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19 Hottest Bars in 11 U.S. Cities

By Zagat Staff
October 8, 2013

Judging by the chilly weather we've seen in many parts of the country already this fall, you're going to be spending a lot more time inside starting very soon. And as we all know, there's no better indoor activity than drinking. This week we're rounding up the hottest new bars in our major cities. Check out the top two from each plus a few more in the slide show.

  • Photo by: Warwick

    Los Angeles: Warwick

    Events guru Jeffrey Best, along with Sylvain Bitton and J.T. Torregiani (Aventine, Beso), opened this new lounge and nightclub with an eye toward the cocktailian crowd. Drinks come courtesy of two Roger Room alums, Jason Bran and Damian Windsor, who are making everything with organic produce, garnishes and special creations like vanilla bean sea salt. Even table/bottle service gets an upgrade, so no more vodka and Red Bulls; now it’s tableside Manhattans and Lemon Drops, whether made by you or a server. The space is huge, with multiple bars and rooms, tufted leather couches, vintage light fixtures, photos of nude women, the works. Warwick is now open Wednesday through Saturday starting at 9 PM.

  • Austin: Wright Bros Brew and Brew

    Housed in the old Progress Coffee location on East Fifth Street, Wright Bros officially opened at the end of September. But it has quickly become the place to drink, whether you want Flattrack Coffee or craft beer. They have 39 taps, including three nitros and a cask engine, most of which feature local breweries like Hops and Grain. The food menu is nothing to sneer at either: breakfast, bar snacks, charcuterie and sandwiches like a Niman Ranch pastrami and Hops and Grain Alteration-braised brisket.

  • Chicago: Billy Sunday

    This Logan Square cocktail hot spot with an extensive Fernet Branca collection has been heating up the scene since it opened at the beginning of the year. Painstakingly crafted drinks - mixed with vintage spirits, housemade bitters and hand-carved ice - alongside retro bar fare are served at the wood bar; upholstered banquettes, antique artwork and cabinets lined with vintage glassware complete the scene.

  • Photo by: Jessica Greene

    DC: Baby Wale

    With a seemingly endless bar running nearly the length of the soaring, industrial modern space, this Shaw American tavern couldn’t be more different than its nearby sibling, Corduroy (a polished boîte). But the same talent pool turns out eclectic snacks (pupusas, roast chicken), selects the wine list and crafts interesting cocktails for a neighborhood crowd.

  • Chicago: Three Dots and a Dash

    Much like the original tiki bars of the 1930s, Three Dots is meant to be a tropical escape, or perhaps a rum-soaked wormhole. The windowless cavern below Bub City is decked out with carved wood totems, faux thatched walls and a white onyx bar shaded by a grass canopy. And a lot of rum, but that's a given. It's also obvious that the bar’s namesake drink (aged rhum agricole, Guyanese rum, honey, falernum, lime, allspice and Angostura bitters) is on the menu. Classics such as Mai Tais and surprises like the gin-based Saturn round out the menu.

  • DC: Bar Charley

    A cool vibe pervades this 18th Street NW cellar haunt, where burning wood flavors a drink and anchovies meet marrow for its signature bite. There’s also an outdoor patio to escape the din of the dark, narrow space.

  • San Francisco: Bergerac

    Eleventh Street's latest rock-edged bar and restaurant (which has a sister club called Audio Discotech) is the new home of SF cocktail king Russell Davis and executive chef Randy Lewis, who is already serving some of the city's more boundary-pushing bar bites, including a raw tuna Ethiopian kitfo rolled in injera bread and chicken wings with Vietnamese caramel and garlic chips.

  • San Francisco: Mikkeller Bar

    A Victorian building from 1907 serves as the space for the Danish beer giant's first San Francisco project. The 80-seat bar features a huge bottle list plus 40 international taps including rarities from Mikkeller and other brewers, all served with housemade sausages and soft pretzels.

  • Miami: Patpong Road

    The newest venture from the prolific 50 Eggs crew, this new watering hole opening above Khong River House delivers Bangkok Chic to Miami Beach. Cocktails are served out of plastic bags in authentic Thai-style, and snacks like summer rolls and crispy minced pork balls complete the Red Light District experience.

  • Boston: Brick & Mortar

    This Central Square bar replaced night spot Enormous Room and breathes new, boozy life into the space. An oval bar keeps things convivial, while the innovative bar bites provide an apt complement to both classic and creative cocktails.

  • NYC: Alameda

    Recently opened Alameda has a great horseshoe-shaped bar, and (like many of the new restos in this hot-as-hell 'hood) the beverages really seem to be the focus at this spot. Get drinks like the boozy Stinker, a concoction that tastes a lot better than it sounds. It's a mix of bourbon, grapefruit and IPA, not a combo that you're likely to encounter at more pedestrian bars. If you're hungry, a small menu of market-driven, American bites offers some sustenance for the tipsy. Foie gras breakfast sandwich? Yes, please. 

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: a.bar

    Sister establishment to Rittenhouse bistro a.kitchen has an even swankier Euro look, but it turns out to have a more relaxed vibe. Cocktails are the star here - don’t miss the one made with cherry tomato syrup - along with a wine list heavy on the whites - all the better to pair with the extensive raw bar. Chef Val Stryjewski also puts out a small menu of palate-pleasing Asian-inspired bar bites.

  • Austin: ABGB

    A person can only drink so many craft cocktails before they start jonesing for some craft beer. The new Austin Beer Garden and Brewery from Uncle Billy’s alums provides just that, with unusual artisanal pizza to boot. The Oltorf locale just opened, but it has immediately become the place to drink on a casual afternoon or night.

  • Photo by: Julie Soefer

    Houston: The Pastry War

    You won't find any pastries (or wars) at this Houston hot spot, but you will find some killer cocktails. Bobby Huegel's latest venture is this Downtown mezcaleria that focuses on craft agave spirits from tequila to sotol. Bonus: check out the wall that proclaims what they will NOT sell (mostly commercial brands like Sauza, Don Julio, Jose Cuervo).

  • Photo by: Proprietors LLC

    Los Angeles: Honeycut

    The guys from 213 Ventures (Seven Grand, The Varnish, etc.) and Proprietors LLC (NYC's Death + Company) got together to open Honeycut, a new speakeasy-ish bar and music club located behind the O Hotel. The massive space has two rooms: one where you can play pool and linger at tufted booths for piano music, and another, the Disco, for underground DJs, live bands and dancing. To keep the in-the-know vibe going, they'll announce who's performing the day of the show via social media. With this group, you know cocktails will be king. Dave Kaplan and Alex Day, who consult on many cocktail programs around town, including at the O Hotel, will offer more than 50 different craft, bottled and draft concoctions. The only way to find Honeycut when it opens on October 14 is down the alley parallel to Flower Street, accessible from Eighth or Ninth Streets.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: Ocean Prime

    Arched windows bejeweled with multicolored liquor bottles shine like stained glass behind the marble bar inside this Center City newcomer. Despite fancy touches like dry ice or frozen hibiscus flowers, the huge cocktails are not at all expensive, and the wine list is large enough to make your head spin.

  • Boston: OAK Long Bar + Kitchen

    After a substantial renovation that turned it from a somewhat staid hotel drinkery to a Manhattan-esque social spot, OAK is towering above most Back Bay bars. A mixed crowd of hotel guests, young professionals and old Brahmin money keeps the scene interesting and always boisterous. Bonus: the food is fantastic (617-585-7222).

  • NYC: The Dead Rabbit

    Adding cred to the Financial District cocktail scene, this handsome new arrival specializes in Irish whiskey and 19th-century drinks, and it's already become a hit with liquor industry insiders. The bi-level space features an informal ground-floor taproom, while the upstairs serves a wide-ranging menu of sophisticated cocktails, punches and affordable pub bites (Welsh rabbit, ploughman’s lunch). With its wood-beamed ceilings and old-timey portraits on the walls, the throwback parlor decor invokes the 1800s. If you want to get into serious drink geekery, the second-floor room is where it's at.

  • Dallas: Smyth

    This speakeasy of sorts from cocktailian Michael Martensen is one of those no-sign-on-the-door spots with no menu. Expect a liquid amuse-bouche and then a personalized custom drink based on your descriptives. P.S. you need to call or use OpenTable to get a reservation.

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