Bars & Clubs

  • Best New Bar

    The Church Key

    The Church Key is owned by the Bellon family, who a few years back brought Bellon's Market Deli and Pizzeria (located just down the block, at Vandeventer and Chouteau) to the neighborhood known as the Grove. Boasting of "heavenly spirits" and "sinful merriment," the Key is holds up both ends of its double-entendre. The booths are fashioned from pews —… More >>
  • Best Bartender

    Ryder Murphy

    You may not remember Ryder Murphy, or know that he has ever served you at Mangia Italiano. Maybe all you have is some vague recollection of last Friday night, one that involved double-fisting cans of Schlitz while dirty dancing to John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" with a total stranger (even though you hate jazz). Maybe you don't remember ever being at… More >>
  • Best Place for Cocktails

    Urban

    One of the newest bars to pop up on South Grand, Urban is dark and cool, and on most nights a DJ spins down-tempo house in the back room. But we come for the cocktails. Yes, they go by cutesy names ("Purple Rain" and "Raspberry Beret," to name two Prince-inspired ones). But many of them go above and beyond, with… More >>
  • Best Martini

    rBar

    No one can say for sure who created the first martini. But what we do know is that modern martinis are nothing like their predecessors, which consisted of gin and vermouth. Much to purists' chagrin, anything that looks yummy in a V-shaped glass can now pass for one. And traditional is not what rBar's marketing director Leigh-Anne Riebold had in… More >>
  • Best Bloody Mary

    Savor

    The bartenders at most establishments start thinking about the bloody mary you order approximately one second after you request it. There's no planning, no preparation, save for having the proper ingredients on hand. Not so at Savor. The folks here anticipate your mary long before you even choose a seat. How do they do it? They begin by infusing vodka,… More >>
  • Best Margarita

    The Cadillac

    In most Southwestern states, standard rules of decorum mandate that certain topics should not enter polite discussion. No talking about religion. No arguing about politics. And, for the love of all that is good and holy, no boasting about your margarita recipe. Here in the Midwest, we're free from that final stricture — so we can shout from the hilltops… More >>
  • Best Drink Special

    Delmar Restaurant & Lounge - CLOSED

    Is it just a mirage, or are the wine prices at restaurants going up faster than gas at the pump? Seems like only yesterday a glass of vino'd run you four or five bucks; now you practically need a money-market account to suck down a couple of after-work cabs. In belt-tightening times like these, turn to the Delmar Restaurant &… More >>
  • Best Drink Menu

    Monarch Restaurant

    Monarch is intoxicating — and that's before you imbibe a selection or two from its superlative drink menu. The gracious service, the architectural panache, the beautiful people, the sultry soundtrack: It's enough to knock you off your chair. But hold on tight and open up cocktail-master Ted Kilgore's drink list. The beverages are always calibrated to the season and to… More >>
  • Best Happy Hour

    Busch's Grove

    Your soul-sucking job isn't glamorous — but that's all the more reason for your happy hour to be. Park your Saturn next to a Lexus in the Busch's Grove parking lot (or pay $3 for valet) and pull open the heavy wooden doors to find a posh, largely white-collar crowd drinking drinkies at surprisingly blue-collar prices between 4 and 6:30… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Drinking

    Vin de Set Rooftop Bar & Bistro

    It took a tornado (and a serious bump on the head) to make Dorothy feel like she wasn't in Kansas anymore. Lucky for you, it'll only take an elevator ride to the top of a historic building in Lafayette Square to make you feel like you're no longer in St. Louis. French-themed restaurant Vin de Set's third-floor patio might not… More >>
  • Best All-Ages Venue

    Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center

    "Sure, come on in, but only if you pay a surcharge. But watch where you sit and stand, and wait, let me put this X' on your hand — or both of them!" While most venues have stages and even barriers and bodyguards to separate audience members from performers, the Lemp Art Center's lack of leveling allows for a truly… More >>
  • Best Rock Club

    The Billiken Club

    A college cafeteria by day and a makeshift venue at night, Saint Louis University's Billiken Club doesn't appear to be much of a rock club at first blush. But its amenities (great sound, cheap beer, and — best of all — never a cover charge) more than make up for whatever ambiance it lacks. Its slightly clandestine location led to… More >>
  • Best Rock Club to Die in the Past 12 Months

    Mississippi Nights

    While far too many local music clubs and venues have shuttered their doors in the past few years, no closure stung more than that of Mississippi Nights. One might argue that the club's booking had declined in quality in recent years, or that its cover-band pedigree in the 1980s was the very antithesis of the underground. But there was a… More >>
  • Best Hip-Hop Night

    Integrity

    Integrity isn't so much a place to dance and see a show as it is a networking tool. Sure, scene heavyweights Finsta and Tech Supreme make certain the night's performance is dope, and DJ Trackstar's playlists are always on point, but if you want to make it in the game in St. Louis, you best be seen at Integrity every… More >>
  • Best 3 a.m. Bar

    Pin-Up Bowl

    It's 1 a.m. and your standard watering hole just closed its doors. Your BAC broke double digits long ago. Standing on the curb with your posse, it's the moment of truth, the all-important decision: perseverance, or quit while you're ahead. No contest. "I'm feeling great, I'm feeling so fine," you slur (out of tune). "Until tomorrow but that's just some… More >>
  • Best Karaoke

    Mike Talayna's Juke Box Restaurant

    There are bars that offer karaoke, and then there are karaoke bars — the kind of place where it's always amateur night, where you too can be the star for three minutes at a time. Mike Talayna's Juke Box Restaurant is that kind of place, where the karaoke flows until 3 a.m. every night and the bar is peopled with… More >>
  • Best Lounge

    Maryland House at Brennan's

    Maryland House is so cool it doesn't need a lit-up sign outside informing you of its existence — you're just supposed to know. "We get people complaining about it a lot," says Joel Clark (an "unofficial manager"). "But once people find it, they love the place so much they don't seem to care anymore." The East Village-inspired five-room second-story walk-up… More >>
  • Best Jukebox

    Way Out Club

    While the wave of digital jukeboxes (currently invading a bar near you) might offer thousands of titles on their screens, a good jukebox is all about expression, a bar's way of showing you what it's all about via a handful of albums. Appropriately, the discs that fill the sticker-splattered jukebox at the Way Out Club offer a glimpse into the… More >>
  • Best Lesbian Bar

    Novak's Bar & Grill - CLOSED

    If it feels like everyone at Novak's knows everyone else, it's probably because they do — the community atmosphere is unmistakable. The gals (and guys) at Novak's are always welcoming to newcomers — gay, straight or bar-curious. The horseshoe bar provides ample opportunities for chatting, flirting and good old-fashioned drinking, and both the game room and sedate patio are great… More >>
  • Best Gay Bar

    Clementine's

    How can you not adore a drinking establishment that has the good sense to offer happy-hour prices from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each and every weekday? Who among us could fault a restaurant whose menu offers comfort foods like chicken pot pie and prime rib at prices so low there's no need for home cooking? Who could but admire… More >>
  • Best Metrosexual Bar

    Rue 13 - CLOSED

    Like a peacock splaying his feathers, the Metro struts through Rue with his plumage on display. Notice how he sips a (double) gin-and-tonic with his back to the lights, the better to silhouette his thin frame and peg-leg jeans. As the clubbers dance to crowd-pleasing hits, the Metro can be found lounging on one of the many luxurious couches, his… More >>
  • Best Beer Selection in a Bar

    Erato

    Beware a bar that offers you the Bible-size tome of available beers. Do you have the time to search through that many choices? How confident are you that your bartender really knows the difference between, say, a dubbel and a doppelbock? The beer selection at Erato falls into that ideal range: long and varied enough to catch your attention, focused… More >>
  • Best Bar Food

    Michael's Bar & Grill

    Question: What makes for truly fantastic bar food? Answer: A good deep fryer. By that measure, the fryer at Michael's Bar & Grill must be gold plated, a filligreed affair replete with ivory inlays, encrusted with precious gems and signed by its creator. Because this "fryer" — if indeed we can still call it that — produces delicacies of such… More >>
  • Best Place to Primp

    Mandarin Lounge restroom

    After a few months of spending Saturday nights in your jammies with only John Walsh to keep you company — this breakup was tough and watching America's Most Wanted didn't help matters — you're ready to get back in the game. You've picked Mandarin Lounge for your re-debut. (Good choice, by the way.) And lo and behold, you've actually met… More >>
  • Best Place to Slow Dance

    Wedding receptions

    For all of the love that's professed at your typical wedding, the guests aren't usually feeling it. Whether they're pissed about losing an entire Saturday, unimpressed with the reception food or annoyed with their assigned table, one thing is certain: The invitees are bitching. But complainers deserve to feel love, too! The best way for a sourpuss to capture some… More >>
  • Best Underground Club

    Various basements on Cherokee Street

    The best underground shows exist in the grit and grime of the city, advertised only to close-knit supporters of alternatively attuned music via word of mouth, Web or haphazardly distributed flyers. But down in the dusty basements on Cherokee Street, this is no stingy contingent. A community of free thinkers and open-minded individuals exists in these areas, rife with sincere… More >>
  • Best Place to Drown Your Sorrows

    Nick's Irish Pub

    You wanted to go somewhere for a quick one to jolt your mind away from the fact that you're a complete failure. You told yourself you'd only stay for a single, mood-altering Guinness, then wham-o! — next thing you know, you're dancing a jig with strangers. That's why patron Nick Wade has been frequenting Nick's Pub for more than six… More >>
  • Best Punk Rock Venue

    St. Louis Skatium

    The place stinks like beer, cigarettes and sex. The intoxicating low glow of black light and boisterously pink and purple fluorescent tubes permeate the sticky air. The music, pumped raw and hard through a bare-bones sound system, is thunderous, though it barely drowns out the sound of the uninhibited crowd — hundreds of adults and kids who might otherwise have… More >>
  • Best Dance Club

    Morgan Street Brewery

    Morgan Street Brewery isn't so much a dance club as it is a dance compound, with changing vibes, beats and bars around every corner. The lower level's nothing special, but things start to change once you climb the stairs. At the top there's a sparse bar with down-tempo music that seems geared to the grown-ups. Cruise through that room and… More >>
  • Best Blues Club

    BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups

    These days the best blues in town can be found in the so-called South Broadway triangle, the few-block stretch where Broadway angles its way southeastward to usurp Fourth Street. And BB's remains the anchor of the area, presenting a mix of touring acts and local and regional performers seven nights a week. Not content to rest on its laurels, the… More >>
  • Best Jazz Club

    Jazz at the Bistro

    St. Louis' best jazz club is, in fact, not a traditional club at all, but rather a not-for-profit concert series presented in a bar/restaurant setting. But with good sound and sightlines and the best lineup of touring jazz talent to be found between Chicago and New Orleans, the Bistro is not only a local leader but is often ranked among… More >>
  • Best Irish Pub

    The Dubliner

    The Dubliner, with its soaring ceilings and aspiring gastronomy, may be the urban version of an Irish pub. But true to its roots, there's always a pair of elbows resting atop the bar. Twenty-ounce pints of Smithwick's, Harp, Guinness and Magner's Cider, plus a raft of Irish whiskeys and cocktails (love that Irish Car Bomb!), served up by cheeky lads… More >>
  • Best Place to Play Pinball

    Sci-Fi Lounge

    For some reason, Coyote gives directions to his sci-fi lounge by noting that it has a giant chicken out front. It does have a giant chicken out front, but that ain't even the most interesting or eye-catching thing about this place. Coyote is an artist/nerd who manages the vintage arcade at the City Museum, so naturally his own gallery/toy museum/arcade… More >>
  • Best Place to Play Darts

    Black Derby Saloon

    Though the Black Derby Saloon offers more than just darts, a cursory glance at the off-kilter pool table and pinball machine-turned-plant holder shows that's not why people come. Run by a little old lady named Doris who decries plastic-tipped "wussy darts," the Black Derby exists because of the ten dartboards that command more than half of this tiny Kingshighway dive.… More >>
  • Best Place to Play Pool

    Airport Billiards - CLOSED

    In the seminal pool film The Hustler, Paul Newman plays Fast Eddie Felson, a pool shark on a mission to topple the greatest player in the land, Minnesota Fats, at a legendary pool hall called Ames. Along the way, playing in a backwater pool dive, Eddie gets his thumbs broken for hustling some locals. The message? You want to play… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar (Mid-County)

    Barrister's

    The bartender during happy hour at Barrister's is Kyla. Kyla Berlener. She's 32, a dark-haired whirling dervish with a personality the color of gold, as when the evening sun lights upon on the rows of dark liquors. Like her pours, Kyla's smile is generous. If there were a price of admission here (which of course there isn't), she'd be worth… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar (City)

    Friendly's Sports Bar and Grill

    There's a fine line between "keeping it real" and "straight-up trashy." Friendly's Sports Bar and Grill sits just a smidge to the "real" side of that line. And that, in turn, is what makes Friendly's so glorious and deserving of the title "Best Neighborhood Bar." No pretension here, no fern-based décor. Booze comes cheap, except during random times like "$1.50… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar (North County)

    BS Bar & Grill

    Some of you may know that Riverfront Times fields a softball team. Some of you may further be aware that our team is the Baltimore Orioles of the U. City rec league. This summer we lost a game 27-1. That score was not an aberration. We routinely get beat by double digits — especially when we play the gang from… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar (South County)

    Hessler's Pub & Grill

    A few years back someone put up south county's most pointless sign. It officially denotes the cluster of stores at Baptist Church and Tesson Ferry roads as Plaza 21. But nobody refers to it as that, ever. When describing a store within the strip mall, locals say, "Oh, it's in that plaza with Hessler's," and everybody knows where that is.… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Bar (East Side)

    Smokey Joe's

    Smokey Joe's waits in the darkness of the Great River Road like a tiny smoke-filled oasis. The roadside tavern serves as both an escape for the twentysomething from Edwardsville who wants to avoid small talk with former high school classmates and a pit stop for regulars, many of them guys who work at U.S. Steel in Granite City. Smokey Joe's… More >>
  • Best Kept Secret (Bar Division)

    Al's Restaurant

    A mural of the St. Louis waterfront circa A Long Time Ago surrounds the bar of Al's Restaurant, located at First and Biddle streets, just north of Laclede's Landing. This room was designed to look like the deck of an old-time riverboat or a scene from the musical Show Boat: The ceiling and columns are all Steamboat Captain Gingerbread; the… More >>
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