St. Louis' Best Neighborhood Bars 

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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.


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