bait Shop, a rustic bar populated with taxidermy, beer signs, and bicycles. The bar also doubles as Des Moines’ “unofficial bicycle headquarters,” given its proximity to a number of bike trails in downtown Des Moines. With more than 185 beers on tap and 100 by the bottle, this is a beer-lover’s paradise. Try the Root Down shot, made with locally produced Millstream Root Beer and Jägermeister, and enjoy the fish tacos and bacon-wrapped tater tots while chatting with beloved bartender Joe Tolpingrud.
Facebook/Johnny's Tavern in Lawrence
Housed in a former tractor/farm implement store, Johnny’s Tavern was founded way back in 1953, and the original sign still hangs out front today. Since then, the bar has changed hands, undergone renovations to the upstairs to include an additional bar and party rooms, and expanded into eight other locations in Kansas and Missouri. Through all of that, people have never stopped coming back to the original location in Lawrence for the daily drink specials, the loyalty program, and Cajun Night on the first and third Wednesday of each month (Trivia Night takes over the other Wednesdays). As per Kansas state law, all bars must serve food, and Johnny’s honors this with some of the best pizza in town and about 25 topping options. It also happens to be the best place in town to watch a Jayhawks or Royals game.
Seelbach Bar Hilton
It’s said that F. Scott Fitzgerald first started writing his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, on cocktail napkins at the Old Seelbach Bar at the historic Seelbach Hilton. Whether or not that’s true, the place has still seen many celebrities, Grammy-winning artists, gangsters, and even presidents in the years since it opened back in 1905. Try the signature Seelbach cocktail (Old Forester bourbon, triple sec, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and Champagne, served in a fluted glass adorned with fresh orange), which was created in 1917, disappeared during Prohibition, and was rediscovered by a hotel manager in 1995. Located off the hotel lobby, the turn-of-the-century bar also offers more than 70 bourbons and a comforting, warm bourbon chocolate pecan pie. The bar food menu features a variety of Kentucky-accented dishes like Kentucky bison sliders with Kenny’s horseradish Cheddar and mini brioche buns, “cheese fries” (beer-battered fries with chorizo, sriracha, and warm Cheddar sauce), and funnel cake fries with powdered sugar and bourbon caramel.
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This landmark hotel bar is named after the Sazerac, a cocktail that many consider to be the world’s first mixed drink. The Sazerac Bar’s décor evokes old New Orleans with some elegant fixtures like Paul Ninas’ murals that flank the African walnut bar. The bar itself, including its stools and banquettes, has been fully restored to its original splendor. A small collection of white and red wines by the glass and beers support the main drink menu focus: the cocktails. Classic cocktails like the Sazerac (Sazerac 6-year rye, Peychaud’s bitters, and sugar in an Herbsaint-rinsed glass); the 1840 Sazerac (Pierre Ferrand “1840” Cognac, Peychaud’s bitters, and Herbsaint Legendre); and the Pink Squirrel (crème de almond, light crème de cacao, and cream) are given equal weight as new classics like the Thibodeaux Tickle (Oryza gin, rhubarb bitters, cranberry bitters, sugar, and soda); Prickly Pear (pear vodka, Chambord, fresh citrus, and ginger beer); and Bywater Detour (Sorel hibiscus liqueur, pimento bitters, and Gosling’s ginger beer).
While Portland is one of the cities with the most bars and restaurants in the country, we ended up selecting a Maine spot that’s basically in the middle of nowhere. However, many say it’s worth the trip. Ebenezer’s Pub has 35 Belgian beers on tap in addition to 700 bottles of different vintages. Its signature beverage is the Black Albert, an award-winning filthy rich royal imperial stout that was brewed specifically for the bar by the top brewers De Struise. The pub also serves lambic and gueuze, Belgian beer styles seldom seen outside their native country. There is a wide variety of cuisines on offer, too, from local favorite lobster rolls to modern gastropub fare.
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Located in an old row house built in the early 1900s, The Brewer’s Art is also famous for its Belgian-style ales. Two bars and a dining room provide three different atmospheres united by superb beers. The upstairs bar is light and classic with high-top tables, an ornate bar area, and a lounge area with a working fireplace; the downstairs bar is dark, loud, and popular with college students and locals; and the casual dining room serves chef Ray Kumm's seasonally changing European continental cuisine. There are six house-brewed beers offered, as well as plenty of options for non-beer drinkers: the bar serves several bourbon cocktails such as the Stein (Buffalo Trace bourbon, citrus black tea syrup, Charm City Meadworks honey, and cardamom bitters).
Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar has more than 200 whiskeys including a rolling list of the niche, century-old wooden bar’s own hand-selected single barrels. There are rare and nearly impossible-to-find bottles, weekly whiskey flights, a whiskey club, and one of Boston’s strongest craft cocktail programs, led by bar and beverage manager Kayla Quigley. The signature drinks at the bar — which is punctuated with bubble glass pendant lights, local art, chalkboard drawings, and worn leather booths — are Fernet-Branca on tap and the Ideal Manhattan (Maker’s Mark, St-Germain, Cinzano Rosso, Angostura bitters, and grapefruit bitters). The bar is known for its oysters, upscale tavern fare, and whole roasted pig dinner for 10. Citizen is also conveniently located just behind Fenway Park for a post-game drink.
Right outside of Detroit, the Goodnight Gracie Jazz and Martini Bar is, in fact, a martini bar, but it also stocks a plethora of whiskey, Scotch, and bourbon. The intimate bar, with dark mood lighting, live music, and a lively dance floor, specializes in concoctions made with house-infused Tito’s vodka, including raspberry-infused for the Vixen Martini, strawberry-infused for the strawberry mule, pineapple-infused for the pineapple mule, and many others. There are 23 martinis on the menu, the signature non-martini cocktail being the Kentucky Buck (Ridgemont Reserve 1792, the bar’s exclusive single-barrel hand-selected blend, with freshly muddled strawberries, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, and ginger beer). Save room for the sliders, which include prime rib with “zip” cheese, crab cake, and chicken parmesan.
Marvel Bar combines classic Japanese bartending methods with new American cocktail creativity. “Our minimalist, outside-the-box style of innovation has led to the invention of new genres of drinks, such as emulsified sours, hyper-diluted cocktails, charcoal-filtered cocktails, and alkaline cocktails,” says beverage director Pip Hanson, whose favorite beverage is the dry martini. His favorite martini recipe was adapted from a French cocktail book published in 1904: a 3-to-1 gin to dry vermouth with a single dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist. “Hand-chipped ice, one of our signature Japanese influences, makes an enormous difference in the final temperature and dilution of this drink,” explains Hanson, who tended bar at Roppongi Hills Club in Tokyo and studied classic Japanese cocktail technique. Marvel Bar has 400 different spirits, 11 single barrels of bourbon and rye from Kentucky, and a constantly rotating cocktail menu featuring classics and avant-garde original creations crafted with the perfectionism of Ginza cocktail masters. Additionally, general manager Peder Schweigert was a culinary producer on Top Chef Season 5, worked the kitchen at Alinea in Chicago, and won Iron Bartender in 2010 after less than a year of working with spirits. He crafts Marvel Bar’s signature cocktails like the Oliveto, a combination of an egg white gin sour with olive oil that the bar dubbed an "emulsified sour.”
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Since 1992, James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence has been crafting a conglomerate of eateries and bars in Oxford, Mississippi. The French-inspired Southern fare at City Grocery draws diners to its fine dining room, and the more casual upstairs bar, aptly titled The Upstairs Bar at City Grocery, has become a destination as well for its extensive wine list, short list of classic cocktails, and snacks. Try the Jesús María (Patrón tequila, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup) and the Oxfordian (Maker’s Mark bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with prosecco) and pair them with bar snacks like crispy fried hot chicken with honey; the fried bologna sandwich with America Cheese Whiz yellow mustard, and toasted white bread; and the shrimp and grits made from spicy Original GritGirl grits, sautéed shrimp, garlic, mushrooms, scallions, white wine, lemon juice, and Big Bad Bacon.
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Head mixologist Kyle Mathis and chef Gerard Craft are all about providing a mix of creative and classic cocktails with seasonal new American small plates at Taste by Niche. The cocktail menu includes 35 classics and 15 originals served in the intimate, steampunk-style speakeasy. “For me, it’s all about the foundations of bartending," says Mathis, who has been in charge of mixology here since 2013. "We honor the classics at Taste by Niche, but also offer a menu that intrigues guests to try new spirits and cocktails.” The signature cocktail, Port of Spain (an Angostura bitters-heavy drink made with rye whiskey, Allspice Dram, grenadine, egg white, and lemon), is a must-try. The bar food includes bacon-fat-fried cornbread, fried cheese curds, and a number of small and large plates.
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Charlie’s Bar (aka Charlie B’s) is a dive that has been around for decades. With a bar that runs down the entire space, a pool table, and a small-town vibe, even out-of-towners will feel welcome at the cash-only establishment that caters to everyone from college students to retirees. The back room, the Dinosaur Café, serves burgers and Cajun and Creole cuisine that’s absolutely worth trying.
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Originally called The Homey Inn, this Omaha dive bar had to change its name because all the letters wouldn’t fit on the sign. It is, indeed, a homey place with walls lined with charming vintage Americana like tap handles, rare baseball cards, and political buttons. Opened in 1956 by Maynard Finkle (today his son Terry Finkle runs the bar), The Homy Inn quickly gained a following for its Champagne on tap, which comes in four varieties: dry, sweet, strawberry, and peach. It’s served by the flute — for less than $5 — or by the pitcher. If you run up a $100 tab, you get a free T-shirt.
Named for the 1953 cocktail in the original James Bond novel, Casino Royale, Vesper Bar inside the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is an example of modern sophistication juxtaposed with firm roots in the elegance of the past.
Surrounded by mirrored tiles and centering on an ornate wooden liquor cabinet, it is certainly charming. Vesper Bar has a menu of 20 beers, 11 wines by the glass, and 10 cocktails separated into two styles: classic (traditional renderings of classic drinks) and Vesper interpretations (drinks based on the originals but infused with modern additions to show off the evolution of the industry). Specializing in "molecular" mixology, edible cocktails, and tequilas, Las Vegas native and chief mixologist Mariena Mercer brings extensive knowledge to the operation — making this a must-visit bar.
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Open since 1991, the Portsmouth Brewery was New Hampshire’s first brewpub. Housed in a nineteenth-century brick building in Portsmouth’s historic downtown, the two-story establishment is the quintessential New England neighborhood bar. The beer is brewed in-house and there are whiskey-based cocktails, too, like the Market Street Manhattan (Woodford Reserve bourbon, sweet and dry vermouths, and Woodford Reserve bourbon-barrel bitters). The drink offerings include 12 draft beers upstairs, 16 downstairs, two cask-conditioned beers, 18 wines, 25 high-end bottled beers, and cider offerings curated by head brewer Matt Gallagher. You’ll also find 10 cocktails and a few mocktails. The bar’s décor includes eclectic art, rolled steel tabletops, high ceilings, a cupola, a seasonal outdoor beer garden, and a view of the beer-making process. The downstairs Jimmy LaPanza Lounge is a more laid-back affair with velvet nude paintings on the walls, low ceilings, a pool table, and a tabletop shuffleboard game. Try the Thaizenheimer: a wheat ale brewed with ginger, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass. It pairs well with the spicy curried mussels cooked in a broth infused with curry spice, coconut milk, lemongrass, and a touch of spicy chile sauce.
For 80 years, McGovern’s Tavern, an Irish pub located six blocks from Newark’s Penn Station, has attracted a clientele of blue collar types, office workers, college students, and police officers and firefighters (many of whose hats and helmets hang from the ceiling). Originally opened by Frank McGovern in 1936 as a meeting place for Irish immigrants, the bar survived the Newark riots in 1967 (which led to the closure of many businesses) and today serves up pints of Guinness, other brews, and bar fare like a 10-inch pizza and a sandwich called the Dublin Decker (corned beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing served on rye bread). McGovern's is closed on weekends.
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According to the Santa Fe Reporter, locals believe that Tiny's Restaurant and Lounge is the best karaoke spot in town. For 65 years, the family-owned establishment has stayed popular, though it has changed locations several times. It’s well known for beer (there are 34 varieties to choose from), steak, and Tex-Mex fare like Frito pie (Fritos, ground beef, red chiles, and beans garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese), chile relleno (two jumbo Hatch green chiles stuffed with pepper jack cheese, dipped in house breading, and served with Spanish rice, pinto beans, and pozole, a hominy soup), and char-broiled rib-eye. Several nights a week, the old-school dining room — adorned with artwork by local artists — and patio erupt with live music, dancing, and, of course, karaoke. The bar and dining area also boast one of the Southwest's largest decanter collections.
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The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, is not your average, run-of-the-mill Irish pub. The three-level, mid-19th century-style saloon has only been open for four years, but the bar has been racking up accolades, being named the best bar in the world by multiple outlets, most notably Drink International’s World’s 50 Best Bars in 2015 and 2016. The pub’s specialization is Irish whiskey; they serve more than 150 whiskeys in all, and the number is growing. Half of the bar’s 72 cocktails, served in the second-story sit-down parlor, are dedicated to Irish whiskey. Try the expertly executed Irish coffee, made with quality filtered coffee, not espresso; cream with more than 36 percent fat content; and low-pot still/high grain blend whiskey like Jameson’s Original or Clontarf 1014. No wonder 200 to 300 Irish coffees are sold here daily! Always bustling, the ground-level taproom serves craft beers, Irish whiskey, and basic cocktails. The hearty Irish and British food menu has all the requisites, like fish and chips, sausage rolls, and Scotch eggs, along with some modernized offerings like burgers and truffle fries.
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He’s Not Here is a true old-school college dive bar, known as “the oldest on-campus 45-year-old.” If you ever went to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or are just a Tarheels fan, then you have probably had a 33-ounce Blue Cup — the classic $5 cup of beer — at He’s Not Here, which is located on the town’s main street.
There are 38 beers on tap and 35 by the bottle on offer. Chapel Hill was originally a village, and the bar’s courtyard was originally known as “the green.” It pays homage to the town’s history with bumper stickers that say “He’s Not Here — on the village green.” As for the name? There are many urban legends about its origin, but one popular story is that celebrities, such as UNC alum Michael Jordan, often frequented the bar, and folks called the bar to find them. The bartenders answered, “He’s not here.” Don’t miss the scene in the courtyard, which accommodates 1,000 rowdy college kids and hosts live bands three times each week — and where you’ll no doubt see hundreds of those iconic Carolina-blue cups.
People general know The Parrot’s Cay in Grand Forks, North Dakota, for two reasons. First, it’s a solid place to hang out, watch a game, and/or drink a few drafts. Although it’s located in a less crowded part of town, Parrot’s can get quite busy at times, but that doesn’t stop the staff from being attentive, accommodating, and friendly. The other reason this is such a local favorite is its wings. Served swimming in sauce that ranges in spiciness from a level-3 to a level-15 (13 is supposed to make you sweat), regulars claim the bar is actually willing to go as high as 40. There’s also a famous wing challenge that required contestants to eat seven extremely spicy wings (so spicy that they don’t appear on the regular menu and gloves need to be worn when handling them) in five minutes for the opportunity to win a T-shirt and a $100 gift card. Even those who aren’t into chicken wings will stop by to order one of the specialty sauces by the quart. Get it on something, anything, and stick around for a couple rounds. This is still a bar, after all.
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Proprietor Paulius Nasvytis and the bartenders of The Velvet Tango Room are “torchbearers of tradition.” Since 1996, long before it was trendy, the bartenders here have been serving classic cocktails. There are now more than 80 cocktails on the menu, and about 30 of them are house creations, including the India Lime Fizz (a rich, creamy, and powerful cocktail that combines gin, rum, flora India limes, vanilla, and a whole egg). The bar is housed in a space that was once a speakeasy — bullet holes can still be seen in the ceiling — with the bars made of refinished mahogany and the front room featuring a baby grand piano at which music is played nightly by a three-piece jazz combo and a late-night pianist. The second room is reached by walking through a mirror in the coatroom. There’s another baby grand piano there, along with a cozy fireplace, comfy leather chairs, and a patio where some of the bar’s cocktail ingredients are grown. Both rooms have an old-fashioned black-and-white TV that shows classic movies with no sound. There are limited snacks such as speck, which is locally sourced smoked pork belly made by a German family in Cleveland.
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The claim to fame for Edna’s in Oklahoma City is that it’s “home of the original Lunchbox.” However, it’s not the kind of lunchbox you’re thinking of. Edna’s Lunchbox is a signature cocktail made of Coors Light, an amaretto shot, and a splash of orange juice. The food menu also includes the option to “Lunchbox up” your sweet potato fries by drizzling amaretto-infused marshmallow sauce on top and adding almonds.
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Credited with helping start the craft beer revolution — if not across the country, then certainly in Oregon — the late Don Younger, longtime co-owner of the place, passed away in 2014 and is practically a patron saint of the community. His traditional English-style Horse Brass Pub has been serving proper 20-ounce pints since 1976. There are 58 taps including four hand-pumped cask engines, three ciders, five nitro-taps, and several imports. There is the requisite pub food, too, like bangers, Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, ploughman’s lunch, and halibut fish and chips — all of which are exceptional.
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Monk’s Café is a Belgian beer emporium with a repertoire of rotating beers on tap and hundreds by the bottle, from the limited supply Chimay Dorée, to the drier Tripel Karmeliet on tap, to Achel Blond and Westmalle Tripel by the bottle. The bar also stocks locally made Belgian-style beers, so there is something for everyone. The hearty sandwiches, burgers, and mussels pair well with the beer.
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Cook and Brown Public House is a modern New England-inspired take on a European gastropub. The bar, which has a separate restaurant area, is well known for its extensive selection of spirits with a predominant focus on whiskeys. The back bar is crammed with 200 bottles of spirits, liqueurs, and bitters. The seasonally changing drink menu is populated with a rotating punch, a hot drink, and a barrel-aged cocktail along with 10 cleverly named concoctions along the lines of Port-Tea Like it’s 1999 (Mellow Corn, Six Grapes port, Meletti amaro, lemon, and black tea) and the Vieux from the Flor (Tequila Ocho Reposado, Lustau Palo Cortado sherry, St. George NOLA Coffee liqueur, Cardamaro, and orange bitters). The seasonally changing food menu, curated by proprietor and head chef Nemo Bolin (who previously worked at L’Etoile on Martha’s Vineyard), pairs well with the drinks. One of the most popular dishes is the chicken liver pâté built up with beef bone marrow and served with a rotating selection of mustard, house-made jam, house-made pickles, and crusty country toast.
Craig Nelson’s Proof is an intimate craft cocktail bar with an extensive wine-by-the-glass list and a beer list full of pilsners, lagers, stouts, sours, and ciders. But the real attractions are the creative concoctions like the Pink Rabbit (Ancho Reyes liqueur, Hendrick’s gin, Proof’s house-made strawberry “quick,” and mole bitters); Knuckle Ball (Old Grand-Dad 114 bourbon, Mexican Coca-Cola reduction, orange bitters, and pickled boiled peanuts); and the Charleston Buck (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Tuaca, citrus, egg white, Proof’s ginger beer, and blood orange bitters). Since our list was published last year, Proof has added 19 more cocktails to its menu. There is also a daily changing menu of small plates, scribbled on the bar’s chalkboard.
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The self-proclaimed world’s largest biker bar is a sight to behold, particularly during the annual summertime Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, when tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts descend on this South Dakota town to drink beer — lots of beer. The Full Throttle Saloon, created by Michael Ballard, is an adult playground replete with the Flaunt Girls (a burlesque dance troupe), little person wrestling, a burnout pit for bikes, a mechanical bull, a zip-line, a body paint area, and numerous concerts featuring big-name bands. There’s also a cabin area, open June 1 through the last day of the rally, and theme nights to add to all the shenanigans.
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Home of traditional country music, hillbilly, and rockabilly, Robert’s Western World is a legendary honky-tonk. Plenty of stars of the Grand Ole Opry and actors on shows like Hee Haw and Nashville Now have called the place home in the years since it opened in a space that originally hosted a steel drum manufacturer and then a boot and apparel store. Currently owned by singer Jesse Lee Jones, the bar brings back the golden era of country music and pays homage to its past with quintessential hillbilly flair: shelves of boots, fresh-grilled Angus burgers, fried bologna sandwiches — piled high with seven slices of bologna and served slightly grilled with lettuce and tomato — moon pies, live music, and cold PBR.
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Anvil Bar and Refuge was one of the first bars in the United States to serve classically styled cocktails like The Brave (mezcal, tequila, amaro, Curaçao, and Angostura bitters, served at room temperature) at lower prices. There are 110 cocktails on the menu, but the bartenders can make far more. The lively space, opened by Bobby Heugel in 2009 when he was just 24 years old, features a bar running the length of the space and a huge spirit collection. Heugel is also one of the bar owners behind OKRA Charity Saloon, a not-for-profit bar. There is a small food menu of nibbles like cheese, charcuterie, and snacks.
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The world’s only ski-in gastro-distillery, High West Distillery & Saloon is all about the whiskey. There are some perennially popular mainstays on the cocktail menu like Dead Man’s Boots (Rendezvous rye, reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, sugar cane syrup, and ginger beer) and High West Lemonade (a concoction of High West syrup — a mixture of sugar, water, lemon, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, and whole nutmeg — fresh lemon juice, fresh water, High West Double Rye, and one mint sprig). However, the drinks that truly highlight the talent here are the classic whiskey cocktails like the excellent old fashioned. The bar’s buildings, which are on the National Historic Registry, are worth a visit, too. The livery was used to shoe the horses and mules that worked in the mines; it then became a garage. The exterior of the livery has exposed lettering and signage that was essentially baked on when the coalition mine building burned down. Excellent whiskey cocktails, delicious High West burgers, and welcoming and knowledgeable bar staff all add up to the perfect ski trip.
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Ye Olde Tavern is an extremely apt name for this Manchester pub. It was built circa 1790, back when Vermont was that pesky new state on the block that crashed the original 13 colonies’ party. Although the tavern has changed hands numerous times since — and a major renovation was undertaken in 1975 — the uneven floors, slanting doorways, and antique furnishings have remained undisturbed. The tavern has since been listed on the Vermont Register of Historic Places, adding further authenticity to a place that serves Prohibition-era cocktails, an extensive and expertly curated selection of wine, and a 1790 Taproom Ale brewed especially for the bar.
If you’re walking down King Street in Alexandria and you see a blue light outside PX (Person Extraordinaire) or a pirate flag at full mast, that’s your signal that the 1920s-style lounge above Eamonn's, A Dublin Chipper (owned by Eat Good Food Group, the folks also behind PX) is open. Sommelier and mixologist Todd Thrasher, a native Virginian, handcrafts memorable cocktails at this intimate, 38-seat place. The limited hours (it's open Wednesday to Saturday nights only), the dress code (jackets required for men), and the fact that reservations are strongly encouraged give PX an air of exclusivity and glamour. The 18 seasonally changing "avant farm" drinks like the This Is Snow Cream! (Buffalo Trace bourbon and vanilla whey) and the Grog and Sweet Basil (a mix of rum and lemon verbena tea served in a pirate's mug with a see-through bottom), are equally classy and memorable. Be sure to try the Irish-style fish and chips served with a choice of seven different house-made sauces.
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Seattle’s Canon lays claim to the largest collection of spirits in the Western Hemisphere, with 3,500 labels and counting. There’s so much whiskey here that there’s even some in the bathroom, which was dubbed one of the top three bathrooms in Seattle by Seattle Refined on account of its vintage radio and “spa-like experience.” The “whiskey and bitters emporium” is a small place, so they can only accommodate parties of four people or fewer, and we suggest you make a reservation to guarantee yourself a seat. We also recommend dressing up a bit for Canon’s exclusive, swanky atmosphere.
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Many people visit Washington, D.C., for its history, and so it makes sense that when looking for a drink, one should check out the oldest saloon in the city. Established in 1856, Old Ebbitt Grill has served most of our presidents since then, starting with Ulysses S. Grant. It’s moved several times over the years, but it’s currently less than a block from the White House itself. Old Ebbitt Grill bartenders can make nearly any cocktail, but there are a dozen seasonal cocktails on offer, too, like the signature Bloody Maryland. It’s the bar’s take on the classic Bloody Mary with the addition of a jumbo shrimp and a glass rimmed with Old Bay seasoning. The deep mahogany bar is a sight to behold: A beautiful antique stein collection runs along the top, punctuated by animal head trophies purportedly bagged by Teddy Roosevelt. Try the oysters; there is an oyster happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. daily and again from 11 p.m. until close. Feeling fancy? Go for the wine, as Old Ebbitt won Wine Spectator magazine’s “Award of Excellence” for 18 years in a row, from 1998 to 2015.
Like many of the bars on this list, a trip to Mario’s Fishbowl (established in 1963) is like a drinking history lesson. The original owner’s name still stands. The namesake “fishbowl” glasses — made at the old Morgantown Glass Works — are a relic of days when the building was Richwood Avenue Confectionary. The signs on the walls are proclamations of victory in various drinking and eating contests held over the years by WVU students and other patrons with competitive streaks. Although the owners have changed, the menu has expanded, and the kitchen has been updated, the nostalgia of the Fishbowl has always remained the top priority.
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Inspired by the traditions of Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs, The Old Fashioned has beers, brats, cheese, and more. Opened in 2003, the bar is utterly Wisconsin (its motto is “Where Wisconsin is king!”), complete with a food menu that highlights local specialties from Wisconsin producers to create traditional home-cooked feasts like fish fry, prime rib, and wood-fired chicken. The drink menu is similarly rich in state pride, featuring 52 Wisconsin beers on tap and about 100 bottled beers, wines, spirits, and specialty drinks — including its namesake, the classic, hand-muddled old fashioned, which is pretty much the state cocktail. As if the food and drink weren’t enough of a draw, the tavern also has a rewards program, called “Big Shot,” through which points ($1 equals one point) can be redeemed for merchandise like bumper stickers, tap beers, Wisconsin cheese, or even a party.
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The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is as Wild West as it gets, complete with leather saddles atop their bar stools. The joint refers to itself as a “landmark watering hole,” which is hard to deny since you can’t miss the enormous glowing sign across the front of the building, topped with a neon cowboy riding a bucking bronco. Upon entering, guests are greeted by a giant grizzly bear before coming face to face with the largest selection of single-barrel Jack Daniel’s in the Northwest. The food at the attached steakhouse is great, and the live music is always entertaining, but there’s still nothing better than downing a drink at the bar of an old Western saloon — especially one that was the first in the state to receive a liquor license after the repeal of Prohibition.
Looking for a place to just kick back on game night? We’ve got a list of the 25 best sports bars in the country too.