St. Louis' Best Neighborhood Bars 

The Crow's Nest: One of St. Louis' best neighborhood bars.


The Crow's Nest: One of St. Louis' best neighborhood bars.

Every city has its bars, but few cities have perfected the good old-fashioned neighborhood version quite so well as St. Louis. These bars are neither too fancy nor too frightening, too snazzy nor too sketchy. They're just right.

This year, we've picked dozens of our favorite spots, from St. Charles to Soulard. They're places where you can get a burger and a beer, catch the Cardinals on TV or just run into your friends and neighbors. And after months of research, we can state one thing with certainty: They're the true beating heart of this booze-loving city.

Bar research and writeups by Cheryl Baehr, Sarah Fenske, Kevin Korinek, Jaime Lees, Doyle Murphy, Ellen Prinzi, Ben Westhoff and Danny Wicentowski

Rosie's Place. - SARAH FENSKE
  • Rosie's Place.

Rosie's Place
One of the truly great gin joints in the city, Rosie's Place (4573 Laclede Avenue, 314-361-6423) has managed to weather not only great change in the Central West End but also the passage of the city's smoking ban, an achievement that surely felt unfathomable back when it was one of the smokiest spots in the central city. But this no-frills bar isn't just surviving, it's thriving, with hordes of fun lovers packing its narrow confines and, generally, drinking with the kind of enthusiastic devotion associated with a bygone era. You don't have to look far to figure out where the smokers went: Those big picnic tables just outside the front door fill up on warm nights, and you'll have to shoulder your way past a literal cloud of nicotine to go home. Why not stay and have a piping hot TJ's pizza and another beer instead?

It might seem a little too fancy to count as a true neighborhood bar, but Brennan's (4659 Maryland Avenue, 314-497-4449) is utterly at home within its cosmopolitan neighborhood — and for many denizens of the Central West End, this is indeed the place where everyone knows their name. Good enough for us. Kevin Brennan opened his storefront on Maryland fifteen years ago to sell wine, beer, liquor and cigars, but soon found the project morphing into a bar, one that also grew to include ping pong in the basement, a terrific assortment of sidewalk seating and a cigar club upstairs. Somehow, even with its enormous popularity and various expansions (a second outpost, a much different kind of project in Midtown involving coffee and coworking, is soon to open), Brennan's has kept a cozy feel, personalized service and a sense of a humor (witness the always changing and always pithy phrases behind the rows of Scotch and whiskey). Visit just one time on a laid-back weeknight, and you might find yourself contemplating the kind of move that would allow Brennan's to become your neighborhood bar, too.

Jack Patrick's. - SARAH FENSKE
  • Jack Patrick's.

Jack Patrick's
Downtown's chillest bar, Jack Patrick's Bar & Grill (1000 Olive Street, 314-436-8879) is a surprisingly spacious spot to have a bite and play a game (darts, shuffleboard, Golden Tee), or just watch one. There's much to like about this low-lit spot, from the sign proclaiming Jägermeister the house wine to the cell phone booth that, we can only hope, shames people with business to conduct into doing it far, far from our whiskey. And did we mention the Clydesdales hanging in a glass globe over the shuffleboard table? They just don't make bars like this anymore. A warning to those who like one-stop shopping: While you order your drinks at the long bar anchoring the back of the room, you'll have to go to the little window to the left to take advantage of the food menu. It's worth it; the roster of options is seriously huge.

Speakeasy. - BEN WESTHOFF
  • Speakeasy.

Speakeasy (5532 West Florissant Avenue, no phone number) lives up to its name via its irregular hours (closed Sundays and Tuesdays) and lack of an exterior marker bearing its name (just look for the old-school Budweiser sign). Inside, it's not much to look at, with wood-paneled walls and a backbar that's basically just bottles sitting on a table next to some chips. But the place has spirit. It hosts dart tournaments, boasts a kitchen serving everything from tacos to turkey burgers and plays music louder than any other bar we've visited. With a DJ spinning on a laptop on a recent Friday night, the decibel level was more akin to a nightclub. The patrons tended to be black women in their 30s, but everyone was getting in on the act. They put down their plastic shot glasses and belted out lyrics to an old-school Milira R&B jam: Why must I feel so lonely without you here? The bartender set down the knife she was using to cut limes and threw back her head: That's why I wanna go outside in the rain. A couple who had been annoying each other by flirting with others set aside their differences to sing in unison: So no one, no one, no one, knows that I'm crying. Celebrating life's sorrows together: That's the Speakeasy way.

Waldorf Lounge
Considering its broken front window has been repaired with duct tape, and considering that during off-hours the front door is padlocked from the outside, Waldorf's Lounge (3963 Delmar Boulevard, no phone number) looks abandoned. But when it's open — Thursday through Saturday nights — the place is often absolutely popping. Inside you'll find mood lighting, exposed brick, a snazzy, updated bar area, and grown-n-sexy hip-hop (think Juvenile and 50 Cent). Though it's just down the block from the Freedom Place apartment building, which houses formerly homeless veterans, the clientele doesn't tend toward down-on-their luck retired service men and women, but rather sharp-dressed African-Americans in their 30s and 40s. Even the drinks are well-adorned. When we were there a woman was selling, for $5 each, "drink covers": small doilies with beads and a hole for your straw. Don't let Waldorf's glum exterior scare you. Inside, it's got style to spare.

Zodiac Lounge. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Zodiac Lounge.

Zodiac Lounge
Zodiac Lounge (3517 North Grand Boulevard, 314-535-9800) has long had the coolest marquee in town — a mystical-looking circle chart of the astrological signs, including horoscope glyphs. Now it also has a cool owner, former mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. "Life's a lot easier since politics," St. Louis' first black mayor tells us from behind the bar, adding that since he took over this spot not long ago they've repainted the interior (a cool, dark blue) but maintained the retro décor. There have been other upgrades as well; a customer shares that Zodiac is finally stocking olives, meaning he no longer has to bring his own from home for his nearly-all-vodka martinis, served with lots of ice in a rounded tumbler ($8). What hasn't changed is the community feel. Even on a weekday afternoon the spot is jammed, and a desperate addict who arrives hoping to sell a discarded picture frame with the text "now I lay me down to sleep" somehow finds a buyer, a nurse in scrubs just off her shift who's hoping to encourage her children to say their prayers at night. Word to the wise: If you want to drink here, you should be at least 35, and don't expect to use the jukebox. "Who the fuck put this on?" asks beloved, despotic bartender Miss Shirley, as Frank Sinatra interrupts her string of Erykah Badu jams. Even with a mayor for a boss, she does things her way.

Gregg's Bar & Grill
By the sweat of their brows. That's how most of the people in the industrial north riverfront get by. But when they get to Gregg's Bar and Grill (4400 North Broadway, 314-421-1152), the work stops, the dust on their boots settles and they'll settle in to partake of the fruits of that labor — except, of course, they're not ordering fruit at Gregg's. This is a realm of beer and burgers, of generous fish sandwiches and perfect onion rings. It's a place that attracts diverse characters and old friends, everyone from cops to construction workers to nearby neighborhood residents. Amid the area's industrial sprawl, some call this place an oasis, but the warmth within doesn't evoke a desert. There is a richness here, wealth measured in food and drink that remain consistent across years. It's more like a garden, an Eden where temptation comes from a bottle of whiskey — but the only sin is failing to partake.

Palomino Lounge. - BEN WESTHOFF
  • Palomino Lounge.

Palomino Lounge
Fedora-wearing, '70s-Buick-driving, boxing-promoting St. Louis booster Steve Smith is best known for his South Kingshighway bar and restaurant the Royale. But while the Royale is something of a destination location — for political watch parties, sports viewing or community meetings — another establishment where Smith is a partner, Palomino Lounge (5876 Delmar Boulevard, 314-456-7890) is simply a classic neighborhood bar. Located at what might one day be described at the eastern end of the Loop (across from the Loop Trolley building), the 50-plus-year-old establishment was purchased by principal Rodney Smith (no relation), Steve Smith and two other partners about two years ago from its longtime proprietress, known simply as Miss Barbara. Hoping to unite North and South, black and white, the partners are certainly not the first St. Louisans with ambitions of creating city harmony, but if it's going to happen, it might as well be at a stylish spot with solid drinks. The woodwork and light fixtures surrounding the bar are vintage and lovingly maintained, while the house cocktails tend to be fresh twists on old standards. Smith and Co. are not reinventing the wheel, and they may not bring about racial unification, but their preservation of a classic old spot feels like a victory in itself.

Turn the page, or follow the links below, for the best neighborhood bars in these areas:
South City
South County
North County
St. Charles

See also: The RFT's 2018 Bar Guide: A Salute to Neighborhood Bars, and Much More

O'Connell's. - JAIME LEES
  • O'Connell's.

O'Connell's Pub
Known as one of the darkest bars in town, O'Connell's Pub (4652 Shaw Avenue, 314-773-6600) is best when you know how to work it. As soon as you slip past the green-glazed brick and into the place, you must get some food. Many food lovers swear the burgers are the best in town. Then once you've eaten, kick back and relax at the bar. Maybe order a whiskey; if you sit and sip silently, good things will surely come your way. The bar tends to be populated by older regulars and if you seem suitably cranky, they will invite you into their conversation and share all their hard-earned grumpy wisdom. If you need an opinion on anything, you can find it here. Complaining seems to be common — even encouraged — at this delightful bar for the moody and cantankerous. Old-school rules apply: Don't be a sloppy drunk and respect your elders. They won't have it any other way.

The Haven
The Haven (6625 Morganford Road, 314-352-4283) is straight-up south city. Set in the Boulevard Heights neighborhood across the street from St. Louis Fire Engine House 19, the brick corner bar fits right in with the neighboring bungalows. You'll notice it only because it is a little bigger and has the added flourish of a gorgeous, vertical neon sign. Regulars roll in all afternoon for solid drinks and a comfort-food menu featuring plenty of Provel. There are fish dinners on Fridays, and it's the kind of place that effortlessly accommodates families with kids even as a tipsy mix of bullshitters keeps things lively at the bar. It's clean, the lighting is comfortably low without being too dark and a handful of TVs air the Cards game. Get there early in the evenings. It fills up fast.

Tick Tock Tavern
The term "public house" has become so overused in the douchebag marketing of bars that it barely registers at all. But Tick Tock Tavern (3459 Magnolia Avenue, no phone) is about the best example we know of the idea of local bar as community hub. The Tower Grove East spot fills up daily with neighbors out for a pint, local political party operatives strategizing new campaigns and those who simply appreciate the efficiency of drinking a beer under the owl-and-clock bric a brac while awaiting their dinner from the adjoining Steve's Hot Dogs. It's a place where less-than famous bands release their albums, charities hold fundraisers and the occasional market for music and movies sets up shop. It's hard to believe that this revival of the long-shuttered space opened just four years ago, because the Tick Tock is absolutely embedded in the neighborhood.

Whiskey Ring
Cherokee Street is very much a musician's neighborhood, and the Whiskey Ring(2651 Cherokee Street, 314-669-5817) was established by musicians, so it's no surprise to find hardworking local luminaries either behind or bellied up to the bar. There is a huge wall of whiskey to choose from, of course, and the bartenders enjoy giving recommendations, but it's just as much a Stag-and-a-shot kind of joint. Weekends can get a little intense with destination drinkers, but if you're on the street during the week, and especially if you've just enjoyed a show at Foam or Off Broadway, Whiskey Ring is the place for knocking a few back and getting caught up on the local music scene's latest intrigues, straight from the horse's mouth.

  • The Royale.

The Royale
The Royale (3132 South Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-772-3600) may well be the ultimate neighborhood bar. Conceived and designed as a place for those living near Tower Grove Park to gather together, this place will feed you, get you drunk, provide you with debate fodder or put you in a position to take a new friend home — pick your poison. The decidedly (and openly) lefty bar often hosts political rallies, debates and fundraisers in an effort to motivate neighbors to engage and be active in their community. The booze works as the perfect social lubricant, the patio is great, the cocktails are tasty and after a night at the Royale, you're likely go home satisfied in one way or another. Or maybe you'll get in a political debate and go home frustrated. In any case, you'll be back soon enough. When it comes to a community gathering point like the Royale, none of the neighbors can stay away for long.

Riley's Pub
Riley's Pub (3458 Arsenal Street, 314-664-7474) has all the good parts of an Irish pub — heavy wood, friendly bartenders and a solid whiskey selection — without all the leprechauns-and-shamrocks garbage that makes so many bars feel like an Irish Applebee's. At heart, this Tower Grove East spot is just a good south-city bar with reasonable drinks, a mix of booths and bar seating and an inviting front patio. In the back room, you'll find pinball and darts along with a small kitchen serving St. Louis-style pizza that you order from the bar. For the occasional fundraiser, Riley's serves a weekend Irish brunch, and the bar often plays host to traditional Irish music. Have a Guinness — or a Schlafly. Either one feels authentic here.

The Hideaway - DOYLE MURPHY
  • The Hideaway

The Hideaway
The Hideaway (5900 Arsenal Street, 314-645-8822) is unsinkable. The south-city bar survived the death of longtime owner Al Coco in 2015 with the help of a patron, who stepped in to captain the ship for nearly a year before Coco's heir could complete its sale. It held onto its pack-a-day crowd — and even added newcomers — when the city banned smoking. Not even the retirement this summer of Mark Dew, the scene-defining piano player, could capsize the Hideaway. After all the changes, the place retains the enduring kitsch of an old-school lounge. It's cleaner, and the coasters are now more likely to be cardboard than crochet. But the drinks are still cheap, and the walls are still decorated with portraits of a mysterious brunette beauty who, like the Hideaway, continues to charm after all these years.

Milo's Tavern
Two things will always reign supreme in the Hill neighborhood: food and bocce ball. Milo's Tavern (5201 Wilson Avenue, 314-776-0468) has both. With quick service and high turnout on both nights and weekends, Milo's can easily become the rowdiest bar in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. Its prime location diagonal from St. Ambrose Church has made Milo's an anchor for decades, hosting generations of the area's Italian families. A sports bar with vastly above-average bar food, Milo's main attraction still remains bocce ball. In the summer the courts are filled with old-timers who have been gathering in this neighborhood, in this exact spot, for their entire lives. On a hot summer night you can watch the clientele cycle from families eating dinner to groups of bocce-focused sportsmen to baseball-obsessed drinkers and on through the classic last-call rituals of "your place or mine" — all under one roof.

Novella. - JAIME LEES
  • Novella.

Novella Wine Bar
Tucked inside a tiny storefront in Princeton Heights, Novella (5510 South Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-680-4226) is a cozy little wine bar that is perfect for all of your love life's needs. Whether you're looking to set the mood for a romantic first date or just trying to remember the magic on your wedding anniversary, Novella has you covered. Drop in and enjoy top-notch suggestions from the attentive owner as you sample hard-to-find wines from across the world, including Romania's earthy finest. It's not a place to stop in to grab a glass on the way to your dinner reservation; it's a place you'll want to devote an evening to experiencing. The wide selection of quality tapas options will fill you up fast. These small plates? They're not so small. Don't forget to explore the enchanted garden out back. With its fountains and high fence, you'll think you fell right into a romance novel. But this isn't a work of fiction, it's just a delightfully low-key wine bar that's surely better than the one in your neighborhood. Enjoy.

SOHA Bar and Grill
Though it opened in 2012, Southampton's aptly named SOHA Bar and Grill (2605 Hampton Avenue, 314-802-7877) didn't really catch on until recently. But these days, instead of being just another option on the edge of an area crowded with them, SOHA has become a destination bar — a place folks from other neighborhoods visit to experience. It's almost like a more grown-up version of south-side institution Friendly's. There are TVs on every wall and screens in every direction, but the chill atmosphere keeps them from overwhelming the action. The bar feels like it was designed for customers in their 30s: dark and generally more subdued than the average sports bar, it's the perfect place to catch the game while grabbing a decent bite to eat.

The Silver Leaf
The Silver Leaf (3442 Hereford Street, 314-481-8040) is exactly what you want from your neighborhood bar. It's small, drinks are cheap ($2.25 domestics — and you'll save a quarter during happy hour) and the regulars are so reliable, the staff not only knows their names but even keeps their personal koozies behind the bar. The four high-tops are about as many as you could reasonably fit in this tiny watering hole, which feels lively with a crowd of ten. There was recently a bit of a shakeup in ownership when one of the partners bought out the other, leading to the following changes in one of the city's oldest bars: a new paint job and a freshly mopped ceiling. Other than that, it's the same old Leaf, decorated with firefighter memorabilia and a nearly life-size picture of Marilyn Monroe on the wall.

Southtown Pub. - JAIME LEES
  • Southtown Pub.

Southtown Pub
The drinks are strong and the food is good; what else does a neighborhood bar need? Southtown Pub (3707 South Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-833-3999) has that, but it also has more. Though it takes up prime real estate right across from the Starbucks on South Kingshighway, it's usually full of people who can walk there. And why not? The bar offers a comfortable spot to grab dinner in or just drinks, with speedy and attentive table service. And a recent revamping of the huge back patio took things up a notch — it now has dedicated zones for outdoor games, grabbing shots at the outdoor bar or hiding out in the shaded and chill lounge section.

Nadine's Gin Joint
Known as the friendliest bar in Soulard, Nadine's Gin Joint (1931 South 12th Street, 314-436-3045) has something for everybody. This sprawling space is a favorite of locals, not just the drunken weekend tourists who flock to this picturesque neighborhood. Nadine's is a restaurant during the day, but the open, tented patio turns into a huge dog-friendly beer garden at night. Staffers are kind and welcoming, taking great care to make sure each patron feels welcome and remembered. This bar can go from pumping music, pouring gin down your throat and getting you good and drunk on a Saturday night to nursing your hangover with coffee and eggs on Sunday morning. In that, it proves to be not only a smart business model, but also a great neighbor to have looking out for you. Thanks, Nadine's.

Tamm Avenue Grill. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • Tamm Avenue Grill.

Tamm Avenue Grill
These days, Tamm Avenue Grill (1227 Tamm Avenue, 314-461-4902) is sometimes overshadowed by Mac's Local Eats, the acclaimed burger spot embedded within its walls. But the bar itself has its charms. That is especially true in good weather, when its sprawling back patio is in full swing. It's like a giant courtyard, with a couple of cinder-block stalls housing an outdoor bar and game room along the back edge. The main expanse is dotted by couches, umbrellas and pergolas, with the whole scene lit nicely by strands of lights draped overhead. Inside, you'll find a U-shaped space with a bar in the middle and, of course, the Mac's window, where hungry eaters wait to order what are arguably the city's best burgers. The bar has a wide selection of craft beers, useful whether you're in line for food or just hanging out to watch a game.

Friendly's Sports Bar and Grill
A king among its old south-city neighborhood bar brethren, Friendly's Sports Bar and Grill (3503 Roger Place, 314-771-2040) fills up in the afternoon with shift workers in brightly colored construction T-shirts. The cheap drinks flow into the night when the younger crowd dominates the air hockey table, pop-a-shot hoop and pool tables. A vast menu offers your favorite fried foods practically for free, and the popcorn on offer is, indeed, entirely free. Friendly's is a deceptively large place; you might need a couple of visits to appreciate it fully. Off the main barroom, you can go left for more seating or right into the buzzing, blinking game room with its many diversions and rows of TVs. Out back, you'll find an L-shaped beer garden with a dual cornhole setup. Do what you want. They're not fussy here.

The Stellar Hog. - MABEL SUEN
  • The Stellar Hog.

Super's Bungalow
Super's Bungalow (5623 Leona Avenue, 314-481-8448) is an old farmhouse elevated more than eight decades ago to the higher purpose of neighborhood bar. The place not only has regulars; it has regulars whose parents and grandparents were regulars. A clean-up in 2016 did nothing to hurt its local status, although a serious upgrade in the food, courtesy of the in-house Stellar Hog barbecue operation, now attracts customers from far beyond the surrounding Bevo Mill and Holly Hills neighborhoods. The old timers don't seem to mind. Maybe that's because there's plenty of room in the huge beer garden out back for everyone.

The Grey Fox
This neighborhood bar is also a drag bar, which makes it one of the greatest neighborhood bars in the whole city. The Grey Fox (3503 South Spring Avenue, 314-772-2150) sits on a corner in Tower Grove South, with bright decorations outside and howling laughter inside that practically begs you to enter and check it out. But the neon-and-rainbow exterior only hints at the colorful scene indoors. The high-ceilinged bar area would be chic on its own, but here it serves as a mere gateway to the performance room — that's where all the best stuff happens. The bar hosts live entertainment six nights a week, with amateur nights on Thursdays being a surprise hit. On this night, anybody who wants to try her hand at a performance is welcome to climb up on stage. The results are often astounding. But if you prefer your entertainment to be more of a sure thing, check out the Grey Fox on the weekends, when the seasoned pros show up and just kill it.

Amsterdam Tavern. - JAIME LEES
  • Amsterdam Tavern.

Amsterdam Tavern
There are plenty of reasons to visit Amsterdam Tavern (3175 Morganford Road, 314-772-8224), but one stands out above all: futball. As St. Louis' premiere soccer bar, Amsterdam not only accommodates huge crowds for key games, but handles these rowdy fans with enormous reserves of patience. The large back patio comes in handy during crunch time, and food from next-door neighbor the Dam keeps the wild things tamed. Mostly. Here in North America, World Cup games start early in the morning, so it's not uncommon to see an overly-celebratory football fan barfing — er, engaging in some zonal marking — outside around 10 a.m. once every four years or so. But it's all in good fun at the Amsterdam. They live for this stuff.

33 Wine Bar
Leave it to tony Lafayette Square to choose as its neighborhood bar not just a wine bar, but a wine bar with a list of interesting wines far beyond the usual roster of merlots and pinot grigios. Then again, it's hard to argue that 33 Wine Shop & Bar (1913 Park Avenue, 314-231-9463) doesn't handle every function of a great neighborhood establishment, from the genuinely friendly hospitality to the marvelously chill patio tucked away in the back. The food menu is limited to a few cheese boards, and there's not much in the way of non-alcoholic drinks, but that's actually good incentive to head elsewhere in the neighborhood for dinner, and then come back — things can get rip-roaring here late at night, proving that even the city's poshest neighborhood knows how to let go and have a good time. The shop also does a brisk to-go business, so if you like what you're drinking, why not get one for the road?

Sasha's on Shaw. - TOM HELLAUER
  • Sasha's on Shaw.

Sasha's on Shaw
Cozy in the winter, airy with plenty of patio space out front in the summer, Sasha's on Shaw (4069 Shaw Boulevard, 314-771-7274) is the neighborhood wine bar for all seasons. Expect good service and a relaxed, stylish crowd. Sasha's is roomy, but it is nicely laid out to create unofficial zones throughout: plush chairs around the back fireplace, small dining tables through main expanse and lots of seating along the long bar keep the feeling comfortably intimate. The wide patio similarly features room for groups or date-night couples. After just about ten years in the Shaw neighborhood, it's a go-to spot for locals who walk and bike in for a drink after work or late-night happy hour.

Toasted ravioli at Dulany's. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Toasted ravioli at Dulany's.

Dulany's Grille & Pub
From the first sip from a frosted glass to the first perfect bite of a hexagonal toasted ravioli, Dulany's Grille & Pub (9940 Kennerly Road, 314-849-1554) manages to elucidate perfectly the difference between "just some bar" and a true neighborhood staple. Dulany's is perfectly positioned to be everyone's favorite hangout. One half is a chummy sports bar, the other an expansive, restaurant-style area, with a restaurant's daily food specials and a dependable stream of new entrees. It's also got a 4 to 7 p.m. weekday happy hour with $6 specials on burgers, wings and personal pizzas. It's then got an extra happy hour from 9 p.m. to close. And hey, it's even got homemade sangria for cryin' out loud. You might be able to think of something Dulany's doesn't have — but just wait. One of these days you'll turn around on your bar stool, and it'll be right there.

Maggie O'Brien's
Sunset Hills lucked out this year. With the newly opened Maggie O'Brien's (3828 South Lindbergh, Sunset Hills; 314-842-7678), it gained a faithful translation of the original Maggie O's, which has long been a downtown St. Louis favorite. Nothing on the menu has been lost in the expansion: You've got your handmade chips, your corned beef and cabbage, and even "Fat Eddie's Big Boys," a selection of sandwiches for the seriously hungry. But this Maggie isn't identical to her older sister: the main bar, which bends at three places to accommodate twenty stools, seems engineered perfectly for socializing and sports-related cheering and jeering. It's like an Arthurian roundtable, but with fewer swords and a lot more Guinness. And sure, south county doesn't lack for Irish bars — Helen Fitzgerald's is just down the street — but Maggie O'Brien's already shows the polish of a much older establishment, not to mention the patrons to appreciate it. This Maggie O'Brien's knows exactly what it is, from its green walls to its dark red house beer. Some might call such quick success luck. Maggie would call it tradition.

  • JP's Corner.

JP's Corner Bar and Grill
If a good bar is like a good album, then JP's Corner Bar and Grill (11890 Gravois Road, 314-842-1996) is the one you'd keep in your car's CD player all summer. And this would be no meager five-song EP, but a full concept album. The interior manages to feel like a dive bar ate a banquet hall. Its long bar covered in Cardinals banners sits next to an expansive seating area that could comfortably hold several softball teams, and beyond that are four full-sized pool tables and a stage that hosts local bands kicking out blues, rock and country favorites. The acreage is put to good use, hosting live music and karaoke four days a week, but it wouldn't be much without food and drink; thankfully, JP's is rocking a menu filled with sub-$10 items and domestic beer that comes $7 a pitcher during the daily 3 to 6 p.m. happy hour. That's a melody anyone can sing along to.

Hessler's Pub & Grill
In south county, the traditional neighborhood bar found its home in the strip malls dotting the landscape of suburban sprawl. Hessler's Pub & Grill (11804 Tesson Ferry Road, 314-842-4050) staked out its spot in 1983 and hasn't let go since. Even with a change of ownership in 2009, the menu remains deep on choices, from barroom staples to a dish of 25 fried mini tacos (sharing optional). Many hungry eyes, however, alight on the house burger and never move past it ... and that works too. On the weekends, Hessler's boasts south county's longest-running karaoke scene, and with its neon bar lights and wood-paneled walls, the place feels like your dad's comfortably retro '70s basement, only with the addition of a full kitchen and happy hour with $2 bottles and $5 appetizers. Even better: Every month Hessler's spreads some joy and pulls an all-day happy hour. That's the kind of community spirit that should keep the place open at least another 35 years.

  • Blarney Stone.

The Blarney Stone
A storefront-spanning, Kelly-green canopy is the first thing you'll spot at the Blarney Stone Sports Bar and Grill (4331 Telegraph Road, 314-487-4235). The awning is hung with planters, a grandmotherly touch, and it puts a sort of garden moat around the eight-table patio. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the patio hosts live music; otherwise, your soundtrack will be conversation, clinking glasses and the distinctive slap of a bean bag hitting a wooden target in the parking lot. The interior is no less hospitable, and it offers respite from the smokers congregating outside. Considering the mugginess of St. Louis weather, a climate-controlled barroom is never a bad idea, especially one stacked with TVs tuned to the game, cheap drinks delivered in buckets, St. Louis-style pizza ($9 for a large two-topping Mondays and Thursdays) and a full menu featuring meat from the butcher's shop just down the street. Add to that the locals, the families, the sports fans rooting for the Cards to just win everything already — and it's obvious Blarney's isn't merely a neighborhood bar. It's a bar with a whole neighborhood crammed inside it.

Croc's Sports Bar
A crocodile with a somewhat dazed expression presides over Croc's Sports Bar (5591 Oakville Shopping Center, 314-894-0043), but that laidback reptile is probably just feeling the effects of gorging at Crusoe's, the sister restaurant next door. There are pages of sandwiches, burgers, wings, pizza, seafood, steak — at the Croc's/Crusoe's complex it's easy to let your eyes outgrow your stomach. (And yes, it is a complex; the two share ownership and management, and you can have Crusoe's menu items delivered right to your seat at the bar.) Croc's interior bends around the bar, creating a spacious L that starts at the entrance, where a chalkboard proclaims the day's absurdly cheap drink special (think $1 wells and domestic drafts on Friday and Saturday night), and continues past a foosball table, an Aerosmith pinball machine, a pair of dart boards and pool tables. There's plenty to do, and eat, and watch, and so you may find yourself at closing time suddenly confronted with that singular barroom tragedy: your last bucket still has bottles tragically undrunk. Panic not! This is not some fascist discotheque that forces you to choose between chugging or abandoning your lawfully bought booze. Under Croc's decade-plus policy, you can just return any unopened drinks at closing time in exchange for tokens that can be redeemed at a later visit. Now that's a neighborly policy if we've ever encountered one.

Schottzie's. - SARAH FENSKE
  • Schottzie's.

They don't make 'em like Schottzie's Bar and Grill (11428 Concord Village Avenue, 314-842-1728) any more — a one-room bar that manages to be both totally bar and also, during daylight hours, remarkably family-friendly. First opened in 1947, the place is nothing fancy, with a long bar running the length of a room positively stuffed with seat-yourself tables and the faint aftertaste of cigarette smoke years after going tobacco-free. While the regulars are mostly a bit older, on some nights you can also find three generations of families tucking into the pizza here, which is much-loved in a huge swath of south county. But why stop there? The menu is vast, and the truly adventurous will surely want to try the pork brain sandwich, a house specialty that summoned a visit from no less than Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern. "It's got that crispy chicken-fried thing on the outside," he reported to viewers. "It's creamy, it's not very gamy or organ-y." High praise?

Sappington Lounge
Cozy, friendly and cheap, Sappington Lounge (11569 Gravois Road, 314-842-5316) is a dive bar that's dispensed with the grunginess and gone all-in on blue collar charm. This is a lounge, after all. That means cheap beer (just $2.75 for bottles), smoky air and bartenders who'll remember your order on your second visit. They'll likely also remember your personal drama, your vacation stories, your good luck and your bad. It's the same for the regulars who occupy the choice bar seats, from the pair of tired construction workers to a flock of Cardinals fans grousing about this year's bullpen. So pull up a seat. Treat yourself to the complimentary buffet on the weekends. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Because once the Sappington Lounge has got you, you'll know you're home.

BJ's Bar and Grill. - TOM HELLAUER
  • BJ's Bar and Grill.

BJ's Bar and Restaurant
Stroll past the corner of Washington and St. Ferdinand streets during Florissant's annual Valley of the Flowers celebration, and you just might think BJ's Bar and Restaurant (184 Washington Street, Florissant; 314-837-7783) is the epicenter of the festivities. That's because BJ's knows how to throw a party — but it's not limited to once a year. This Florissant institution has been serving thirsty bar-goers since 1955, since a time when the vintage Stag sign that graces the building was shiny and new. If you've never been, the building might look abandoned from the outside (even the window has been boarded over), but don't that fool you. Inside, BJ's is a lively good time with cheap beer, stiff cocktails in un-ironic Mason jars and some of the best St. Louis-style pizza you can get. Now that's something to celebrate all year long.

Mimi's Subway Bar & Grill
When you pull into the parking lot for Mimi's Subway Bar & Grill (46 North Florissant Road, Ferguson; 314-524-6009), your first thought will most likely be, "Where is this place?" Though the tiny cinderblock building that sits in the corner of the lot is clearly marked with the bar's name, it looks more like an old bricked-over locksmith shop than a place to grab a beer. In fact, even after you pull on the metal doors and head inside, nothing about Mimi's says "open." Those doors lead down a set of stairs that could be straight out of an abandoned sports arena, but those brave enough to reach the bottom and head through another set will be transported to Ferguson's quintessential dive bar. Mimi's used to be a bomb shelter, so the place is literally a bunker designed to make you blissfully unaware of what's going on outside. In the case of nuclear holocaust, that's a plus. In the case of a Friday night of imbibing, it can get dangerous very quickly, for it's easy to lose track of time in a place with no windows and shockingly stiff drinks. Because it's so hidden, Mimi's is a regular's bar, but they are always ready to welcome new friends, so long as those newbies are cool with the fact that the county's half-assed smoking ban has yet to reach the place. With the way the world is going these days, a cigarette just might come in handy.

Bunker's Tavern. - TOM HELLAUER
  • Bunker's Tavern.

Bunker's Tavern
Belly up to the bar at Bunker's Tavern (297 St. Francois Street, Florissant; 314-837-2601), and your bartender is likely to be a wealth of important information, dishing on everything from the old whorehouse that used to be across the street to the time of day you can get the freshest doughnuts down the road at Old Town Donuts (apparently, the answer is around 2 a.m.) It's personal touches like these that make Bunker's such a perennial favorite of thirsty Old Town Florissant residents, who have been patronizing it for decades. Bunker's has that quintessential old-school bar feel to it — the sort of place where you wouldn't dare ask to see the craft beer selection. But what it lacks in frills, it makes up for in charm, including a nice open-air patio and a large three-season room complete with pool tables and an air purifier to suck up the smoke. The only thing better than a night spent sinking shots at this classic neighborhood pub is soaking up all the Bud Lights you consumed with a couple of hot, fresh doughnuts.

Bluenote Sports Bar & Grille
Tom Branneky knows St. Louis' reputation as a baseball town, but that hasn't stopped him from creating a temple to hockey at Bluenote Sports Bar & Grille (3133 North Lindbergh Boulevard, Maryland Heights; 314-298-2583). Covered in Blues memorabilia from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, and throughout every nook and cranny, Bluenote is a hockey lover's dream — a place to gather with fellow enthusiasts to watch the game, play Blues-themed trivia or just hang out and talk about the team. About a year and a half ago, Branneky transformed what had been a long-vacant space just south of Northwest Plaza into the Bluenote, and already, the bar has garnered a reputation as the place in town to watch hockey. And though it has plenty of local fans, the bar also welcomes hockey enthusiasts from across the city eager to bleed Blue amongst friends — or relieve themselves on a Blackhawks-themed urinal.

  • Henke's.

Henke's Tavern
If you were a junior high kid at Sacred Heart Catholic School in the 1960s, '70s or '80s, chances are you heard the one about the kids who snuck out of recess to eat burgers at Henke's Tavern (901 North Lafayette Street, Florissant; 314-837-1371) and then snickered about how they ate lunch at a bar. Heck, maybe you were one of those kids. Even for adults, with the youthful thrills of playing hooky gone, the Florissant institution is no less thrilling, providing an old-fashioned hole-in-the-wall place to imbibe and shoot the breeze with the same folks you ran around with as a kid. Filled with regulars who seem to know each other from their kickball days, Henke's has the look of a small-town tavern; even in the midst of a fairly populous north county suburb, the bar looks like it was plucked straight out of a single-stoplight town. That vibe might be one reason it's widely considered the bar in Old Town. Those burgers and gravy-covered fries coming out of the restaurant in the back don't hurt either.

Marley's Bar & Grill
If you want to restore your faith in humanity, head over to Marley's Bar & Grill (500 South Florissant Road, Ferguson; 314-524-3277) on a Friday night and soak in the scene. Black and white, young and old, working class and white-collar all gather under one roof in a city whose name has become shorthand for the disconnection and tumult of our age. There's none of that in evidence at Marley's. Instead, the bar shows what happens when a community comes together for the simple pleasure of hanging out with family and friends. Situated at the epicenter of Old Ferguson's main drag, Marley's is part bar, part restaurant, part karaoke and music venue. Sitting on a barstool, swaying to a soundtrack that includes the Steve Miller Band one moment and Al Green the next, you'll swoon over the way Marley's offers something for everyone.

Kitty's Korner
Sure, you'll find the game on one of the handful of screens at Kitty's Korner (4105 North Highway 67, Florissant; 314-741-9770), but you're just as likely to find the channels tuned in to NBC Sports for the Mecum Auctions — and one of the bar's regulars narrating the event like he's calling plays in the ninth inning of Game Seven. Between him, the American Legion signs and the pirate ship made from old Budweiser cans that sits on a shelf behind the bar, Kitty's Korner has a proud blue-collar feel to it. Fireball and Seagram's 7 occupy a place of honor on the back bar and Skynyrd plays from the jukebox — would you expect anything less from a self-described hole-in the-wall on Florissant's deep north side? What might surprise you, however, is the impressive trophy collection that surrounds the bar's two pool tables. Apparently, the "Kitty Krushers," the bar's long reigning all-women's pool team, comprised some serious sharks, and you can find numerous awards and photos occupying a place of honor, keeping a watchful eye over regulars in training hoping for a piece of that glory — or at least a clean shot and a cold one.

click to enlarge Waiting Room owners Scott Fogelbach and Shelly and Steve Dachroeden. - DANIEL HILL
  • Waiting Room owners Scott Fogelbach and Shelly and Steve Dachroeden.

The Waiting Room
If you want to understand the fierce loyalty that regulars of the Waiting Room (10419 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Ann; 314-890-8333) feel toward their beloved bar, consider this: They love it so much, they paid for its signage when it first opened. That was 2008, the year that Jimmy and Shannon Nichols took a chance on a nondescript strip mall, converting a storefront into a blue-collar-meets-biker-meets-punk bar. Might sound like a no-brainer in south city, but in this airport-adjacent part of north county, it was a real roll of the dice. The Nichols' gamble paid off, though: In the last ten years, the Waiting Room has become a fixture in its community. That's why patrons were so worried when the Nichols announced earlier this year that they were looking to sell the place to focus on their daughter and other interests. Fortunately, they found the best possible buyers: Steve and Shelly Dachroeden of the Silver Ballroom. It's a fitting transfer of power considering that one of the best things about the Waiting Room is its membership in the Silver Ballroom's pinball league. The Waiting Room is still working out the details of that transition, but there is no doubt the Nichols are leaving their beloved bar in good hands. They would want no less for the patrons who have become their family.

Yesterday's Bar & Grill
If you happen to drive by Yesterday's Bar & Grill (4412 Woodson Road, Woodson Terrace; 314-423-5677) the first Saturday of the month between April and October, don't fret. You haven't stepped into a time machine and ended up in a bygone era like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Instead, you have simply stumbled upon Yesterday's monthly Car Cruise. This throwback gathering of hot rods and vintage tunes is only part of Yesterday's old-school charm. The Woodson Terrace bar has that classic, neighborhood feel, where regulars hold court and the bartenders ready their orders before they've even made it to the barstools. Black-and-white photos of old Hollywood stars line the wall above the mirror-backed bar that glistens with the twinkle of white-strung lights. It's the kind of bar that existed before anyone called a cocktail "craft" and will stick around years after that modifier has been retired — not that anyone at Yesterday's is paying attention to such things. They are too busy basking in the nostalgic charm never goes out of style.

Fox & Hounds Tavern. - TOM HELLAUER
  • Fox & Hounds Tavern.

The Fox & Hounds
Step into the Fox & Hounds Tavern (6300 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights; 314-647-7300) inside the Cheshire Hotel, and you'll feel immediately transported to a sitting room in the English countryside. The dark-and-moody interior, complete with a stone fireplace, makes it feel like a cozy winter's day regardless of the season. On weekends, enjoy live music from either a jazz trio or a lone pianist. Along with your scotch, hearty ale or drink of choice (there is a proper cocktail list), you can find small plates and a limited number of large options if a hunger craving hits. The bar has long been a local favorite. The dim lighting makes it a perfect place for date-night drinks, the comfortable couches in the center of the room a great excuse to sit a little bit closer. The eclectic bar generally has a good crowd, and its central location make it an easy spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks.

Sasha's on DeMun
Everyone from desperate Clayton housewives to Wash U college students loves Sasha's on DeMun (706 DeMun Avenue, Clayton; 314-863-7274). The half indoor/half outdoor space is in rotation for just about everyone's happy hour, Tinder date or "let's meet for a drink" spot. The vibe is consistently cute, cozy and crowded, regardless of the season, with a wine list that's eclectic and diverse in both price and variety. And with menus displayed on iPads, searching and reading about varietal choices is an educational experience, not just a game of eeny, meeny, miny, moe based on how much you want to spend. The food menu is suitable for light snacking or a full meal, with the pizzas and cheese plates being standouts. Regardless of the season, Sasha's will always leave you with a warm glow — half wine buzz, half "this place is just so damn perfect."

Sportsman's Park. - TOM HELLAUER
  • Sportsman's Park.

Sportsman's Park
Sportsman's Park (9901 Clayton Road, Ladue; 314-991-3381) has been a go-to spot for watching sports and eating burgers since NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Smith opened it (with Norman Probstein) nearly 50 years ago. Everything about the bar oozes old St. Louis, and a nostalgia for time gone by greets you with every visit. The dark walls are adorned with St. Louis sports memorabilia (including a huge Jack Buck photo montage) and TVs, making it a classic, unpretentious spot to grab a beer or cocktail, which can be hard to find in the Ladue zip code. Besides being known for drawing an older, male, post-country-club crowd, Sportsman's has earned a reputation for what are arguably St. Louis' best chicken fingers. Grab an ice-cold Budweiser and some bar snacks, and watch the Redbirds as Jack Buck looks on.

The Crow's Nest
The Crow's Nest (7336 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-781-0989) hits that sweet spot between neighborhood restaurant and dive bar. Its no-nonsense attitude is apparent from the start. The sign outside reads, "Come and see what everyone is complaining about." And if a good beer selection, salty bartenders, long hours and pinball machines aren't reason enough to rank the Crow's Nest high on your list of watering holes — well, you might complain, but why should they care? The food offerings are not traditional frozen bar food, but elevated and craveable, while the back patio provides a semi-hidden, outdoor oasis for a laidback evening or an afternoon happy hour to enjoy the weekday drink specials. Check the bar's website before heading out; it features different theme events, including stand-up comedy, trivia, game nights and its famous weekend Metal Brunch. "Come in sober," the Crow's Nest instructs. "Leave happy." And we always manage to do just that.

The Village Bar. - TOM HELLAUER
  • The Village Bar.

The Village Bar
The Village Bar (12247 Manchester Road, Des Peres; 314-821-4532) opened all the way back in 1948 and has remained a staple ever since, an oasis in the middle of the strip malls, shopping malls and chain restaurants that now dominate the area. It was actually scheduled for demolition in 2016, but the voice of the people prevailed and the bar survived — a west county miracle. Don't be fooled by its candy-cane-colored exterior: The Village Bar's interior is dimly lit and dark, which is perfect for drinking a cold beer and taking in a Blues or Cards game. This classic neighborhood spot is on the small side and as such can get pretty crowded for both dinner and lunch, although the back deck provides a handful of additional tables on nice days. The Village Bar also offers plenty of TVs, a jukebox, shuffleboard and some really good burgers and onion rings.

Billy G's
Modern, massive and massively popular, Billy G's (131 West Argonne Drive, Kirkwood; 314-984-8000) has become a hot spot not just for Kirkwood, but for its surrounding neighborhoods and fellow suburbs, since opening in 2013. In the family-dining mecca of Kirkwood, known for its kids' menus and long-standing mom-and-pop establishments, Billy G's is a magnet for happy hours, sports fans, live music and, on weekends, the after-dinner drinks crowd. The huge patio is a draw year-round, but especially in the summer, when it's packed from happy hour to close almost every night. During the fall and warmer winter days, the heat lamps keep the party going. Inside, the large bar area is full of patrons wearing Vineyard Vines and Kirkwood regulars. Regardless of the time of year, the main dining room is family friendly and the large menu with large portions really does have something for everyone.

On any given night at Krueger's (7347 Forsyth Boulevard, University City; 314-721-9965), you'll find half the bar is full of post-work suits from nearby Clayton and the other half packed with your typical casual bar-goer (probably in a Cardinals or Blues shirt). The proximity to Wash U also means there will be a fair share of grad students and older undergrads. And hell, if you go late enough you might even see a chef or two; Krueger's is well-loved by the industry crowd. Like most true neighborhood bars, this is not a spot for craft cocktails — unless your idea of a cocktail is a vodka soda or a Jack and Coke. Stick with the specialties: beer, burgers and baseball. Krueger's also offers sidewalk dining and a menu consisting of the usual suspects of fried appetizers, sandwiches (both hot and cold) and salads. In addition to the burgers, the other standout is the kitchen's famous chili, because who doesn't love some late-night chili?

  • Geyer Inn.

The Geyer Inn
If you picked up a south-city dive bar and dumped it in Kirkwood, you'd have the Geyer Inn (220 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood; 314-814-9402). This old stone bar looks more like Grandma's cottage than a dive bar. Inside, the cozy interior sports a loose hockey theme, with a mish-mash of Blues memorabilia, a hockey foosball game and a jukebox. Originally built as a gas station in 1904, the property was converted to a tavern in the 1930s and updated again in 2010. It offers a full bar, a handful of taps and a minimal beer selection dominated by AB products. If you show up at this watering hole with more than three friends, you'll feel as if you rented out the whole place. The crowd is all local and mainly in their 50s or older; eavesdroppers should expect to overhear plenty about their glory days at Kirkwood High.

Double D Karaoke
You know the feeling. You've just spent way too much time and money at the St. Louis Galleria, and now you're driving down Brentwood Boulevard, feeling like a chump. You spot a low-slung parking garage with a weird entrance ramp connected to a straight left turn off an intersection. Take that left and get thee to Double D Karaoke (1740 South Brentwood Boulevard, Brentwood; 314-961-5646). Grab a $1 jello shot and a free bag of popcorn, and consider the temptations of grilled cheese bites. Our advice? Go for it. As long as it's not Sunday, karaoke starts at 8 p.m., and at that point, you'll start to see why this gem of a bar attracts all comers — the after-hours office-partiers, the college students and everyone in between. At some point, someone will start crooning "Walking in Memphis." Then somebody else will climb the vocal ladder that is "Rebel Yell" — and a pitch-perfect Frank Sinatra will follow up with a classic you never knew you needed in your life. Even if you don't have a singer's bone in your body, Double D's will cure you of more than just shopping woes. It'll get you hooked on a great feeling.

Duchesne Bar and Grill. - KEVIN KORINEK
  • Duchesne Bar and Grill.

Duchesne Bar and Grill
Often called the Fast Eddie's of St. Charles, Duchesne Bar and Grill (1001 South Duchesne Drive, St. Charles; 636-947-0920) knows how to party on this side of the river. This long-time neighborhood tavern has been a favorite watering hole for decades, offering just about everything you could want out for a memorable night out — pool tables, karaoke, Stranger Things-style Christmas lights strung above the bar, cheapo drinks, darts and a fully-stocked cigarette machine (for now, you can still smoke in St. Charles. Freedom!). The bar also hosts a steady stream of events, including themed bingo, Sunday fried chicken dinners and BB gun shoots. But the biggest draw is the large kitchen window, which pumps out cheap eats faster than a taco joint on a treadmill. Bar food that falls within the $5 price tag and midnight kitchen hours on the weekends mean never having to pass out drunk and hungry.

Lindenwood Pub
The bartender at Lindenwood Pub (138 North Kingshighway Street, St. Charles; 636-916-5100), an unassuming sports-centric bar in the middle of St. Charles, is on a first-name basis with every regular who walks in the door and stumbles out at closing time. "You're the only person in this bar right now that I don't know," she tells us on our recent visit. Budweiser and Cardinals gear dominate the walls, and Shiner Bock and Golden Light take center stage on draft. This small space for locals offers a temporary respite from reality with cheap liquor, Keno and dart boards. Tuesdays bring more hard-working union crowds, with all-day $1 PBR, Natty Light and Stag, while home runs and slap shots bring trays of free jello shots stacked high. Why not begin your night before noon, with happy-hour drink specials that start as early as 11:30 a.m.?

Leo's Pub and Grill. - KEVIN KORINEK
  • Leo's Pub and Grill.

Leo's Pub & Grill
Leo's Pub & Grill (2198 First Capitol Drive, St. Charles; 636-757-3566) might seem like your run-of-the-mill, strip-mall-style corner bar, but this quiet neighborhood spot packs a punch during the week. Upstairs is a cozy, shotgun-style bar, where smokers can fuel up on buckets of Bud Light and cheap bar bites from the kitchen window. The space downstairs is three times as big, complete with leather sofas, pool tables, a double-sided bar and a massive stage. (In this room, smoking is not permitted.) The bar hosts karaoke four days a week and a free Texas Hold'Em poker game on Thursdays, but its biggest claim to fame is a monthly drag show called Dragote Ugly — yes, you read that right: a drag show in St. Charles. If that hasn't piqued your interest, nothing will.


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