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The 14 Hottest Bars Across America

By Zagat Staff
July 9, 2014
Photo by: Farah Fleurima

The country's bar scene continues to grow, with craft-beer meccas and sleek cocktail lounges popping up all across the U.S. Check out the boozy offerings at these must-visit drinking spots, pouring everything from classed-up Jell-O shots to an imperial stout ice cream float.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    San FranciscoThe European

    Why it's hot: The European is a gorgeous new metropolitan-style bar, opened on June 6th in The Warwick hotel. Right in the midst of all the Union Square galleries and theaters, Adam Wilson oversees an elegant, relaxed bar inspired by Paris during Prohibition through today, heavy on low-proof apéritifs and champagne cocktails.

    Must-drink: Violet Fizz is like a glorified egg cream or a Ramos Gin Fizz, combining gin with cream and seltzer. House black currant and crème de violette purée is dramatically poured into the beverage right before your eyes. Creamy-white and marked by shocks of violet with an edible flower garnish, it's almost too pretty to drink. But then you stir it all together into a soft purple hue and it goes down all too easy.

    Insider tip: Wilson is working with Betsy Ross, the sommelier at the hotel's restaurant, Aveline, to develop an extensive sparkling wine and champagne program with plenty of half-bottles on offer.

    490 Geary St.; 415-292-6430

  • DallasBlind Butcher

    Why it’s hot: The folks from Goodfriend know how to get the chemistry just right for the perfect neighborhood hang. Here, it’s the in-house butchery cranking out charcuterie and sausage, along with a finely curated beer list and great cocktails.

    Must-drink: The Seasonal Smash, which rotates ($10).

    Insider tip: The patio’s open at last, so head out back.

    1919 Greenville Ave.; 214-887-0000

  • Photo by: Facebook

    SeattleDamn the Weather

    Why it's hot: This feel-good space in Pioneer Square brings together vintage brick walls and wood floors with innovative cocktails and envelope-pushing cuisine.

    Must-drink: The aquavit-driven Svenskarna is fittingly refreshing for warm weather with its blast of cucumber and citrus. But The Lazuli, the bar's Northwest tribute to the margarita, is the can't-miss drink. It brings on the blueberries with blanco tequila and a bit of eucalyptus syrup. 

    Insider tip: Chef Eli Dahlin's menu is a moving target. Fried chicken and bread pudding showed up last week. But you can always count on the adorable and totally delicious duck hot dog. Happy hour is between 4 and 6:30 PM, weekdays.

    116 First Ave. S.; 206-946-1283

  • BostonRooftop @ Revere

    Why it's hot: You heard the "rooftop" part, right? The Revere Hotel Boston Common has a plush, South Beach-style haven with cabanas, a glass-encased pool and a menu of tropical-inspired bar bites and cocktails. Weekend parties bring daytime disco crowds that strut in their swimsuits and tip back beaucoup bubbly.

    Must-drink: Our summer bucket list of must-try food and drink includes the rooftop's "Classy Jell-O" shots, served in mini martini glasses and available in varieties like champagne sangria and violet daiquiri.

    Insider tip: If you want to roll like a big spender, know that the rooftop cabanas actually have no rental fee — just some reasonable food/beverage minimums. 

    200 Stuart St.; 617-482-1800

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    ChicagoLagunitas Taproom

    Why it's hot: The South Side is now home to the city’s largest brewery. Expect 32 varieties of Lagunitas, plus a menu of brew-driven food like soft pretzels with IPA beer cheese, brats slow-cooked in beer and an imperial stout ice cream float. Don't miss the house burger, made with a mix of brisket, short-rib and sirloin that can either be chargrilled or griddled “diner-style.” 

    Must-drink: Little Sumpin' Extra.

    Insider tip: Brewery tours are held when the taproom is open, from Wednesday through Sunday.

    1843 S. Washtenaw Ave.; 707-769-4495

  • Photo by: Rina Rapuano

    Washington, DCBarrel

    Why it’s hot: Exposed brick and whiskey bottles stacked to the ceiling are part of the modern-rustic look at this remake of Capitol Hill’s 18th Amendment. Its laid-back vibe makes it the perfect after-work destination for its young crowd.

    Must-drink: Barrel-aged cocktails ($12-$13), local craft brews ($6- $8) and craft bourbons ($6-$40 an ounce).

    Insider tip: Happy-hour deals include $5 bourbons, cocktails, wines and beers. Don’t miss down-home snacks like fried chicken and pork sticky buns.

    613 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-543-3622

  • San DiegoPolite Provisions

    Why it’s hot: Looking like a drugstore fountain shop, this full-service bar — run by Erick Castro as part of CH Projects — offers cocktails and housemade sodas in an immaculately decorated setting featuring intricate penny tiles throughout the space.

    Must-drink: Johnny Utah (blanco tequila, lime juice and housemade celery soda), Fancy Lad Cream Soda (vanilla bean, baking spice, seltzer).

    Insider tip: Feel the hunger pangs? Order food from Soda & Swine next door and have it delivered at the bar.

    4696 30th St.; 619-677-3784

  • New York CityNoMad Bar

    Why it's hot: Next door to the NoMad Restaurant's Library Bar, the NoMad team has opened a new bi-level bar and restaurant with a separate entrance at 10 W. 28th Street (complete with its own Goodfellas-inspired trailer). Food from executive chef James Kent, inspired by some of Daniel Humm's dishes at both EMP and NoMad, and drinks from NoMad bar director Leo Robitschek​ make it a hot ticket.

    Must-drink: The extensive cocktail menu features classics, new concoctions and some large-format drinks that serve six-eight and cost $90, like the Madison Park Smash and mai tai.  Their version of the classic Gloria cocktail (Campari, gin, dry vermouth and triple sec) is a lighter, more summer-friendly Negroni. 

    Insider tip: Check out their $36 chicken pot pie with black truffles and foie gras (inspired by the NoMad Restaurant's famed roast chicken) and a version of the buzzed-about Humm Dog; once served at PDT, it's a bacon-wrapped, deep-fried dog with black truffle and celery ($14).

    10 W. 28th St.; 347-472-5660

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    DenverStation 26 Brewing Co.

    Why it's hot: You can take the slogan of this super-cool hangout, “For You For All,” to heart: owner Justin Baccary and his partners do. Occupying a sun-splashed old Park Hill firehouse (hence the name) since Christmas, 5280’s just-named Best New Brewery changes its roster of about 10 beers constantly to cater to all manner of tastes — as they explain, “we don’t want to dictate to our customers” when it comes to style.

    Must-drink: ​That said, head brewer Wayne Waananen’s IPA No. 1 is a constant, as is the Colorado Cream Ale made from state-grown barley.

    Insider’s tip: In addition to free-wheeling Firkin Thursdays at 4 PM — when the team might tap anything from Chai Chocolate Rye to yerba-mate-infused pale ale — there’s a bluegrass brunch in store the second Sunday of each month. 

    7045 E. 38th Ave.; 303-333-1825

  • MiamiBrick House

    Why it's hot: The chill drinking den, housed in a 1920s Wynwood house with tree-lit patio/beer garden, features live music, small-batch whiskey and upgraded pub grub (think corn dogs and lamb sliders).

    Must-drink: Jameson on the rocks — just $4 at happy hour!

    Insider tip: The happy hour (Fridays and Saturdays, 5-8 PM) also includes $2.50 craft brews and $6 bar bites.

    187 NW 28th St.; 305-456-2629

  • Photo by: Natalie Paramore

    AustinPleasant Storage Room

    Why it's hot: Rum is the new "It" spirit, and the Downtown haven hits it hard, with tasty communal punch with snappy names like Bay of Figs as well as individual cocktails.

    Must-drink: One of the boozy "overproof" punches, like The Commodore, a mix of rum, cognac, sherry, lemon juice and black tea.

    Insider tip: Don’t miss the solid Cuban eats like Peruvian snapper ceviche, tostones and sweet plantains.

    208 W. Fourth St.; 512-322-9921

  • Photo by: Ben Rose

    AtlantaPolaris

    Why it's hot: Upon opening in 1967, this rotating blue-domed Downtown icon was among the city's tallest structures. The relaunched space-age spot atop the Hyatt Regency offers the opportunity to snag a seat at sleek tables or lounge on a midcentury couch as the skyline glides by (a full rotation's made every 45 minutes).

    Must-drink: The frozen peach daiquiri ($9) is a throwback to the Polaris' classic menu, as well as being delicious and refreshing.

    Insider tip: You can valet at the Regency for convenience, but you'll end up paying upwards of $10 or $15. Better (but tougher) to find street parking so you can order another drink. Best to just take MARTA.

    265 Peachtree St. NE; 404-577-1234

  • Photo by: Frank Ishman

    Los AngelesGood Times at Davey Wayne’s

    Why it's hot: The funky Hollywood bar is the latest from Mark and Jonnie Houston, the brothers known for hot spots like La Descarga, Pour Vous and No Vacancy. This time it’s a throwback to the '70s, complete with a vintage shop in front (you walk through the refrigerator door), wood paneling and an awesome patio in back with a deck, grassy area, hammocks and a trailer bar — that's right, a small trailer that's been converted into a bar.

    Must-drink: Try the They Call Me Maurice, a twist on the classic grasshopper made with mezcal. Or just go for the boozy sno-cones out on the patio. It’s too easy to get stuck here too long.

    1611 N. El Centro Ave.; 323-515-3401

  • HoustonBarringer

    Why it's hot: Expect live music, Cirque du Soleil-style aeralists and craft and classic cocktails at Downtown's upscale speakeasy.

    Must-drink: Old fashioned.

    Insider tip: Don't drink on an empty stomach: look for the Bourbon & Bacon pop-up with bites on-site.

    410 Main St.; 832-786-1836​

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Places Mentioned

Blind Butcher

Gastropub • Lower Greenville

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
Barringer Bar and Lounge

Bar • Downtown

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Polite Provisions

Bar • North Park

Atmo.25 Decor27 Service21 CostM
 
 
 
Station 26 Brewing Co.

Brewpub • Park Hill

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Pleasant Storage Room

Bar • Warehouse District

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Good Times at Davey Wayne's

Bar • Hollywood

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
Barrel

Capitol Hill

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
The European

Nob Hill

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Brick House

Bar • Wynwood

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
The NoMad Bar

Bar • Flatiron

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Damn the Weather

Bar • Pioneer Square

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
 
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