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Bars We Love!





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SINDEL NOBLE TRAVIS NOBLE, P.C. 8000 MARYLAND AVENUE, SUITE 910 | ST. LOUIS, MO 63105 PHONE: 314-721-6040 | TOLL FREE: 866-794-0947 The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

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Publisher Chris Keating Editor in Chief Doyle Murphy

E D I T O R I A L Art Director Evan Sult Contributing Writers Chris Andoe, Cheryl Baehr, Thomas Crone, Sarah Fenske, Daniel Hill, Jaime Lees, Ellen Prinzi, Iain Shaw, Evan Sult, Danny Wicentowski Proofreader Daniel Hill, Paul Friswold Contributing Photographers Ryan Gines, RJ Hartbeck, Monica Mileur, John Schoemehl, Theo Welling P R O D U C T I O N Production Manager Haimanti Germain M U LT I M E D I A A D V E R T I S I N G Advertising Director Colin Bell Senior Account Executive Cathleen Criswell Account Managers Emily Fear, Jennifer Samuel Multimedia Account Executive Chris Guilbaultl, Jackie Mundy C I R C U L AT I O N Circulation Manager Kevin G. Powers E U C L I D M E D I A G R O U P Chief Executive Officer Andrew Zelman Chief Operating Officers Chris Keating, Michael Wagner VP of Digital Services Stacy Volhein Creative Director Tom Carlson N AT I O N A L A D V E R T I S I N G VMG Advertising 1-888-278-9866,

Table of Contents Introduction Where to Go in the City

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Where to Go in the County 61 Elsewhere in the Region


Readers Choice


Riverfront Times 308 N. 21st Street, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63103 General information: 314-754-5966 Fax administrative: 314-754-5955 Fax editorial: 314-754-6416 Founded by Ray Hartmann in 1977

Riverfront Times Bar Guide is available free of charge, limited to one copy per reader. Additional copies of the Bar Guide may be purchased for $1.00 plus postage, payable in advance at the Riverfront Times office. Riverfront Times Bar Guide may be distributed only by Riverfront Times authorized distributors. No person may, without prior written permission of Riverfront Times, take more than one copy. The entire contents of Riverfront Times Bar Guide are copyright 2019 by Riverfront Times, LLC. No portion may be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, including electronic retrieval systems, without the expressed written permission of the Publisher, Riverfront Times, 308 N. 21st Street, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63103. Please call the Riverfront Times office for back-issue information, 314-754-5966.


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On the cover: Photo by Theo Welling Bartender Kira Webster enjoys a relaxing drink at The BAO.

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Stars of Bars What makes a great bar?

It isn’t just the booze or the bartenders, although they’re both factors, of course. A bar’s greatness seems to rest mostly on that ineffable joie de boire — it makes you happy to be out drinking; it makes you want to have another, even when you shouldn’t. It is not, I’d hazard, something that can be quantified. If you move to St. Louis from a more abstemious city, you might find yourself absolutely floored by how many great bars we have here. Within our astonishing variety, each has its own place and time, and in the right mood, each seems more charming than the next. Our bars open at 6 a.m. and close at 3 a.m. They pour for happy hour, dinner, post-dinner and last call. They offer perfectly calibrated cocktails from some of the nation’s top mixologists and well drinks at shockingly low prices. They keep the booze flowing under disco balls and beneath horror movie masks (more about that in our appreciation of the Haunt, later in these pages). No matter what your mood, a bar in St. Louis has you covered. And that makes our job at the RFT a difficult one. In past bar guides, we’ve

offered various guides to various bar genres: best craft breweries (2015), best dive bars (2016), best cocktail bars (2017) and best neighborhood bars (2018). That just about covers everything, so for this year’s guide, we decided to get a whole lot more subjective. Rather than choosing this genre or that, we decided simply to present 50 bars we love. They are as varied as the denizens of this metro area, stretching from Jefferson County to Alton, north city to Princeton Heights and running the gamut from high-end cocktail bars to the diviest of dives (we’re looking at you, Kopp’s Korner). But there is surely one you haven’t tried yet, one that might become your new favorite. Why not read up and then plan to try something new? And if one of these bars isn’t right just yet, why not try again in a few years? The best bar for you right now might not be replaced by a different bar at a different time of your life. Bars have seasons, as I tried to explain in my essay about my current favorite, 33 Wine Shop & Bar. May you find one for where you’re at right now. And may you always be generous with your bartender. —Sarah Fenske


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Where to go in the CITY


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Every weekend morning from early August to late May, an occasional cheer will shatter the 7 a.m. silence of Tower Grove South. The source of the hubbub is Amsterdam Tavern (3175 Morganford Road, 314-772-8224), and it’s where soccer fans make a weekly pilgrimage to watch matches broadcast from England, Germany, Spain and wherever else the Beautiful Game is played. Soccer has deep roots in St. Louis, but you have to spend a Saturday morning at Amsterdam Tavern to grasp the passion that the sport inspires in the city today. At Amsterdam, even when the Cardinals make the playoffs, a soccer game will always take precedence. And the bar attracts throngs. “They have nowhere else to go,” says co-founder Jeff Lyell of the bar’s soccer fans. “They’re just happy to have a place to watch the game and not have to worry about baseball being on.” Lyell confesses he “wasn’t the soccer guy,” when he opened the bar with brothers Matt and Rob Stelzer in September 2008. At first, he didn’t realize there was an audience waiting for a bar that put soccer fans first. “Ten years ago, if you went into some sports bar and said, 14

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‘Will you put this match on for me?’ you would never get the volume,” Lyell says. “Most of the time they’d laugh at you and put you at the little twelve-inch TV. ‘You want to watch Chelsea versus who?’ Soccer fans hate that.” Amsterdam Tavern was the first modern St. Louis bar to speak to soccer fans in a language they understood, and the response was immediate. “I couldn’t believe the way that soccer fans started showing up,” Lyell says. “I’d get in on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and we’d be wall to wall with people, at 7:30 in the morning.” Whoever’s playing, you’ll see fans decked out in their club’s colors enjoying a pint. Almost everyone has a beer, no matter how early the game starts. There’s always a good range of local craft beers on tap — the bar has collaborated with breweries including Urban Chestnut and Civil Life on soccer-themed beers — as well as session lagers for just a few dollars. Counter-service sister venue the Dam offers burgers, hot dogs and appetizers, which you can bring into the bar. The crowd leans younger and male, but Amsterdam Tavern’s fan base is diverse in every respect. For those of us

Amsterdam Tavern. | IAIN SHAW

from other countries, it’s a place to meet, slip into our natural dialects and slang and tap into the routines of a Saturday back home (even if the time zone forces the scheduling forward by a few hours). Fans of different clubs enjoy a bit of friendly rivalry, but there’s no trouble or animosity. For Lyell, the gesture of simply being open goes a long way. “You have to be open for those two people that show up for Watford playing against Bournemouth,” he says. “You make no money — doesn’t matter. You have to be open. Soccer fans see that you’re serious.” That dedication has lured patrons not just from within the city, but from far beyond the metro area. “We have people that drive 80 miles each way on the weekend because they know you’re going to have 50 to 100 people that like to do the same thing that you do,” Lyell says. “Sit, watch and talk football.” If you want to watch a more obscure game outside of the big leagues, just ask— staffers will do what they can to find a channel showing the match. Lyell says it’s vital for staff to be soccer fans

themselves. “You can’t work during soccer if you don’t know about it,” he says. “They’ll sniff you out a mile away.” If Amsterdam Tavern feels so comfortable, it’s probably because the customers have left their mark on the bar over the years. “Everything you see was given to us,” Lyell says. “People bring in scarves, they bring in soccer kits.” The beer garden grew organically as the place filled up, and another expansion is on the horizon. Lyell and his partners recently acquired the building next door to Amsterdam Tavern, and though they haven’t decided what to do with the space, Lyell says “we’ll definitely rip the fence down to expand the beer garden a little more.” Even with the added space, the bar and beer garden regularly reach capacity, especially for matches between England’s biggest clubs. For the really big games, like the 2018 World Cup Final, Amsterdam will close Morganford down and broadcast the game on a huge screen in the street. With the MLS likely to approve the bid to admit a St. Louis club to the league, Lyell is excited about the future of soccer B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 15


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in the city. Not everyone wants the MLS to come to St. Louis, of course, but if we do get a team, you know where we’ll be watching. I A I N S H AW


When the A.R.T. Angad Rainbow Terrace (634 North Grand Boulevard) opened for business a few months ago, it represented the final piece of the city’s most fashionable new hotel: a rooftop bar. The stylish environs (magenta barstools, low-slung couches) would be at home in any of the world’s chic cities, but the terrace is also 100 percent St. Louis in all the best ways. The friendly service is one major reason, but right up there, too, is the pricing. No, most of these drinks aren’t cheap, but the cocktail of the day is. For just $5, you can sip an expertly crafted, balanced drink specially concocted by the hotel’s effortlessly cool beverage directors. The bar also boasts CBD-infused cocktails and regular Friday night live music performances. Even so, those seem utterly unnecessary when gazing out from a bar stool perched on the perimeter of the Angad’s rooftop. The view from the top is the only mood lifter we need. SARAH FENSKE


What more can be said about Atomic Cowboy (4140 Manchester Avenue, 314-775-0775)? It’s a staple, a mainstay, a destination for drinkers and music lovers and foodies alike. Some would say it’s a huge reason the Grove has become the nightlife hotspot that it is today (though those folks should definitely apologize to the gay bars that were there first). But Chip Schloss’ sprawling entertainment empire deserves every commendation it gets. With three bars, a huge outdoor stage, a sizable attached indoor venue and a DJ spot with its own dance floor, Atomic is more than equipped to keep the party popping well into the night — 3 a.m., to be exact. And its stacked concert calendar ensures that it does just that, with upcoming performances. Raise a glass to a St. Louis institution. DANIEL HILL


Cheeky, cosmopolitan Brennan’s (4659 Maryland Avenue, 314-497-4449) has something for everyone. There are cigars in the private club upstairs, ping pong in the basement below, and whiskey and Atomic Cowboy. | RYAN GINES


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Brennan's. | RJ HARTBECK

wine throughout. There is sidewalk seating and bar stool seating and intimate little tables with still more seating. There is food, which includes not only a burger, but “Limoncello Gooey Buttercake.” And now, thanks to the BHIVE, which opened in 2015, Brennan’s even has a coworking space. You might stop by in the morning and never actually leave, which, whether or not you actually set up your office here, is very much a Brennan’s thing. How many times have you met a friend for a drink on the sidewalk only to end up staying for a flatbread or two, then moving upstairs for more drinks and then downstairs for a game or two and then finally ending things at 1 a.m.? Far more than it’s prudent to admit, but that’s the charm of this Central West End mainstay. Kevin Brennan was 33 when he first opened the place and had no inkling it would become the juggernaut it has. “I didn’t really want to open a bar,” he says. “It just happened over time.” As he tells it, it was originally a store that also had a bar, and all the various levels and extra rooms have simply flowed from there as demand kept increasing and he and his 20

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staff kept tinkering. Sixteen years later, not only does the tinkering continue, but Brennan’s remains the bar of choice for many of the city’s most discriminating drinkers. SARAH FENSKE


A slice of New Orleans in downtown St. Louis, Broadway Oyster Bar (736 South Broadway, 314-621-8811) has been an institution for more than 35 years, and one of the best New Orleans style restaurant/bar/music venues in the Midwest. BOB (as it’s known around town) is the place to go to always find a party or a crowd. There are often two live acts a night, except on Fridays when one featured band starts at 10 p.m. The live music is generally free, although more well-known acts come with a cover. The building that houses BOB has been around since the 1840s. Its charming interior and adjoining patio transport you to Bourbon Street, with Mardi Gras decor, wooden tables and various knick-knacks collected over three decades in business. The food is authentic Cajun — your best bet in town for fried oysters, crayfish

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or jambalaya. The two outdoor patios are covered and heated during cold or rainy weather, so the party doesn’t stop no matter what the time of year. Because of its close proximity to the ballpark, BOB is especially packed before and after Cardinals games, so be prepared to wait during baseball season and on weekends. ELLEN PRINZI


For all the first-rate restaurants of South Grand, you’re not going to find a wealth of bars. Maybe that’s because the district got it right 32 years ago with the opening of CBGB (3163 South Grand Boulevard). The wonderful dive is pleasingly dark, with a straightforward, L-shaped bar that was probably solid black before thousands of forearms rubbed the paint away. There are two rooms, but the fact that the dividing wall has been paired down to the studs really opens up the space. The women’s restroom famously features facing stools, and the whole bar is decorated with art of varying quality. Bartender Matt Wagner, who has managed the place for more than two 22

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decades, curates an excellent selection of beers and liquors. But he’ll never look at you sideways for maximizing your dollars on a Stag bottle or a literal bucket of gin and tonic. Live bands rotate through a lot of nights, and there’s trivia on Wednesdays. A front patio with weathered picnic tables provides front-row seats to the never-ending South Grand parade of humanity and all its hijinks. If you’d rather drink your gin bucket in peace, just head out to the back courtyard. Who needs anything more? D OY L E M U R P H Y


With its wood-paneled walls, sturdy ash bartop and neatly shelved glassware, this Tower Grove South brewery and taproom evokes a well-tended bar from a bygone age. But Civil Life (3714 Holt Avenue) doesn’t wallow in nostalgia. Instead, Jake Hafner’s bar is a welcome reassertion of the timeless quality of great beer served by welcoming people in an unpretentious, pleasant pub. The clientele is varied, the conversation lively, but in line with the bar’s “Be Civil”

ethos, rarely rowdy. There are no TVs to distract you, and the bar doesn’t even have a phone number. In one concession to modern convenience, it now accepts credit cards ($10 minimum). Venture into the side room and enjoy some friendly competition over a game of darts or ring the bull, or take a seat upstairs. Civil Life’s bartenders will readily offer samples and talk you through the beer list — if you find something you like, you can have a full pour ($6), but we like to order a half ($3) and explore what’s on tap. No brewery in St. Louis rivals Civil Life for its British ales and bitters, and its pilsners and German wheat beers also compete with the city’s best. If you’re peckish, order a sandwich (liverwurst on pretzels, hot pastrami) or classic pub snacks like chips and nuts — everything is $8 or less. The back windows look into the brewery itself, which has just started canning beers for distribution in Illinois, with Missouri to follow soon. Although Hafner recently announced that he’s shelved plans for an ambitious expansion, to some controversy, Civil Life still owns the empty lot adjacent to the brewery, and it seems certain that

additional space will be brought into play sooner or later. I A I N S H AW


Sometimes you go to a bar to unwind after a long day at work. Sometimes you’re there to catch a game on a big-screen TV, surrounded by your fellow cheering fans. Sometimes you’re just out to get capital-D Drunk on the cheapest, strongest drinks imaginable. But in the case of Club Elite (813 Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-361-7857), the overwhelming reason patrons keep coming back is that dance floor. Consistently packed with customers cutting a rug in their finest stepping-out clothes, the bar in north city’s Academy neighborhood is the longtime home of DJ Jules Carlos, an impeccably dressed octogenarian with a penchant for smooth R&B cuts and rap jams — though you’d be wise to heed the warning hanging on the wall: “This is NOT a hip-hop club.” A grown-and-sexy bar outfitted with hanging chandeliers and disco balls, with clientele mostly on the older side, Club Elite’s slogan is “Where particular people meet” — and, to be sure, that dance floor is the spot they do so. But even if you strike out there, you can always soothe yourself with an DB Cooper's Safehouse. | DANNY WICENTOWSKI

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The Famous Bar. | JOHN SCHOEMEHL

order of the bar’s outstanding hot wings — after all, that’s a perfect reason to head to a bar, too. Club Elite is open Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; find somewhere else to get your fix during the work week. DANIEL HILL


Forget a man cave. With a front made of two perpetually flipped-up garage doors, DB Cooper’s Safe House (6109 Gravois Avenue, 314-499-7119) is a veritable man patio. The Princeton Heights bar was named for the famed skyjacker who got away with $200,000 by parachuting out of a plane in 1971, and it represents its theme with panache. The roof of the bar is graced by the nose and propeller of a plane, while news clippings about the still-unsolved mystery line the bar tables’ surface. While the place only opened last September, its retro and decidedly un-PC vibe seemed like it had been frozen in amber since Cooper’s disappearance. Stacks of Playboys graced its tabletops and its website promised “Cheap Beer, Great Food, Frozen Drinks, and Sexy Babes, also known as heaven.” Since its opening, however, the bar has evolved

somewhat, to the detriment of hound dogs and readers of magazine literature alike (yes, those Playboys are gone). Still, DB Cooper’s offers a breezy temple for fans of St. Louis sports (displayed on numerous TVs), booze (as low as $1.25 for beer cans) and babes — the bartenders here have definitely been hired with the male gaze in mind. It’s not for everyone, yet on game nights and happy hours, the place is packed with seemingly every sort of barfly: bikers and sports bros and blue collar workers — and maybe, if you look closely among them, a famed skyjacker enjoying his retirement. DANNY WICENTOWSKI


On the Dogtown side of the city’s border with Maplewood lies a St. Louis institution that has been in business for more than 100 years. Failoni’s (6715 Manchester Avenue, 314-781-5221) has been run by the same family since it opened back in 1916. It offers a dive bar with cheap beer, a mom-and-pop restaurant and a lively patio with music and entertainment all rolled into one. Some places excel in one of those things, and others two — but

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three? That feels like a miracle. On top of that, the food is excellent, starring homemade Italian specialties from four generations of Failonis. The brick oven St. Louis-style pizza is a fan favorite with housemade crust and a family recipe sauce. As for the music, it ranges from Sinatra karaoke to performing crooners like Tom Kelly, as well as a variety of bands that perform on the large patio. There is never a cover charge and the music starts as early as 3 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday. The friendly and accommodating staff is a mix of family and longtime employees, which adds to Failoni’s charm. The crowd tends to be a bit older, especially on Thursday night, which has been dubbed “divorceé night” by regulars. The bar stays open till 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays — perfect for after-dinner entertainment and people watching. ELLEN PRINZI


If you like bar-bars, but also want a Manhattan or a blueberry martini, the Famous Bar (5213 Chippewa Street, 314-832-2211) is for you. It’s got all the accoutrements of your St. Louis dive: a pool table in the back, a handful of arcade games, a few TVs, a taciturn bartender. Yet what he’s mixing are a series of drinks seldom ordered in this part of south city. The Famous Bar has perfected a roster of martinis and bloody marys (the boards above the bar list nearly a dozen varietals of each), but it keeps things fresh with the occasional special. On our recent visit, it was a basil smash (gin, simple syrup and fresh basil, with a slice of cucumber) — a little taste of summer in a rocks glass. Drinks like that feel just right in the atmosphere here, which is also just a little bit nicer than your average dive, with a vaguely mid-century thing going on (the ceiling is tin, the posters advertise PanAm). The Famous Bar is often bustling on the weekends, for good reason: This is a bar that knows how to class it up without pretense. SARAH FENSKE


If the majority of Kirkwood is a brandnew minivan, the Geyer Inn (220 South Geyer Street, Kirkwood; 314-814-9402) is the city’s vintage muscle car — a surprisingly low-key, blue collar watering hole in the midst of an increasingly bougie ‘burb. The old stone cottage has been a local gathering place since the 1930s and saw new life after being bought in 2012 by former St. Louis Blues player Jim Campbell. He may have given it a bit of a facelift, but he didn’t fundamentally change the character of this quintessential neighborhood bar. It’s still the sort of place where throwing back an ice-cold Bud Heavy with someone you ran into from high school (go Pioneers!) seems like the right idea. Even as the rest of the town has gotten all gussied up, the fact that the Geyer Inn remains as underdressed as ever is a source of nostalgic comfort. C H E RY L B A E H R


The Grand Hall (1820 Market Street, 314-421-6655) offers the perfect combination of old-style glamour and modern thrills. Built in 1894, this former train terminal is both an opulent bar and the heart of the St. Louis Union Station Hotel. Located just past the valet station and up an open flight of stairs, the Grand Hall is at once welcoming and impressive. With its high-arched ceiling, the cavernous space could seem cold, but the gorgeous stained glass and gilded detailing instead make it inviting. Take a seat at the mile-long bar or settle into a cozy booth or high-backed chair to properly take in the once-per-hour light show projected onto the ceiling. During these custom-designed shows you could catch a quick bit of train history narrated by John Goodman’s distinct and oh-so-St. Louis voice, or perhaps experience a full Beatles light show in which the ceiling is transformed into a yellow submarine, among other things. In addition to a full bar, the Grand Hall offers signature cocktails in the $12 range, all named after train lines. Sip on a “Rio Grande White B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 2 9


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Cosmopolitan” or “California Zephyr Peach Bellini” while you kick back and soak up the atmosphere at the prettiest bar in the city. JAIME LEES


Nestled in the less gentrified southeast corner of Tower Grove South you’ll find the venerable drag haven Grey Fox Pub (3503 South Spring Avenue, 314-772-2150). It hosts shows six nights a week, and they really pack the house on Thursdays for “Discovery Night,” where less experienced performers (drag queens and kings, as well as many other genderqueer artists) take the stage to be critiqued by a panel of seasoned entertainers. This is not your typical “amateur night.” The performers, often mentored by the famed Maxi Glamour, skew young, but they are polished and ready for their moment in the spotlight. You may see a sultry striptease, or a queen making her debut with a ten-foot lamé wing span. The only LGBTQ bar in one of the city’s queerest neighborhoods, Grey Fox is also a great place to avoid cabin fever during at St. Louis blizzard, since it’s

hiking distance for many of its patrons. And longtime show director Jade Sinclair is more reliable than the U.S. Postal Service. CHRIS ANDOE


In a lot of ways the Haunt (5000 Alaska Avenue, 314-481-5003) is just like any other neighborhood bar in south city. The lighting is dim, the drinks are cheap and the jukebox is loud. You could almost walk right past the unassuming brick building in Dutchtown ... the one with a skeleton tethered above the door. So, yes, there are a few different things about the Haunt. There’s history here. The long bar top is lit by the blue-tinted glass of two antique Busch lamps. They hang from the ceiling right next to a mannequin bound in a straitjacket, its mouth stretched in a hideous scream. The walls are lined with skulls, and the animal ones are real, though owner Chuck Foster admits that he still hasn’t found room for all the various craniums he’s been gifted over the years. The regulars keep giving him stuff, Foster explains. The hunters give him skulls. B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 3 3


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Joe's Cafe. | THEO WELLING

Others give him dolls, which Foster then sends to local artists to decorate — that is, to mutilate into something suitably macabre. What started as an “all-year Halloween” gimmick became a sort of marriage between a low-key neighborhood bar and the completely macabre. While its decorations rival even Blueberry Hill in terms of knickknack density, the bar is resolutely what it is — a dive bar. It’s a place where you can see a bartender leap clear over a table to separate two ornery customers spoiling for a fight during the lull in the second period of a Blues playoff game. It’s a place where credit cards have only recently been approved for payment, and the house shot, called “ASS” — a mixture of amaretto, Southern Comfort and sweet-and-sour mix — is surprisingly strong and heavily poured. The patrons gathered around the billiards table are the same working-class folks you might see at any other happy hour across a dozen other hole-in-the-wall-bars — though those bars don’t feature a lifeless butler who stands at the door presenting his head on a tray.

Foster has made the bar his life — he and his wife live above it. On a recent Thursday, he oversees the installation of new bar stools while explaining that the look of the place, weird as it is, actually began with a pub he’d bought in north city, which someone else had named Ye Ole Haunt. It was a sports bar, or it was until Foster and his wife, Terry, ripped out all the sports memorabilia and replaced it with Halloween props from their basement. They performed a similar makeover in 2014, when they bought the Dutchtown dive bar called Libby’s. In a matter days, they had rechristened it the Haunt. When the regulars saw what he’d done with the place, Foster recalls, “They kind of tripped out.” But they weren’t scared off. They keep coming, keep drinking. And Foster keeps adding things. A skull here, a bloody doll there. Out back, past a garish movie poster for one of the Saw sequels, the bar opens into a backyard patio bursting with freshly planted flowers. Foster has plans to add a koi pond — and yeah, maybe a few skeletons too. DANNY WICENTOWSKI

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Like a mullet gone rogue, the Bevo Mill dive bar Heavy Anchor (5226 Gravois Avenue, 314-352-5226) keeps its parties going in the front and back, with its bar and venue sides separated by a sound-dampening wall that, like most of the vertical surfaces in the bar, is covered with murals showing wild nautical scenes. Beneath the narwhals and mermaids, patrons plumb the depths of a drink menu that could probably fill 20,000 leagues of liquid at least. There’s Super Nintendo for the gamer crowd — nothing forms a bond faster than sharing a Dogtown pizza and playing some Super Mario — and, yes, there’s also a shuffleboard for the folks who like their games based in physical reality. But the soul of this bar lies in the performances it hosts, which comprise far more than just the usual fare of touring rock groups or trivia events. Heavy Anchor’s venue has gestated beloved local stand-up acts and the long-running storytelling show "Sorry, Please Continue." It’s a place where the avant garde and the average barfly can mix and mingle, and it’s well worth a visit for some shore leave. DANNY WICENTOWSKI


There are nights when there might be 80 people at Henry’s (825 Allen Avenue, 314-240-5868), and not a single one of them is actually inside the bar. The reason is that patio. Most places would be fine with some tables and chairs, but this Soulard destination’s offering is its own world. Wander over the brick floor past the cabana-style outdoor bar, curl around the center fountain and you’ll spot seating in the hulk of an old classic car on your left and a not-so-seaworthy boat on the right. In the corner is a little hut, if that’s more your style. Soft neon gives everything an almost movie-set feel, a semi-subtle invitation to patrons to Instagram their adventures. Nightly drink specials ensure there will be at least a few. Things have definitely changed since the sad demise of the Shanti in 2014, ending the legendary hippie bar’s fifteen-year run of jam bands and free shows. But the party goes on, as it

always does in Soulard. Henry’s offers a cleaned-up, beach-town vibe outside and a vaguely Gilded Age aesthetic inside with brassy chandeliers and tufted bench seating along the back wall — you know, should you ever make it in there. D OY L E M U R P H Y


The idea of the Hideaway (5900 Arsenal Street, 314-645-8822) carrying on with neither smoking nor pianist Mark Dew would have seemed unthinkable back in 2011, when those two features seemed very much the main draws. Fast-forward to 2019, and not only is the bar going strong without Dew’s musical stylings, with a younger and much hipper crowd packing the place in the evenings, but you might think it never even allowed cigarettes — its newish owners have done a terrific job of fumigating the tar and nicotine that once coated the walls and carpet. That’s not all they’ve mastered; they’ve somehow cleaned the place up just enough to make it work in the modern era without losing the charm that made it one of the city’s most beloved retro haunts. Proof of that: The old-timers continue to belly up to the curved bar here during the earlier hours, and if they’re no longer placing their drinks on crocheted coasters, well, at least they can still ogle that mysterious beauty whose painting adorns the bar. These days, she’s joined by a photo of the bar's longtime owner, the late Al Coco. May he rest in peace knowing his Hideaway is in good hands. SARAH FENSKE


If you’re a sensible St. Louisan, you do the right thing when visitors come to town: you immediately ask if they’ve been to the City Museum yet, and if they haven’t, start planning their trip. Anything else is just plain unkind. Much less well-known (partly by design), but just as magical, is the adults-only fantasyland that is Joe’s Cafe (6014 Kingsbury Avenue, 314-862-2541). Like the City Museum, Joe’s Cafe has been B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 3 9


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Planter's House. | MONICA MILEUR

assembled from an overabundance of the city’s most beautiful detritus into a deeply unique, even hallucinogenic environment. The bar is BYOB — yes, you read that right — so you can settle right into your chair, crack open your beverage of choice and enjoy the reliably fantastic live entertainment, which usually emanates from a stage soaked in neon light resembling a giant mid-century radio. You can also climb up into the pirate’s nests above and watch the band play as the giant softly lit Japanese lamps sway with the rhythm. Or you can wander along the paths in the extensive outdoor patio, through winding vines and half-buried sculptural shapes. One requirement is absolute though: BE COOL. You know how, in fantasy books, the magical door to fairyland opens only occasionally, and only for those whom the fairies think can handle it? That’s a good way to think about Joe’s Cafe. This place is way too rare and wondrous for run-of-the-mill drunkenness and gabbing. Rather, consider Joe’s garden of delights a secret that you’ve been let in on, and treat it with the respect and delight it deserves. E VA N S U LT


If you’ve been living under a rock, we’ve got news for you: Barcades are all the rage nowadays. The kids who came of age pumping quarters into consoles housed in that blacklight-adorned portion of the mall are all grown up now, and as it turns out they are thirsty for more than just video game victory. St. Louis is already clogged with similar concepts — there’s Start Bar downtown, Two Plumbers in St. Charles and, for now at least, Up-Down STL in the Central West End (blame the tenuousness of that declaration on a bureaucratic nightmare involving a clueless City Hall and determined NIMBY neighbors). Still, Parlor (4170 Manchester Avenue, 314-833-4999) might represent the finest of the form. Opened in the Grove in 2017 by accomplished tattoo artist Sean Baltzell and industry vet Casey Colgan, it’s got the games — ski-ball lanes, pinball machines, NBA fuckin’ Jam — as well as the decor (that “FUTURE” sign certainly is an attention grabber) and drinks to match its bold concept. Sometimes things are trendy because the masses are fickle and foolish; sometimes things are trendy because B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 4 1


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they’re just that damn cool. File Parlor under the latter. DANIEL HILL


The drinks at Planter’s House (1000 Mississippi Avenue, 314-696-2603) are, simply, the best. Co-owner Ted Kilgore has gained national acclaim for concoctions that are approachable yet complex, charmingly named and easy to drink. How good is Kilgore? Even his mocktails are delicious, a rare thing even in this low-ABV moment. Still, the charms at Planter’s House aren’t limited to the drinks, as terrific as they are. This is also an exceptionally good-looking space, with two beautiful rooms plus a low-key patio and plenty of great seats at bars in both rooms or at tables. Come for a drink, and you just might also stay for dinner. SARAH FENSKE


St. Louis has got to be the champion of corner bars, and Riley’s Pub (3458 Arsenal Street, 314-664-7474) is one of the city’s best. The Tower Grove East staple is a charmer on looks alone, with its marble table tops and high-backed booths masterfully constructed out of old doors. But the place is also a living part of the neighborhood, hosting local fundraisers and acting as the meeting spot for all manner of friends and organizations. Irish music nights turn out all comers, and locals know to keep an eye out for the hand-written sign announcing the next Saturday barbecue. On lazy afternoons, regulars provide a running commentary as the news plays on a TV above the bar or chime in with Jeopardy! guesses. Unless, of course, there is a Cards or Blues game to watch. Riley’s is a legit Irish bar and the place to be on St. Patrick’s Day. It is also a legit south city bar with St. Louis-style pizza cooked on site in a corner kitchen. Pies at half price (dine-in only) is the long-standing deal on Mondays and Tuesdays, and evening drink specials rotate through a selection of $3.50 pints all week. Go once, and you’ll think about moving into the


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If you’re looking for the best open-air vistas in town, with 360-degree views of downtown St. Louis, the City Museum’s Rooftop Cafe (750 North 15th Street, 314-231-2489) can’t be beat. While the museum below is one massive playground for people of all ages, the Rooftop Cafe offers extra special treats for grown-ups. Bring the kids and feed them some nachos or hotdogs from the cafe, and then let them run around while you take in the view and indulge in an adult beverage at the bar. Choose from cocktails, wine, ciders and a huge selection of beer as you watch your kids wear themselves out on the giant slide or the rooftop Ferris wheel. (The boozy version of cherry limeade is not to be missed.) The bar starts pouring when City Museum opens for the day, and keeps it going until 5 p.m. on weekdays and until 11:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It costs $16 to get into the City Museum (and rooftop access will run you an additional $5), but such a unique and thrilling experience is worth every penny. Or, if you’re a regular drinker who enjoys great views, the City Museum is now offering a $69.99 season pass. JAIME LEES


Not many places have been featured in the RFT’s lists of best neighborhood bars and best cocktail bars, but the Royale (3132 South Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-772-3600) has mastered an unusual alchemy. Its intoxicating mix of high-low is not the only thing that makes this watering hole a south city institution: It’s also become a southside political juggernaut. As owner Steven Fitzpatrick Smith explains it, that’s been less a calculated business plan and more the natural outgrowth of his own passions. And while it hasn’t always been good for business (more on that in a minute), it’s given the Royale an identity and a purpose. Smith first opened the bar in 2005, the

Sasha's on Shaw. | THEO WELLING

height of George W. Bush’s presidency and a time when Democrats surely felt as beleaguered as, well, today. The Royale soon became a safe space for liberals who wanted to watch the State of the Union address with, as Smith puts it, “people of the same ilk.” After Smith threw his support behind a young senator named Barack Obama a few years later, the bar also began hosting debate watch parties, simply because Smith himself wanted to tune in. He explains, “I’d invite a few friends, and then I realized, ‘Hey, I own a bar. There’s a volume on the TV. Let’s turn it up’ Then 35 people showed up.” Things only grew from there. Eventually, the Royale ended up hosting debates of its own — not goofy “arguments and grievances,” à la Brennan’s, but rather forums and roundtables that take seriously both the candidates and the issues they’re addressing. For Smith, who ran the college radio station as an undergraduate at Saint Louis University, The Royale Political Wire is a chance to produce a podcast that just so happens to be recorded live before a crowd of rapt bar patrons. Michael Allen serves as his usual

co-host, with Smith himself running the board. Guests have included everyone from Mayor Lyda Krewson to Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger to Heather Taylor, president of the police union representing black officers. Smith is looking for a good conversation, yes, but he doesn’t just stack the deck with his friends or neighbors; he also wants to educate his audience when he can. Of bringing in north city Alderman Brandon Bosley in for a panel, along with Dogtown’s former alderman Scott Ogilvie, he says, “People need to hear more from these guys, not just what’s happening in Tower Grove South and in Shaw.” In a deep blue city, Smith seldom hears from people vowing never to darken the Royale’s doorstep over its outspokenly liberal leanings. Even so, he doubts its political identity has increased its bottom line; the bar may be packed during Political Wire events, but a hot discussion tends to slow the demand for drinks, not add to it. In terms of total number of patrons, he says, “the numbers are comparable,” Smith says. But during events, “There’s a lot more standing around.” Even if it cost him money, though, the B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 4 5


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Scottish Arms. | IAIN SHAW

Royale’s owner would be all in. Noting that his bar was once called Columbo’s, and owned by the late state representative Fred Columbo, he believes he’s part of a noble lineage. “Bars have always been a place where people can talk and plot and think,” he says. “The revolutionary war that led to the creation of our country was hashed out in taverns.” SARAH FENSKE


The walls of Ryder’s Tavern (4123 Chippewa Street, 314-899-9343) are decorated with poster-sized cover art from pulp mystery novels, which seems fitting. The Tower Grove South bar feels like the kind of dimly lit pub where a hard-bitten private eye might trade secrets over a whisky, neat. Next door to an “adult boutique,” Ryder’s has a heavy, carved-wood back bar that gives the room a certain gravitas. There are no televisions (except when they’re brought in for the occasional big sporting event), and the music is low, but unfailingly excellent. It’s a good place to have an honest drink and a quiet conversation. Sage barman Ryder Murphy is great com-

pany and has seen a thing or two. If you would rather step out of the shadows for a bit, a hidden gem of a patio out back offers umbrella tables and vine-covered walls. The kitchen offerings have been through a few variations over the past four years but tend to feature a simple smash-burger menu. If you’re not the sullen, brooding type, there’s a popular trivia night, pool table and dart boards. Or maybe just grab a seat in the corner, where you can keep an eye on the door. D OY L E M U R P H Y


You know that moment of perfection when you’re on your bike, reveling in the warm night air on your bare arms as you coast effortlessly beneath the trees down a gently sloped street towards the friends who are waiting to toast your arrival with a tall cold glass of your favorite beer? They’re probably at Sasha’s on Shaw (4069 Shaw Boulevard, 314-771-7274). Sasha’s beer, wine and liquor lists are prolific and interesting, and the roomy interior offers options for quiet conversation or a bar for mingling. But it’s the patio that we love

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most. Nestled into the neighborhood, it offers warm hanging bulbs that beckon you, along with a little waterfall that rewards you for answering the call. Even though the patio is quirky and winding, there always seems to be room for one more patron — and if you’d rather stay cool, the inside is icy. In either place, the overall volume is conversational, so you won’t find yourself hoarse in the morning. Sasha’s is a late-night Shangri-La, the ultimate spot to find a nook and catch up with the crew. E VA N S U LT


Ally Nisbet’s bar/restaurant in the Central West End features callbacks to his homeland that will cheer anyone with a connection to Scotland, but the Scottish Arms (8 South Sarah Street, 314-535-0551) also stands up to comparison with any other establishment on its own merits. Unsurprisingly, it’s an excellent place to explore the world of single malts; allow the bartenders’ questions to guide you to a dram you’ll enjoy. The drink list highlights some of the more noteworthy whiskies, including (for now) the award-winning eighteen-year-old

Yamazaki, supplies of which are scarce even in Japan. Whisky also features prominently on the cocktail list: The “Top Hat” range ($12-18) uses single malts aged in bourbon and sherry casks to create deep, complex cocktails. The drink list, we’ll note, is beautifully written. Just try to resist ordering a cocktail after you’ve read the tasting notes. The main bar captures the feel of a Scottish pub, while the dining room is all white-tablecloth elegance. Draft beer selection usually includes at least one beer from Scotland’s Belhaven, with some of St. Louis’ finest breweries also represented. On the food side, signatures include Scotch eggs, Forfar bridies, fish and chips, and bangers and mash. Share the Highland Gathering ($17) for a sampler of traditional Scottish delicacies. When the temperature allows, the terrace is the perfect place to enjoy the highly rated brunch, which includes a full Scottish breakfast. For an additional $14.99, we think most Scots would approve of the bottomless mimosa option. I A I N S H AW

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For years now, the Silver Ballroom (4701 Morganford Road, 314-832-9223) has been a reliable Bevo-based hotspot for the three Ps: pinball, punk rock and PBR. Now, a fourth P can be added to that sterling résumé, and it’s truly one of the finest Ps of them all: pizza. Thanks to a new venture spearheaded by KDHX DJ Chris Ward and his partner, chef Melanie Meyer, one of south city’s favorite bars now houses Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef. Launched in April, the food window in the back of the bar specializes in ‘za, naturally. (Ward worked at his family’s pizza joint as a teen and brings a wealth of delicious experience with him.) But it also brings Korean street food, thanks to Meyer, who has worked in a number of restaurants across town including LuLu’s Local Eatery and the Restaurant at the Cheshire. The resulting menu is filled with delicious eats that could satisfy any hungry bear clad in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses — or even peckish humanoid southsiders in search of a bite. Just don’t expect the bar to add a fifth P anytime soon: Provel is not allowed. DANIEL HILL


It’s impossible not to make friends at the Silver Leaf (3442 Hereford Street, 314-481-4080). The regulars will make you feel right at home and the low-cost cocktails will have you wanting to buy a round for all your new friends. One of the smallest bars in St. Louis, the Leaf is tiny in square footage with tiny drink prices to match. Domestic beer is just $2 during happy hour and rail drinks aren’t much more. Originally a hold-out when smoking bans first started being implemented in the city, the Silver Leaf now offers clean air indoors and a tiny patio area on its front sidewalk where smokers form their own little community. You’re stuck right next to people you don’t know when you saddle up to the bar, but folks seem to like it that way. Drinkers here would rather talk to (and argue with) their neighbors than watch the bar’s television, dance to the music on the jukebox or even find somebody to

take home for the night. This classic, friendly dive bar is not to be missed. JAIME LEES


There are plenty of things to love about Stella Blues (3269 Morganford Road, 314-762-0144). The drinks are cheap but plenty strong. The bartenders are friendly and attentive. There is all sorts of weird shit nailed to the walls and ceiling, rendering the decor a psychedelic take on a TGI Fridays. They got a nice patio that’s even suitable for the Blues Brothers (albeit in statue form). That weird back room with the pool table has surely seen some truly wild shit go down it its day, you just know it. But too oft overlooked is Stella Blues’ greatest strength: the small kitchen near the back of the bar serving up hot eats. Burgers, beef and pork kabobs, fried pickles, bulgogi on a stick, chicken wings — all the staples of the drunk’s diet, served up hot and cheap. You won’t get served any food without first ordering a drink — hey, this is a bar, after all — but that’s just one more plus in our book. Mandatory drinking, you say? Bottoms up! DANIEL HILL


There are plenty of people who knew Tamm Avenue Bar (1227 Tamm Avenue, 314-261-4901) as little more than the host body of the Zagat-rated burger mecca Mac’s Local Eats, but the pub's famous house guest announced over the summer its plans to leave. So what's left at the Dogtown tavern? Plenty. Start with a sprawling, dog-friendly back courtyard that features a legit outdoor bar, picnic tables and patio furniture arranged to create smaller hangouts. Even with all that, there’s still plenty of space for a bags court, and the bay of an old block-wall garage at the far end opens onto a game room with pinball, video games and pop-a-shot basketball. The patio can get a little crowded on a nice weekend, but for a low-key beer with friends on a weeknight? It’s perfect. You can also hang out inside, which offers B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 5 3


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Tamm Avenue Bar. | DOYLE MURPHY

your choice of two barrooms, and watch a game. A third room serves to handle the overflow crowds. Prices are cheap to reasonable. There is always a solid selection of beers from local breweries, but $3.50 PBR tallboys feel just about right for a relaxed evening on one of the picnic tables outside. D OY L E M U R P H Y


When I was a younger woman, I loved dive bars. I’ve never actually read Bukowski, so I can’t blame his literary stylings, although I know many other poseur undergrads surely do. In my case, the attraction was likely the sheer distance from the suburban milieu in which I’d been raised. Nothing could be further from a boring bedroom community with McMansions and Applebees and Houlihans than a dark bar filled with hilarious lowlifes, its floor sticky with spilled whiskey and its walls stained with nicotine. I wanted to be the kind of person who drank there, I suppose, and so for a long time I was. Now that I am grown, I’ve put childish things behind me, or at least heavy drinking, at least for now. I’ve got two 56

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kids, and if one isn’t waking me up at three in the morning, the other makes up for it at six. I once came home reeking of cigarettes and gin and fed a baby at two in the morning. There is no greater shame. And so today I love 33 Wine Shop & Bar (1913 Park Avenue, 314-231-9463). It too is miles from cookie-cutter suburban chains with their sugary drinks and forced gaiety, but in a way that feels sophisticated, not seedy. The walls are cool and white, the light pours in from the street-facing windows and the prevailing sound is that of conversation. Like the dive bars of my youth, this is a place where you could have a drink or get drunk, but it’s also a place where you could explore. The list of wine by the glass is tightly, smartly curated and changes frequently. You’re meant to talk to the bartender about your preferences, not look for something obvious that you already know. As for these barkeeps, they tend to be both entirely approachable and very wise; tell them you like a white Burgundy from France and they’ll steer you to something that is neither a Burgundy nor French, but somehow just right. This is what wine bars are for, or at

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least should be: exploration. There is also a patio, and if the 20something me liked the darkness and rot of smoke and whiskey, the 40something me much prefers a breeze wafting through a brick-lined alley. I suppose there is a good chance that once I am again child-free I will go back to drinking at bars surrounded by people with half their teeth and damaged livers. I do have a weakness for the 2 a.m. drunken confession, and if I go back to indulging it, St. Louis has plenty of hideaways for me. But until then, on the rare afternoon that I’m able to sneak away from both laptop and children, there is always a glass of rose at 33 Wine Shop & Bar, a friendly bartender with a sympathetic pour, the quiet buzz of friendly conversation. Seasons change. And at 33, the one I’m in feels delightful. SARAH FENSKE


A neighborhood bar should make things easy. The work day is over (probably), and no one wants to scramble to make plans for the night. That’s what makes a neighborhood hub like Tick Tock Tavern (3459 Magnolia Avenue) so great. Slide

onto one of the stools at the long, long bar and your evening is made. Obviously, the bartender will bring you (moderately priced) drinks, but this Tower Grove East gathering spot is also likely to serve up your friends, an interesting stranger or four and maybe even your local alderman — so you can tell them about that misplaced dumpster in your alley. Tick Tock doesn’t serve food, but if you have the forethought to stop next door at Steve’s Hot Dogs on your way in, the weiner purveyors will deliver a “Gorilla Dog” (mac-and-cheese with a hotdog is two meals in one!) right to your stool. Operated in part by frequent RFT contributor Thomas Crone, Tick Tock sports decor that is appropriately eclectic for a bar that sat mothballed for years only to reopen in 2014 like a 1980s time capsule. It’s heavy on the wood paneling and kitsch and feels a bit like a pensioner’s den ... a den with many, many examples of owl-themed art. It’s fun and comfortable, just the way your go-to bar should be. D OY L E M U R P H Y


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rock & roll life is the post-show hang with the band — but not everyone knows that the best place to do that is the Whiskey Ring (2651 Cherokee Street, 314-669-5817). When John Joern and Jason Matthews decided in 2013 that they’d done enough time working at Off Broadway and wanted to open a bar, their reputations as truly good guys and great musicians was so sterling that it immediately brought players from all over the country to the Whiskey Ring just to keep hanging with them and the rest of the STL music world. Now you can while away the nights chatting out on the patio or cozying up in a booth as an immaculately cool soundtrack plays overhead, meeting people you saw on stage just moments earlier while sipping from the best whiskey selection you’ll find in the city. It could be pretentious, but it’s definitely not — you and your Stag and that gal from the band and her Stag are all just part of what makes south city St. Louis such a cool place to hang out on a hot summer night. E VA N S U LT


To a lot of the nation (and the world), mention of the words “Mississippi

River” conjures images of old-times River City hootin’ and tootin’: ragtime pianos, trumpets, washboards, newsboy caps, suspenders and dresses flashing their lacy layers as couples swing dance the night away. Crazy, right? This is 2019! Not crazy in south city St. Louis, where a joyous and skillful group of dancers and musicians have kept the early-jazz scene rollicking. One legit hot spot is Yaquis on Cherokee (2728 Cherokee Street, 314-400-7712), where Josephine Baker’s life-size portrait hangs behind the bar and a well-tuned barroom instrument awaits the tickling fingers of local hotshot pianists like Ethan Leinwand, who can keep that ragtime banging all night long. The wood-fired pizza is superb and the wine list is respectable but not schmancy, making it a perfect place to get friendly with Cherokee Street locals. Best of all, because the instruments are all acoustic, it’s a great place to meet up with friends for conversation and some seriously live entertainment. You’re deep inside the world’s imagined version of Mississippi River life — might as well enjoy it to the fullest! E VA N S U LT

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Where to go in the COUNTY and BEYOND

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A bar as old as BJ’s Bar & Restaurant (184 West Washington Street, Florissant; 314-837-7783) carries a certain pedigree of unpolished excellence. Rough on the outside and warm within, BJ’s is a veritable temple to generations of Florissant drinkers. It’s still owned by the same family after more than 60 years — a lifespan that predates Provel, as evidenced in the bar’s celebrated mozzarella-topped thin-crust pizza. A strippeddown dive this is not: The menu is stacked with cheap appetizers and sandwiches, cocktails are poured strong into Mason jars and cans of beer are two-for-one on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. And if the drink menu isn’t speaking your particular booze language, BJ’s package license means you can take the fun home with you, or even set yourself up for a night with your new best friend, a $22 gallon of Ten High. Refined? Not at all. But for all manner of fun, look for the bar with the giant marquee Stag sign out front. You can’t miss it — that is, until you finally have to leave. DANNY WICENTOWSKI 62

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You don’t have to squint all that hard to see Florissant’s historic past. There’s the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine, which still stands as a relic of 1700s missionary work; the town’s original general store, now converted into the quaint Hendel’s Restaurant; and the strip of buildings along St. Francois street, one of which used to hold the area’s house of ill repute. Though much has changed for those properties over the last few hundred years, Bunker’s Tavern (297 St. Francois Street, Florissant; 314-837-2601) remains the city’s living, breathing link to the past. Since opening around the turn of the twentieth century, the small, ivy-covered building has been Old Town Florissant’s undisputed watering hole — a place covered in antique mirrored beer signs, not as an ironic bit of nostalgia but because it’s what’s on offer. Belly up to the vintage wooden bar, and you’re likely to get a local history lesson from the bartender, some pro tips about Old Town Donuts and a raised eyebrow if you ask about the craft beer selection. C H E RY L B A E H R


For any parent or caregiver of young children, few things strike greater fear in the heart than the proposition of spending a day at the Myseum. For the uninitiated (last call to use protection), think bouncy houses, mazes of pool noodles and enough hands-on experiences to make you want to scrub up like a surgeon. And yet the kiddos love it, and so if there is a little one in your life and you’re not entirely without heart, you will end up here at some point. This is what makes the Country Club Bar and Grill (288 Lamp and Lantern Village, Town and Country; 636-256-7201) so vital. Less a bar than a beacon of hope and dignity, this west county mainstay oozes character that is unexpected in its big box suburban environs. Dark, rustic wooden paneling, a stone fireplace and a classic wooden bar complete with mirrored liquor advertisements give the place the feel of an old-school drinking lodge.

After a day chasing the kids around next door, there is no better way to restore the soul than with an icy Budweiser and a Jameson neat at this cozy watering hole — an entirely appropriate endeavor considering they also have a children’s menu. C H E RY L B A E H R


Fireplace Bar (3377 Tree Court Lane, Kirkwood; 636-825-1908) may be the worst bar in town to take your Tinder date, lest he or she question whether your motives are about to land everyone on an episode of Dateline. Tucked down a gravel road and in the woods just off an industrial court between Kirkwood and Valley Park, Fireplace Bar feels isolated — an image that might call to mind worst-case scenarios for the uninitiated but, with a little bravery, should pay off into one of St. Louis’ most unique bar experiences. The place used to be a hunting lodge when it opened back in the 1940s, and it hasn’t gotten The Fox & Hounds Tavern. | CHERYL BAEHR

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much of a facelift since then. Fireplace Bar remains a sparsely appointed rustic wooden shack filled with the sort of tables and chairs you’d find at a VFW hall. However, what it lacks in creature comforts it makes up for with character, including a robust coterie of regulars who pack the place on weekends for raucous karaoke. An isolated shack in the woods may make a bad place for a blind date, but it sure has a way of bringing out your inner confidence once you get in front of that microphone.

the middle of the day. A place so heady with atmosphere surely has its secrets, and if you’re curious as to what they are, poke around inside one of the end tables that dot the room. Inside their drawers, you’re likely to find notes from patrons past, left behind like message-in-a-bottle diary entries. Read up over a stiff Manhattan, or, better yet, leave your own; God knows you’ll have something you need to get off your conscience after drinking the night away at this unique spot. C H E RY L B A E H R



Less a bar than a wormhole that zooms you from St. Louis to an old pub in the English countryside, the Fox & Hounds Tavern (6300 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights; 314-647-7300) is positively saturated with British charm. Tucked inside the quirky Cheshire Hotel, this Richmond Heights mainstay is, inarguably, the area’s coziest watering hole — a dark den of comfort that has the ability to make it seem like it’s 11:30 p.m. even in


A dive bar can be a hard thing to define. There are a few telltale signs, of course — the lights are dim, the drinks are cheap, there’s a Golden Tee machine in the corner. But for Robin Field, owner of the north county watering hole Just Bill’s (2543 Woodson Road, Overland; 314-427-2999), a good dive is much more than that. “A dive bar is a bar that doesn’t compromise its identity,” he explains. “It just is what it is.” That unfussy attitude is Just Bill’s calling B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 6 5


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Mimi's Subway Bar & Grill. | CHERYL BAEHR

card, and the main reason Overland-area drinkers regularly flock to it to quench their thirst. It’s got all the other staples of a great dive, of course (notably, five bucks can buy you a mixed drink and a beer, with money left over for a tip), but its genuine, unpretentious nature is what keeps the lights on year after year. DANIEL HILL


There are plenty of bars with “corner” in their name, but few take it as literally as McLain’s Corner (3516 South Big Bend Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-647-6531). The two-story brick bar sits completely alone at an industrial intersection, as if some giant had set the place down for a second and forgot to retrieve it — thus gifting Maplewood’s barflies with a generous happy hour (3 to 6 p.m.), astonishingly good wings and a variety of beer options. Founded in 1978, McLain’s hasn’t let the years roughen it. It boasts ample table seating and a full kitchen slinging pizza, char-broiled sandwiches and the wings so beloved by regulars that the bar’s menu simply proclaims it “Home of the Grilled

Wings” ... which, yes, isn’t much for branding, but you don’t need a fancy slogan when you’ve got a great thing going. Likewise, McLain’s has kept its great thing going for more than 30 years. It shows that sometimes all you need is a corner to create a community. DANNY WICENTOWSKI


Seventy-five years ago, Jason’s Pharmacy was built just off North Florissant Road with some rather unique specifications: a squat, nearly windowless building with sixteen-inch-thick walls of solid concrete. The idea was apparently deter would-be burglars. Suggesting a certain kind of paranoia, the building also had an underground fallout shelter. To the Lehmuth family, which was looking for a new place to open a bar, the shelter seemed like a gross underutilization. They converted the space into the Subway Bar, which they ran underneath the pharmacy for 50 years, earning a reputation as one of Ferguson’s most distinctive watering holes.

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When the Lehmuths decided to retire, they sold the bar to a man named Jimmy who eventually sold it to the current owner Mimi Fowler. Fowler had been a longtime regular of the bar and, after honing her bartending and hospitality chops at the St. Louis Airport Mariott for seventeen years, was ready to strike out on her own. She christened the spot Mimi’s Subway Bar & Grill (46 North Florissant Road, Ferguson; 314-524-6009), cleaned up the kitchen and created a food menu. Now serving what many locals consider the best pizza in Ferguson, Fowler draws in customers for food as much as the icy Bud Light. What she did not change, however, is the overall character — Mimi’s is a strange and wondrous place, and so unique that it’s easily in the conversation as the best dive bar in the entire metro area. The environs are a huge part of the fascination. The pharmacy that used to operate in the above-ground portion of the building closed a little over a

decade ago, and now that it’s boarded up, it gives the feeling of an abandoned locksmith kiosk. If you’re a first-timer, the shuttered look will make you wonder if you’re in the wrong spot — a feeling that stays with you even as you push open the metal doors and find the sort of staircase you’d find in an old high school gym. Should you get past these initial impressions, head downstairs and push open the second set of metal doors, you’ll be shocked by what you see: a stunningly large, open room with a vintage wooden bar on one side and a huge seating area on the other — both packed with regulars of all ages. There are the typical bar staples — a jukebox, some darts, the usual neon bar sign décor — but what makes Mimi’s so special are not the adornments to the space but the space itself. It’s the sort of bar you say you’re going to go to for one drink after work but end up staying until close, stuffing your face with onion rings and singing along to Motley Crüe. The Village Bar. | CHERYL BAEHR


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That’s the danger of being in a room that’s so far removed from the goings-on above ground; time tends to pass at a different rate. In fact, the place feels so sealed-off from the world that Fowler still has customers who come in during bad weather seeking shelter from the storm. Not that you have to wait for the tornado sirens. Mimi’s provides all the respite from the real world you need, in any kind of weather. C H E RY L B A E H R


On its face, there’s nothing all that unusual about Three Kings Public House (multiple locations, including 6307 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-3388). It’s just a classic pub with dark wood, a long and excellent beer list and a surprisingly good food menu. But if you look at where Three Kings has chosen to locate, its excellence in those matters becomes not just rare, but almost shocking. Whereas many restaurateurs start in places like the Loop, only to plot their expansion eastward, Three Kings’ ownership trio took their U City success as a jumping-off point for what you might think about as “pub deserts” — the kind of broad swaths of suburbia where chains dominate. And with locations now in Des Peres, south county and inside the St. Louis airport in addition to the Loop, Three Kings hasn’t just held its own, but beaten the national conglomerates. Credit its friendly service, that list of 30 drafts and its ethically devised menu (produce is local, meat is GMO-free, gluten is everywhere). Or maybe just credit the fact that its comforting environs instantly feel like home, even in places where parking is easy and the competition comes from Buffalo Wild Wings. SARAH FENSKE


The Village Bar (12247 Manchester Road, Des Peres; 314-821-4532) should not exist, at least not in the basic suburban sprawl of Des Peres, where you’re more likely to find a barre class than a Busch beer. However, in the midst of all the new development in the area, this historic bar remains a cozy

gathering place for locals who crave something beyond the usual chain options. This is apparent before you even enter the place; its facade is completely painted with vertical red and white stripes, complete with a matching awning. It looks like its proprietors are selling fireworks, not beer and burgers. It’s a miracle such a building — which has been around since the late 1800s and has been a bar since 1948 — is still standing, especially in light of plans four years ago to have it demolished and redeveloped into something that better blends in with the suburban landscape. But the regulars who rallied to keep their beloved bar open blessedly prevailed, allowing the Village Bar to stand as a time capsule of icy domestic beer and nostalgia. The domestic beer is cold, the scene is vintage wood-paneled dive bar and the burgers are hot off the open grill that sits just off the bar — so simple yet so unlike anything else in the area. The Village Bar has character, and that makes it a true gem. C H E RY L B A E H R


The Waiting Room (10419 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Ann, 314-890-8333) is rapidly becoming the center of cultural life in St. Ann. From its perch in a sleepy strip mall, the bar has long been compared to the Silver Ballroom, a little slice of south city dropped into north county. So it makes sense that in September that resemblance was made official as Silver Ballroom owners Steve and Shelly Dachroeden joined with longtime bartender Scott Fogelbach to take ownership of the bar. The Waiting Room still retains its rock & roll vibe, but it now has significantly more pinball machines and Australian meat pies (and an “Extra Ballroom” sign behind the bar, naturally). And with the Manhattan Antique Marketplace opening right next door, the bar has become a weekend destination for county dwellers in search of cheap drinks and vintage treasures. Don’t look now, but that sleepy strip mall seems to be waking up. DANIEL HILL B A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 7 1


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Once or twice a month I’ll make the 45-minute trek from South Grand to Bubby & Sissy’s (602 Belle Street, Alton, Illinois; 618-465-4773), sometimes contemplating how many closer bars I’m passing on my journey. More than a hundred, easily. But none compares to the magic of that place, nestled beneath a bluff in downtown Alton — an area I refer to as “the Bi-Muda Triangle” due to the sexual fluidity of many of the town’s lively, diverse revelers. While gay owned and operated, “Bubby’s,” as regulars call it, is truly a place without labels. Nobody is really sure who is what, and it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s just there to have fun. Every Friday and Saturday you can expect a packed dance floor downstairs and first-rate drag show upstairs. Make an evening of it by starting off at one of the festive nearby restaurants, which include the sprawling Mac’s Downtown, the hip and fashionable Bossanova, or the always-jumping Rajin Cajun. Or enjoy the burgers and brats Ron Boles grills right before you on Bubby’s front sidewalk. The variety of characters all mixing 76

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effortlessly — from the young and the beautiful to retirees, and from open-minded bros to sparkling queens — make this a place like no other. After one visit you’ll find your commute will be fueled by a feeling of delicious anticipation. CHRIS ANDOE


For people who’ve gone to Kopp’s Korner (838 East Seventh Street, Alton, Illinois; 618-465-9833) for years, the thrill is probably long gone, but for newbies, the old “ring a bell and we’ll decide if we’ll let you in” system is, yes, a little bit of a kick. Another wrinkle comes with it: To save yourself the trouble of the buzzer, you can buy a key for $5, giving you a lifetime membership in the club. Though you can’t come in and help yourself to a bottle of Bud when the place is closed, there’s not a lot of worry about that anyway, since the bar’s open pretty much all day long. It starts serving at 9 a.m. and keeps the drinks coming until at least midnight, dependent on crowd. Kopp’s decor is that of a classic dive bar, which you’ll probably realize the second you drive up and spot the neon

Bubby & Sissy's. | CHRIS ANDOE

Busch sign illuminating the corner. Inside, you’ll spy a whole lot of racing signage and a bank of video machines along one wall. Some folks park there, sip at sodas and never leave. Others might hanker for a smoke; they’re sent outside, where a cool, clubhouse-like set up is just a couple of steps and a closed door away. Unlike other bars in the vicinity that flaunt Illinois’ no-smoking rule, Kopp’s plays it true and the air inside is breathable as a result. As bars go, this isn’t a place to get fancy with a drink order. You’ll probably wanna order a domestic longneck and a shot, the basics. They’ll be served to you by one of three bartenders who work marathon shifts, the trio soaking up all the bar’s many open hours. Running down a list of the bar’s faves, Shanna Lawson, on duty during a recent weeknight, mentions Bud Light and Coors Light, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, Malibu and Jaeger Bombs. Interestingly, a Three Olives Vodka called Loopy also has fans. Also interesting: Kopp’s might be the only bar in America still specializing in Buttery Nipples. Pointing over to the corner of the

room, she notes that a relative, bartender Ashley Green, is also in-house. Given a few dollars for the jukebox, Green sings along to some tracks; it must be said, she’s quite good. The vibe before this moment had been pretty calm, a reality police show quietly playing on the TVs, a few drinkers drifting between the bar and the smoking deck. Suddenly, the vocals give the joint a little bit of life. “We act crazy, laugh, entertain,” says Lawson. “Customers come from the bars on Broadway, then bounce and come here, or vice versa. We’re having a good time here, laughing, joking, making you feel like family.” You don’t even have to buy the key to get that impression. But it sure doesn’t hurt. THOMAS CRONE


A popular spot in Jefferson County since 2014, Main & Mill Brewing Company (240 East Main Street, Festus; 636-5433031) boasts “a brewpub model,” in the words of head brewer Brandon Bischoff. “We rotate styles pretty much constantB A R G U I D E 2 0 19 | R I V E R F R O N T T I M E S 77


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ly," he says. "I think it took our customers a while to get used to that, but they seem to enjoy that model now.” Recently, that’s meant New England IPAs and fruited kettle sour beers, though Bischoff says stouts remain the favorite. The operation will expand in a big way this fall, moving into a much bigger building near its current location in Festus, with its new canning line and new brewing equipment designed to fit into a 15,000-square-foot location. That’s a sizable increase from the current 420-square-foot brewery. The results, Bischoff says, should be more tap room than brewpub: “We want to create an environment where we can try new and exciting things and get more direct feedback from over the bar.” Always a hit at beer fests, as well as its homebase restaurant, Main & Mill’s beers will get a slow-roll into the wider regional market in late fall. For local craft beer enthusiasts, that’ll mean another great option at the retail shelf. For the staff, well, they’re excited, too. Says Bischoff, “Even though we’re thrilled to have a nice brew system, a canning line and a lab, there are two things that really stand out for us: having a forklift and an office. We’ve done everything by hand for so long that I can’t even imagine how that’ll be. It’ll be great to not have to carry bags of grain, one by one, up a flight of stairs for every brew or to type up brew notes while sitting on a bucket.” Considering how well they’ve done to date, the assumption here is that expansion will allow Main & Mill to become a real player on the local craft scene, rather than a cult fave. Bring on the fall! THOMAS CRONE


If an industrial stretch of Highway 67 in Florissant seems like an unusual place for a tap room, Narrow Gauge Brewing Company (1595 North Highway 67, Florissant; 314-831-3222) has an even more unusual set up than that. The three-yearold brewery is actually located in the basement beneath an Italian restaurant. 80

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And so if you want to sample its wares, you have to drink at the bar at Cugino’s. Fortunately, that’s not a bad thing. Although the bar/restaurant space is technically Cugino’s, Narrow Gauge’s presence is smoothly integrated. Both the building’s exterior and interior feature Narrow Gauge’s branding prominently alongside Cugino’s. Essentially, if you’re there mainly to drink Narrow Gauge’s beers, you’ll feel like you’re in Narrow Gauge territory, and vice versa — if you’re there for an Italian meal, you’ll focus more on that than on craft beer. Cugino’s is divided into two rooms, so when you walk in, take the door to the left — the smaller space to the right is more for formal dining. The room to the left is casual and open plan, with a long, L-shaped bar. High tables help to create a casual vibe, too; there’s no awkward feeling that you’re sitting down in a restaurant just to have a pint. A list at the back of the room displays Narrow Gauge’s current range. Around ten Narrow Gauge beers are on tap, in addition to a large selection of drafts from other local and national breweries. Jeff Hardesty, founder and head brewer of Narrow Gauge Brewing Company, admits the arrangement sometimes causes confusion, but as a customer you have the sense of restaurant and brewery comfortably cohabitating. And Cugino’s food certainly provides the perfect foil for Narrow Gauge’s brews. It’s nominally an Italian restaurant, but the menu also features creative burgers made with half-pound patties, hearty sandwiches and pub-style appetizers including its signature breaded wings. First timers should try the PB&JJ burger ($12), topped with salted chipotle peanut butter and jalapeño-blackberry jam, alongside Swiss cheese and bacon. Trust us, it’s outstanding. As are the beers. Narrow Gauge was the first St. Louis brewery to specialize in New England IPAs, with the hazy style dominating Hardesty’s beer lists in the early days. During the brewery’s soft opening, Hardesty says he wondered whether customers would be bewildered by Narrow Gauge’s distinctive flavor profiles. “I remember looking around and

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Narrow Gauge Brewing Company. | IAIN SHAW

seeing everybody’s glass and thinking, ‘What is everybody thinking right now? They’re probably thinking we can’t brew beer because it looks extremely different than anything else,’” Hardesty recalls. “It was a little worrisome at first, but I realized pretty quick off that we started a fire that was going to be hard to put out.” The brewery started with a three-barrel system and two fermenters, but demand almost immediately outpaced capacity. “Within a month and a half, we purchased another four fermenters,” Hardesty says. He expanded the brewing operation in 2017, adding four foeders and a canning line. Narrow Gauge doesn’t distribute at present, but you can pick up cans, along with growlers and crowlers, from the to-go window just inside the entrance. Hardesty gradually realized he wanted the brewery’s output to offer a more diverse range of flavor profiles, so today you’re as likely to be drinking a Narrow Gauge pilsner or kellerbier as one of those trademark cloudy IPAs. Sour IPAs are among the styles Hardesty is excited to keep experimenting with. “They’re super fun beers to make. Very culinary based, so we try to pair fruits with spices, or try to be dessert-inspired,”

he says. Work through that variety of flavors with seven-ounce pours starting from $3 and larger pours from $5. Many of Narrow Gauge’s customers drive to Florissant from further afield, which is a source of pride for Hardesty, who has lived in the area for twelve years. “I love having people come up here and seeing Florissant and realizing it’s not what they maybe think it was. It gets a little bit of a bad rap around the city, but I like to think that we’re helping change that viewpoint,” he says. Hardesty also enjoys seeing Narrow Gauge pick up fans among locals who have been regulars at Cugino’s for years; they’ve helped to drive the brewery to introduce more sessionable lagers to its roster. With the brewery’s capacity maxed out — at this stage, almost every inch of the basement is given over to equipment and storage — Hardesty is weighing possible new directions. That could mean opening a new, larger space, whether locally or in the city. But even if a move happens, Hardesty said Narrow Gauge won’t forget where it started. “We’d still try to have more exclusive beer up here,” he says. “We’ll always want to have some sort of presence here.” I A I N S H AW

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Readers’ CHOICE

Venice Cafe. | RYAN GINES

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Polls are closed! Here's the best of the bar scene, as voted on by Riverfront Times readers.



(3175 Morganford Road, 314-772-8224)

(2001 Menard Street, 314-833-6686)

Amsterdam Tavern




(1000 Spruce Street, 314-376-4453)

(3503 Roger Place, 314-771-2040)

Start Bar




(1200 Russell Boulevard, 314-776-8309)

(1 South Broadway, 314-241-8439)

John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub BEST 3 A.M./ LATE NIGHT BAR

Mangia Italiano

(3145 South Grand Boulevard, 314-664-8585)


The Wheelhouse

(1000 Spruce Street, 314-833-3653)


360 Bar


Nara Cafe & Hookah Lounge

(1326 Washington Avenue, 314-588-0051)


John D. McGurk's Irish Pub (1200 Russell Boulevard, 314-776-8309)



(6001 Manchester Avenue, 314-781-7806)

(2001 Menard Street, 314-833-6686)

Nick's Pub


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(1740 South Brentwood Boulevard, Brentwood; 314-961-5646)



Broadway Oyster Bar (736 South Broadway, 314-621-8811)



(5213 Chippewa Street, 314-832-2211)

(1432 North Broadway, 314-241-4644)

The Famous Bar

Shady Jack's Saloon



(1903 Pestalozzi Street, 314-772-5994)

(10419 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Ann; 314-890-8333)

Venice Cafe



(2001 Menard Street, 314-833-6686)

The Waiting Room



Felix's Pizza Pub (Dogtown)

(2001 Menard Street, 314-833-6686)



(6401 Clayton Avenue, 314-645-6565)


Kirkwood Ice & Fuel Co

(1530 E. 4th Street, Alton, Illinois; 618-462-5532)


Fast Eddie's Bon Air

(215 North Kirkwood Road, 314-822-0494)


Helen Fitzgerald's

(1 Ameristar Boulevard, St. Charles; 636-940-4387)


Bottleneck Blues Bar

(3560 South Lindbergh Boulevard, 314-984-0026)


The Off Track Saloon

(4140 Manchester Avenue, 314-775-0775)


Atomic Cowboy BEST GAY BAR

Just John’s

(4112 Manchester Avenue, 314-371-1333)


Sasha's Wine Bar

(706 De Mun Avenue, 314-863-7274)


(7301 South Broadway, 314-457-0338)

Pop's Nightclub & Concert Venue (401 Monsanto Avenue, Sauget, Illinois; 618-274-6720)


Diamond Cabaret

(1401 Mississippi Avenue, Sauget, Illinois; 618-274-0380)

Broadway Oyster Bar



(1818 Sidney Street, 314-865-5900)

(736 South Broadway, 314-621-8811)

Mission Taco

(Multiple locations, including 6235 Delmar Boulevard, 314-932-5430)


John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub (1200 Russell Boulevard, 314-776-8309)


Molly’s in Soulard

(816 Geyer Avenue, 314-241-6200)





(4191 Manchester Avenue, 314-833-5532)


360 Bar

(1 South Broadway, 314-241-8439)

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Profile for Riverfront Times

Riverfront Times, Bar Guide 2019  

Riverfront Times, Bar Guide 2019