St. Louis' Best Neighborhood Bars 

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

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. - MONICA MILEUR
  • MONICA MILEUR
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.

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