St. Louis' Best Neighborhood Bars 

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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.


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