No bar is absolutely perfect. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain attributes that can make a bar far more enjoyable than the next. And with so many watering holes, dives and pseudo-speakeasies within an arm’s reach of one another, there are plenty of opportunities to experience some or all of the elements that make up the ideal bar situation. Here are a few suggestions to reach perfection.
1. A Trustworthy and Reliable Bartender
No matter which bar you belly up to on a regular basis, you have to have a bartender (or two) who can seamlessly serve as priest, confidant, sounding board, and all-around clairvoyant of meeting your most basic needs as a patron.
Whether it’s Boston [Chris "Boston" DiMattia] at watering hole Recovery Room who knows you want a PBR before you do, or Dustin Johnson and Keenan Kellet at recently reopened Faculty Lounge who can operate the bar area with a cohesion similar to Daft Punk, these are the kinds of bartenders you want in your corner.
2. Great Bar Fare
Nothing too pretentious or embarrassing to eat in public, good bar food should be both filling and easy to handle. The empanadas at Local 616, pork lettuce wraps from The Macintosh, or pork and ginger gyoza during CO’s happy hour, there’s no shortage of tasty treats and tidbits out there that won’t make you feel like a glutton for indulging in between sips.
3. Simple but Solid Decor
More often than not, the prices you pay for your favorite drinks tend to be directly proportional to the quality of the ambiance around you. It’s a firm belief that no good bar should make you feel like you don’t belong if you can readily identify the Thomas Kinkade paintings on the wall.
The atmosphere should be inviting and comfortable. Places like The Griffon, The Rarebit, The Belmont, and Craftsmen Kitchen & Tap House are all exemplary bars that strike a fantastic balance between form and function.
4. An Accessible Bar Selection
No matter where you go, the bar's selection shouldn't make you feel the need to hold a Ph.D in Linguistics from Oxford to order properly. More often than not, patrons are looking for a brief respite from the complexities of life, so hold off on the housemade bitters steeped with pickled bok choy, clawfoot bathtub gin, and aperitifs whose ingredients were used to bathe Jesus himself. Cha Cha's Tequila Bar, King Street college staple Boone's Bar, and Mount Pleasant's My Father's Moustache (no, really) are just a few of several fighting the good fight.
5. Plenty of Personality, Zero Themes
There's little that can kill the atmosphere of a perfectly good bar with more malice than adding an unnecessary theme to your establishment. Anything that makes your patrons have to fall into a character, weird persona, or put any effort past the exertion required to order a drink and snack should be ebolished.
We're talking to you, vegan-karaoke-bondage bar that only opens on the second full moon, preceding the summer solstice. Especially you.
Written and reported by Brian J. Wilder.