Cause I’ve always wanted to make this list and folks always be asking me for recommendations when they’re “forced” to visit any of these cities. Why even bother going to some of these cities? Because when I travel through Asia, I’m one of many. I’m Thai in Thailand, Vietnamese in Vietnam and for damn sure I’m Korean in Korea. But when you’re in most of middle America, you stick out like a bright yellow jaundiced thumb. So in no particular order other than me just trying to remember these drunken nights:
Buckhorn Exchange, Denver CO: The oldest restaurant in Denver is over 200 years old and has a bar upstairs with Macallan 16 for $12. There’s taxidermy everything on the walls, even a zebra, which would only be possible if Teddy Roosevelt himself shot and killed it in Africa and brought it back (which he did).
Wood Tavern, Miami FL: By the time I got to the Wynwood District, apparently a one block version of Silverlake in the heart of Miami, I was sick of beach deco and sugary tropical drinks. After a dinner at the Shepard Fairey designed restaurant across the street (not as bad as it sounds), we walk into this bar and all we see is cheap beer, a taco stand inside a car and a trivia night going on in the auditorium in the back. Loved it so much we went back the next night and the whole block is practically closed down for the weekly biker meet up. In any other hipster bar in the country I would mean bicycle. But these are Harleys and it was a sight to behold.
Murray Bar, Livingston MT: As seen on No Reservations, the chef next door makes a mean steak and even invited us to some hot springs up the road the next day. That’s how nice they are in Montana. I’ll also never forgot the woman who left the bar for a minute and used her wallet and her flip phone to save her seat and drink. Where the hell am I?
Nye’s Polonaise and Polka Bar, Minneapolis MN: One side of the bar has a lady on a piano who plays along with your karaoke stylings. The other side is an award-winning polka band. You can go back and forth and did I mention you can order piroshkies here?
Taos Mesa Brewing
Taos Mesa Brewery, Taos NM: Steel corrugated tilt-up brewing company with live music and great beer in the MIDDLE OF NO WHERE New Mexico. Drive a few miles down and look straight down the Rio Grande. Get scared and go get drunk.
McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland OR: Portland is the greatest drinking town in America. I said it. These McMenamin guys convert anything and everything to a bar: hospital, hotel, and in this case, an elementary school. The classrooms are now hotel rooms, the boiler room is a restaurant, the school auditorium is a music venue and everyone wants to go to detention (its a bar, duh).
Robert’s Western World
Robert’s Western World, Nashville TN: I don’t like country music, but give me beer, bourbon and BBQ and I will line dance all night at this honky tonk just down the street from the Grand Ole Opry.
Riverhorse Inn, Milwaukee WI: So this one time I went here cause a random electro DJ crew was playing and next thing I know I was buying a round for the bar (its Milwaukee prices folks) and convinced some couple to drive me back to my hotel. So yea, this place is awesome.
The Whisky River, Charlotte NC: Dale Earnhardt Jr’s bar in downtown Charlotte is huge and has a mechanical bull. Went with a group of folks from NYC and we saw two girls ride it the same time and all we could talk about was how ironic this bar would be if it was in Brooklyn.
Angel’s Share, New York NY: Like everyone else, I like this bar cause no one knows its there. Which is a lie, cause now everyone knows its there.
Big, San Francisco CA: Just like Angel’s Share, its hard to find. No menus, the bartenders have a conversation with you and find out your favorite ingrediants and liquor and make something according to your táste notés. They don’t even have a WEBSITE folks!
Zig Zag Cafe, Seattle WA: Best Fernet cocktails ever. Will make you zig zag back and forth on the way home, especially up those stairs.
Bar None, Vancouver BC: Some white girl with a tattoo arm sleeve stepped up to ME at this bar and it was fantastic. The bar itself? OK.
Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto KY: I can drink Maker’s Mark for free and all I have to do is drive an hour outside of Louisville to do it? Done. Bonus points: only place in the world to buy the moonshine version of Maker’s.
Marvin, Washington DC: If the Thievery Corporation opened up a restaurant/bar and named it after their favorite singer it would be this. Cause they did. Did I mentioned how great laid back and awesome the music is? I wonder why.
Jacoby’s German Biergarten, Detroit MI: Within stumbling distance of the Renaissance Hotel across the river from Canada. The bar tender played hyphy all night for us when he found out we were from SF and Oakland and then he convinced us to go to a secret bar in a warehouse 5 miles from downtown where they only served beers and balloons of nitrous. Did I mentioned how fucked up Detroit is these days? Or how awesome Detroit techno is? Cause all the above is interrelated.