Somebody recently asked me the seemingly mundane, throw-away question: “Jeff, what’s your favorite bar you’ve ever been in?” The question ruined a week of my life. I made a top ten. Then top 25, 50. It just spiraled out of control. I’d have a list I liked and then remember ten more places. So I decided to just sit down and make my top 100. You’re welcome, world.
This list was so much fun to compile. It made me rigorously sift through what has been twenty years of drinking and travel. It made me remember nights I’d long forgotten and text friends I hadn’t spoken with in years. This list is, in many ways, a young man’s travel memoir.
Of course it is also subjective. I have lived all 37 of my years in New Jersey and New York so those states are everywhere on this list. I’ve been to Chicago and Ireland nearly twenty times each so they are too. I’ve never been to Spain…or Kansas City…or most of Texas, so they’re not in the mix. I probably had a shit time in a bar you love and a great time in a bar you think is shit. That’s drinking.
Some of the bars I’ve been in once. Some hundreds of times. It doesn’t matter. A great bar is like a great piece of art. You never forget it.
And I didn’t write up a description of every place because I didn’t think there’d be enough interest. So it’s a compilation of write-ups, photographs and just plain, old-fashioned lists. But just Google any of the establishments if you want more information.
This post will live at the top of the blog until Monday, July 8th as we take a little break for the holiday. Enjoy the 4th. Stay safe. If you drink, don’t drive. See ya’ll next week!
#100 The Black Cat Bar & Grill – Absecon, NJ
#99 Exit/In – Nashville, TN
Half this joint is a rock club. The other half a black-painted punk bar that is a welcome departure from the tourist scene on Lower Broadway.
#98 Bostwick’s Chowder House – East Hampton, NY
It’s a small bar. But it’s intensely local in an area where finding a local human being in the summertime is harder than finding a beer for less than $8. But they have both here. (A bartender once asked my friend Pat how many people were responsible for his drink tab. The answer was one.)
#97 The Newman Arms – London, England (Closed 2017, Reopened 2018!)
I tried to convince the bartender to let me do a one-man production of Sweeney Todd in this combo pub/pie house one night. He seemed into it. Maybe it will happen in October. #DBBinLondon
#96 Odd Couples – Harrison, NJ (Closed 2014)
The worst bar on this list. Whatever you think a dive bar is, it doesn’t hold a candle to this shit hole. But it provided me the proper hiding spot when I needed it.
#95 Willi’s Wine Bar – Paris, France
#94 Heidelberg Restaurant – NY, NY
#93 La Gitane – Bayeux, France
#92 Cafe Vlissinghe – Bruges, Belgium
#91 The Green Mill – Chicago, IL
The opening of the excellent Green Mill oral history from the Chicago Reader:
“It’s not uncommon to walk into a bar in Chicago these days and feel like the present is the past: drinkers belly up to polished wood, sipping drinks concocted from small-batch whiskies and admiring each other in the soft glow of exposed Edison lightbulbs. We’re living in a cocktail renaissance, a period when authenticity and history, even if the bar only opened last month, mean something. And that’s a good thing.”
#90 Pub Mars – Kazimierz Dolny, Poland
Only one other person on earth – Mr. Noah Brier himself – understands the surreal experience of this beauty of a bar in one of the perfect villages of Poland. There were too many pints and something with a painting.
#89 Lakeside Lounge – NY, NY (Closed 2012)
It’s in-bar photo booth, the first I remember in NYC, was legendarily weird. I had several strips with me and people I have no recollection of meeting. And we seem verrrrrrry friendly.
#88 Dick Mack’s Pub – Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
My uncle once played Eleanor Rigby on the piano in the back for a local rugby team. I sang my own lyrics: “Eleanor Rigby, worked in the shop, down the block, and she sold lots of cheese. No one said please.”
#87 The Stag’s Head – Dublin, Ireland
With it’s stunning woodwork, this might be the most beautiful bar in the world.
#86 Parkside Lounge – NY, NY
The bar version of a Tom Waits tune. (Go get a corned beef from Katz’ up the street and eat it at the bar.)
#85 East L.A. – Hoboken, NJ
The three margarita limit is serious business.
#84 Doc Holliday’s – Glenwood Springs, CO
There are a lot of old cowboy joints on this beautiful stretch of Colorado. Silver Dollar Saloon in Leadville. Woody Creek Tavern. And if I got more time in either, I’m sure they’d have landed on this list. I got time in Doc’s. So it’s here.