Was your all-time favorite bar not among last year’s inaugural class of Hall of Fame inductees? Well, you get another shot. Based on input from readers and our panel of experts, we’ve restocked these pages with another 50 nominations, from which you’ll help choose up to five that will comprise the Class of 2013. Last year, because of the inaugural spirit of this project, we inducted 10 bars. From here on out, we’d like to let in a trickle of worthy establishments at a time.
New to the list ✯
BAR AT TIMES SQUARE ✯
In New York-New York, 740-6969
Claim to Fame: We’re fairly certain that when Billy Joel penned the words “sing us a song, you’re the piano man,” the Long Island native never in a million years thought they’d be sung—night after night after night—in a dueling-pianos bar built in a faux New York casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Actually, we’re 100 percent certain. Call it cheesy, call it a desperate attempt by Gen Xers to cling to long-ago youth, but damned if it doesn’t work. In fact, over the past 15 years, the Bar at Times Square has spawned several copycats, none of which appear to have put a dent in this place’s market share. Come see for yourself during nightly performances from 8 till 2.
Bartender, I’ll have: Studies show that an ice-cold Heineken best lubricates the pipes for the inevitable rendition of Whoa, we’re halfway there—WHOA-OH, Livin’ on a Prayer.
517 Fremont St., Suite A, 598-1965, TheBeautyBar.com
Claim to Fame: First bar on the moon. The Beauty Bar opened on Fremont East when the only entertainment to be had in the Entertainment District was what you could see by red-and-blue police lights. Today, it’s settled into a groove as a hip live-music venue.
Bartender, I’ll have: Whatever the F they’re serving Tuesday nights during Nickel F—n Beer Night.
Big Dog’s Draft House, 4543 N. Rancho Dr., 645-1404; Big Dog’s Café & Casino, 6390 W. Sahara Ave., 876-3647, BigDogsBrews.com
Established: 1988 (Big Dog’s Draft House); 1992 (Big Dog’s Café & Casino)
Claim to Fame: It seems barely a week goes by without a new brewery sprouting up in the Valley, and they all ought to raise a growler in honor of Las Vegas’ “original hometown brewery,” which comes by way of Wisconsin and features the town’s coolest bar logo, the stoic-faced Big Dog’s black Lab.
Bartender, I’ll have: In the mood for something crisp? Ask for a Leglifter Light. Interested in something bolder? Try the Black Lab Stout. Want to take home a six-pack? You can find Big Dog’s brews in liquor, grocery and convenience stores all over the Valley.
7700 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 736-4939, BootleggerLasVegas.com
Established: 1972 (former location); 2001 (current location)
Claim to Fame: If you’ve been to the Bootlegger more than once, you’ve undoubtedly rubbed elbows with local celebrities, who come (usually after midnight) for the classic Italian menu (served 24 hours) and stay for the entertainment—or, in many cases, actually serve as the entertainment. Legendary crooners (think Clint Holmes or Steve & Eydie) share the stage nightly with the latest Vegas talents, but the real fun happens late Mondays during open-mic night.
Bartender, I’ll have: A glass of cabernet with your veal parmigiana or a Peroni draft with your calzone.
124 S. 11th St., 384-4536, BunkhouseLV.com
Claim to Fame: If any Vegas bar could aspire to be Sin City’s answer to CBGB, this cowboy-lite joint could. Excellent punk, ska, reggae and rockabilly bands—both local and national—play here on a regular basis, and the cover rarely tops $10. Hopefully, the bar’s new owners—the Downtown Project—won’t change things up too much.
Bartender, I’ll have: They have cheap beers and a nice assortment of whiskeys. Don’t try to get fancy, Gladys; this is a goddamn rock bar.
3601 W. Sahara Ave., 362-6268, CellarLasVegas.com
Claim to Fame: Quick: How many Vegas bars have you visited that require you to walk down a flight of stairs to gain entrance? We’re guessing the answer is zero—unless, of course, you’ve spent a night in the Cellar, a highly diverse, tough-to-find underground establishment that’s quite befitting of its name. It’s all about the music in the Cellar, where you’ll find veteran blues act Billy Ray Charles & The Boys in the Parking Lot on Fridays and Saturdays; Blues and Brews night on Tuesdays; an acoustic showcase on Wednesdays; and an open-mic night Sundays.
Bartender, I’ll have: Well, a Johnny Walker Red seems appropriate, seeing how that’s the name of the second track on Billy Ray Charles’ 2010 release Drunk, Busted, Disgusted and Can’t Be Trusted.
CENTER BAR AT HARD ROCK
In Hard Rock Hotel, 693-5000
Claim to Fame: For years, the circular space that Peter Morton constructed smack in the center of the casino floor was a sociology professor’s dream. No matter the day of the week or time of the year, after sundown, the Center Bar was the place where the young and beautiful—and those who believed they were young and beautiful—congregated. So successful was the Center Bar concept that it inspired imitators up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, all looking to create their own sexy (and highly profitable) vortex of fun.
Bonus Fact: How do you know when you’ve hit on something successful? When you copy yourself, which the Hard Rock did when it opened circular bars in such outposts as Biloxi, Mississippi; Hollywood, Florida; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s right: In the HRH Tower you’ll find Center Bar, Version 2.0.
Bartender, I’ll have: While it’s no longer the hook-up spot it once was, the Center Bar is still a place to find companionship, even for just tonight. So refresh the cocktail of that hottie eyeing you on the other side of the bar.
CROWN & ANCHOR
1350 E. Tropicana Ave., 739-8676, 4755 Spring Mountain Rd., 876-4733, CrownAndAnchorLV.com
Claim to Fame: With tasty 24-hour pub grub, 30 beers on tap and dozens more by the bottle, this long-standing British pub has held its own as scores of other college-friendly watering holes have flailed and failed. At the original Tropicana Avenue location on a fall Friday night (or after a Rebel basketball game), you’ll press through a crowd of undergrads to get your booze on; sneak in on a Sunday afternoon, and you’ll enjoy a relaxed lunch (unless a big “football” match is on the telly), one that pleases even picky English expats. Pool tables, darts, an Internet juke and even a dog-friendly patio for the English Springer—the Crown has all the essentials, and then some.
Bonus Fact: Fish and chips are all-you-can-eat every Monday for $10.95.
Bartender, I’ll have: With nearly three dozen beers on tap, the choice is at once obvious and complex. We suggest a Smithwick’s Irish Ale.
546 S. Decatur Blvd., 870-2522, DecaturTavern.com
Claim to Fame: Not only is it one of Vegas’ oldest bars—it’s three years older than Caesars Palace—but it has an adjoining pharmacy, which you just don’t see anymore. (Even the Huntridge Tavern keeps the door to its next-door pharmacy closed these days.) The drugstore also contains a full-service U.S. Postal unit, making the Decatur Tavern the most useful dive bar in this city, and pretty much a one-stop shop on Tax Day.
Bartender, I’ll have: Lots and lots. Bottled beers are $2.75 here, while pints of Budweiser, Shock Top and Busch on draft are only $2.25.
In the Venetian, 414-3737
Claim to Fame: The bar at Emeril Lagasse’s steakhouse is a great little space, with intimate seating at and around the marble-top bar. But the big deal is what’s behind it: one of the largest whiskey collections in the country (now up to 525 … and climbing). Even better news: All those great whiskeys are presided over by mixologist Max Solano, who has three different cocktail menus, including a top-secret one (you have to ask nicely to see it) that features his finest molecular experiments. How good are the results? The Delmonico bar recently made Gayot.com’s list of Top 10 Craft Cocktail Bars.
Bartender, I’ll have: From the signature whiskey cocktail menu, order the High and Dry, featuring High West Double Dry Whiskey (from Park City, Utah) and Dolin Dry Vermouth.
2451 E. Tropicana Ave., 458-6343, TheDispensaryLounge.com
Claim to Fame: With its subdued lighting, yacht rock soundtrack and softly churning waterwheel, the Dispensary is the 1970s trapped in amber. Here, servers dressed in short skirts and leggings serve up strong drinks with half-pound-burger chasers, and the ever-present cloud of cigarette smoke is practically a blanket. If he still made crime dramas, Quentin Tarantino would be tempted to shoot here.
Bartender, I’ll have: Whatever Mrs. Marsellus Wallace is having.
ELLIS ISLAND ✯
4178 Koval Lane, 733-8901, EllisIslandCasino.com
Claim to Fame: Originally opened as the Village Pub in 1967, this is where you’ll find some of the best karaoke in Las Vegas (nightly from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.). And you can’t go wrong with $2, 20-ounce handcrafted draft beers from Ellis Island’s very own microbrewery—not to mention the city’s best sirloin-steak special for $8.99 (or $7.99 if you play a buck in a slot or video-poker machine).
Bonus Fact: The brewery is available for tours (contact brewmaster Joe Pickett).
Bartender, I’ll have: A pint of the IPA, one of the five regular microbrews on tap.
4480 Paradise Rd., 364-5300, FerrarosLasVegas.com
Claim to Fame: Any restaurant and wine bar whose roots stretch back 30 Las Vegas years is rare indeed. Ferraro’s was launched as an Italian deli in 1983, then expanded five years later to become a full-fledged restaurant on West Flamingo, then relocated in 2009 to capitalize on both its loyal local and rising visitor trade. Combine a big, friendly lounge and indoor-outdoor bar with an amazing wine selection and a bocce-ball court, and you’re living la dolce vita.
Bartender, I’ll have: The 67-page wine list won awards from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, so the vino is primo. Trust the sommelier, or keep it simple with a glass of Batasiolo Barbera D’Alba ($12 per glass).
In Mandalay Bay, 732-7631, HouseOfBlues.com
Claim to Fame: This hard-to-find, subtly promoted rooftop lounge was considered (given its 43rd-floor view and an annual $2,000 membership fee) the most exclusive watering hole in town when it opened. But the pressures of competition (not to mention the recession) have made it more accessible for the hoi polloi. Lucky us! The Buddha-voodoo decor remains sexy and seductive, and, as the Strip has risen up and filled in, the spectacular balcony view has actually improved.
Bartender, I’ll have: Stick with well drinks; Foundation Room stocks the well very well, and the prices are more palatable.
276 N. Jones Blvd., Suite B, 870-0255, FourKegs.com
Claim to Fame: One of the oldest sports bars in the Valley remains one of its best. There are tons of TVs screening multiple games, and the kitchen cooks up bar chow that can truly be described as rib-sticking: Philly cheesesteaks, Sicilian pizzas and their specialty: stromboli sandwiches (basically a pizza folded upon itself, and it’s tasty and ingenious). The feeling of community here is strong and genuine, and why wouldn’t it be? We’ve been heading to the Four Kegs to watch the big game since the Carter administration.
Bartender, I’ll have: Shiner Bock, from one of the bar’s namesake kegs.
FOUR MILE BAR
3650½ Boulder Hwy., 431-6936
Claim to Fame: Remember when Vegas was a genuine Western outpost, the type of place that could’ve easily served as the backdrop for High Noon? Well, the Four Mile Bar does. Opened two years before High Noon hit theaters, the Four Mile—and its four solid-brick walls—stands as one of the Valley’s last true-blue roadhouses, where folks come to suck down a pitcher of Budweiser before belting out a couple of country numbers during one of the popular karaoke sessions. Oh, and bikers, you’re welcome, too. So says the sign behind the bar.
Bonus Fact: The Four Mile is so named because it sits exactly four miles from Downtown.
Bartender, I’ll have: One of the many drink specials during karaoke (8 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday), such as a $2.50 kamikaze shot … served in a test tube.
FRANKIE’S TIKI ROOM ✯
1712 W. Charleston Blvd., 385-3110, FrankiesTikiRoom.com
Claim to Fame: Proprietor P Moss had already earned his bar stripes with the Double Down Saloon (a 2012 Hall of Fame inductee), so clearly Frankie’s is a labor of love, and it shows. Located in the same building that housed a 1950s bar already named Frankie’s, the Tiki Room was reborn with a full renovation by renowned Huntington Beach designer Bamboo Ben, and includes works by a who’s who list of internationally renowned tiki artisans. The result is a bar that feels like it’s been an important part of Vegas since the dawn of tiki itself. Dozens of well-crafted tiki drinks (both classics and originals, rated in buzz-inducing potency from one to five skulls) are available. And true to mixology, none of the ingredients come from a beverage gun.
Bonus Fact: If you’ve been searching for the best surf-punk jukebox in the West, your search is over.
Bartender, I’ll have: If you’re not a Navy Grog traditionalist, the Fink Bomb is the five-skull (read: 160-proof rum) weapon of choice. (The menu states that “the Fink Bomb will kick your ass.” We can assure you that’s as much a warning as it is a challenge.)
FREAKIN’ FROG ✯
4700 S. Maryland Parkway, 597-9702, FreakinFrog.com
Claim to Fame: This campus favorite is renowned for having exceptional and wide-ranging taste, thanks to the palate, wisdom and pure gusto of UNLV professor-turned-bar-proprietor Adam Carmer. His place has been a magnet for beer geeks for a decade now, with its incredibly deep menu (there are more than 1,100 bottles of beer in the fridge), ever-changing drafts and special events—such as the recent cask tasting of a Swiss saison that was aged in another Belgian saison’s barrel—which were pretty much nonexistent here before the Frog. And for special occasions, Carmer’s Whisky Attic is a beautiful little spot lined with wooden shelves full of more good stuff—more than 900 bottles at last count.
Bartender, I’ll have: The Anderson Valley Summer Solstice.
GAUDI BAR ✯
In Sunset Station, 1301 W. Sunset Rd., Henderson, 547-7777
Claim to Fame: Perhaps the first bar inside a locals casino to break away from conventional design, this picturesque circular space that rests in the middle of the gaming pit was inspired by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. It features curved lines, a 6,000-square-foot, 12-ton mosaic stained-glass ceiling and a martini program that’s unmatched in this town—as is the price for those martinis (none more than $8).
Bartender, I’ll have: If you’re in the mood for something sweet, ask Russ—who is charged with creating a new martini every week—for the Hello Kitty #5.
GOLD MINE TAVERN
23 S. Water St., Henderson, 478-9965, TheGoldMine-Tavern.com
Claim to Fame: This fixture of downtown Henderson was once a shady biker bar, but has now re-established itself as a gathering spot for those who embrace the city’s old-school “Hendertucky” reputation. The spruced-up dive bar features live entertainment on weekends, including a monthly comedy night.
Bartender, I’ll have: The Hendertucky Mule, the Gold Mine’s version of the Moscow Mule. Or you can have the bar’s shot of the day for $3.
308 W. Sahara Ave., 384-4470, GoldenSteerSteakhouseLasVegas.com
Claim to Fame: It’s the launching pad for an evening at Las Vegas’ oldest steakhouse, where the Rat Pack, mobsters and other characters used to hang. And it’s also a great landing spot after dinner, for a no-nonsense nightcap (this ain’t exactly the home of molecular mixology) amid some live piano. If you like that Old Vegas treatment, this place has it in spades, as most of the crew here are Steer veterans.
Bartender, I’ll Have: A straight-up Manhattan with Jim Beam, because the bartender said so.
GREEN VALLEY RANCH SPORTSBOOK ✯
In Green Valley Ranch Resort, 2300 Paseo Verde Pkwy., Henderson, 617-7515
Established: 2001 (remodeled in 2006)
Claim to Fame: Here’s what we want out of our sportsbook bar: friendly, on-the-ball bartenders who quickly learn your name (and, more importantly, your drink of choice); multiple high-def TVs showing multiple games (not just the one game involving the bartender’s favorite team); an enthusiastic atmosphere that’s more convivial than confrontational; and a short walk to both the betting windows and cheap, quality grub. In each of these areas, the large oval bar at the rear of Green Valley Ranch’s sportsbook scores big points—well, with everyone but our significant other, who expected us home an hour ago …
Bartender, I’ll have: Pour us a frosty Longboard or Stella—in the tall glass, please!
511 Fremont St., 382-0577
Claim to Fame: A foreboding, windowless, East Fremont facade gives way to something straight outta Tolkien: arched brick ceilings, wood floors, two fireplaces blazing year ‘round, plenty of tables and padded nooks for canoodling, and one of the most impressively curated jukeboxes this side of the Double Down Saloon. Visit early any night but First Friday and you can enjoy your booze, your music and an actual conversation. After 10 p.m., it gets loud, crowded and smoky, thanks to the late-night hipster invasion.
Bonus Fact: Live music in the back room has included touring bands, local faves and even a show by Las Vegan-gone-Nashville Mark Huff.
Bartender, I’ll have: If it isn’t Hamm’s on tap (just $1 during happy hour), it’s something selected from the whiskey shelf—far deeper and wider than you’d expect.
In Green Valley Ranch Resort, 2300 Paseo Verde Pkwy., Henderson, 617-7515
Claim to Fame: Want proof that the term “classy Vegas bar” isn’t a dinosaur from you granddad’s past? Step through the huge glass double doors of Hank’s steakhouse, where you’ll be immediately greeted by a square bar that combines old-school charm with new-school luxury: a sleek backlit onyx bar top, a stunning Swarovski crystal chandelier, a wine display that runs the length of the wall, an intimate seating area and an attractive, attentive staff that pours a stiff cocktail. Gramps would’ve been a regular here.
Bartender, I’ll have: A Jack Daniel’s with water and three ice cubes—because that’s what the Chairman of the Board would’ve ordered.
HARD HAT LOUNGE
1675 Industrial Rd., 384-8987
Claim to Fame: The name should serve as your first clue that this tiny tavern is first and foremost a working man’s bar. And while there’s certainly no shortage of blue-collar saloons in this town, the Hard Hat boasts an exceptionally high quirkiness rating, from its isolated Industrial Road location (which makes for an, um, interesting after-dark visit) to the fantastic mural behind the bar of men playing poker, knocking back drinks and eyeing what appear to be ladies of the evening.
Bonus Fact: Legend has it a regular customer named Frank Bowers painted the mural shortly after the bar opened. His motivation? To pay off his tab.
Bartender, I’ll have: A shot of anything. Because that’s what you order in a place like the Hard Hat. Also because the bartender won’t measure that shot.
HITCHIN’ POST SALOON
3650 Las Vegas Blvd. North, 644-1220, HpssLV.com
Established: 1953 (remodeled in 2008)
Claim to Fame: This Western-style joint ain’t selling Old Vegas nostalgia; rather, it is of Old Vegas, and that makes a heap of difference. Inside, wash down tasty pub grub with whiskey or one of 10 drafts. When you’ve finished your game of darts or pool, head out back to a comfortably misted and shaded beer garden that offers respite during a lively game of horseshoes. Your opponent could be a Nellis airman or someone who just rolled up on a Harley—in other words, this authentic Vegas spot welcomes all.
Bartender, I’ll have: A Newcastle from one of the state-of-the-art glycol-cooled taps, which pour the coldest drafts in town.
HOOKAH LOUNGE ✯
4147 S. Maryland Pkwy., 731-6030; 8380 W. Sahara Ave., 804-0293, HookahLounge.com
Claim to Fame: The first hookah lounge in Las Vegas (and, they claim, the United States) is an energetic adjunct to stalwart Paymon’s Mediterranean Café, which serves up a delicious menu sourced from the kitchen, along with a cocktail menu featuring updated classics. It all complements the main event: traditional Middle Eastern hookah service. Choose from nearly two dozen flavored Egyptian tobaccos (blackberry, jasmine, mint)—or combine tobaccos to create unique custom flavors—then ease back and begin your trip to Morocco.
Bartender, I’ll have: The Mystic Manhattan, which employs the premium Wild Turkey Rare Breed as an excellent bourbon base.
1116 E. Charleston Blvd., 384-7377
Claim to Fame: In the context of the new Downtown Vegas bar culture, the Huntridge Tavern is something of a unicorn: It’s a bar where you can actually afford to order a round for yourself and three friends without feeling compelled to log in and check your balance. Not only are the drinks insanely cheap, but the quality of the booze is top-notch, the HT being one of Vegas’ few remaining package-liquor joints. Some locals live in fear of the day that you will discover this place, tell all your friends and drive the prices up.
Bonus Fact: This is the jumping-off point for the annual Blinking Man Bicycle Posse’s pub rides—and a favorite of rough-and-tumble bike gang Hammer & Cycle.
Bartender, I’ll have: Ask Kate for the special—$3.50 shots of Jameson seem to be a regular thing.shot.
3300 E. Flamingo Rd., 451-2323, IchabodsLoungeLasVegas.com
Claim to Fame: This is one of the top gaming bars in town, and it has the feel of a vintage Vegas supper club (remember those?). Step inside and you’ll find live entertainment six nights a week, a kitchen that’s open around the clock and, perhaps, a local celebrity or two (we spotted Lonnie Hammargren, former lieutenant governor, on a recent visit).
Bartender, I’ll have: Ichabod’s offers a wide-ranging selection of wines, and at prices that beat most bars throughout the Valley.
750 S. Rampart Blvd., 547-5552, KonaGrill.com
Claim to Fame: Yes, it’s part of a chain (normally a Hall of Fame no-no), and yes, it has been a bit of an Ex-Housewives of Summerlin pickup joint for much of its life. So? It successfully fulfills a need that scarce few other watering holes in town do: open-air boozing from open to close. The indoor-outdoor bar attracts diverse crowds, thanks in large part to an east-facing shaded patio (heated in the winter; misted in the summer) that brings the outdoors in. If only all the cookie-cutter bars/restaurants in the Valley would copy this blueprint.
Bonus Fact: Stop in during happy hour and enjoy what are simply among the best cooked-to-order mini-burgers (only $6) in town.
Bartender, I’ll have: If you aren’t ordering a Sukini Margarita for yourself, you’re buying one for someone else.
JC WOOLOUGHHAN’S ✯
In JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa, 221 N. Rampart Blvd., 869-7725
Claim to Fame: When the then-Resort at Summerlin revealed plans to open a truly authentic Irish pub—as in built in Ireland, shipped across the Atlantic and festooned with genuine artifacts from the motherland—we had two thoughts: 1) What a really cool idea; 2) Too bad it’ll never work. Clearly, we were a few pints of Guinness in when we made that prediction. Admittedly, JC Wooloughan’s doesn’t draw the consistent crowd it once did. And, yes, closing at 1 a.m. on weekends is very un-Vegas. Still, when you’re first to the finish line with a concept that turns into a fad—one that’s going strong more than a decade later—you’ve earned a seat at this table.
Bartender, I’ll have: A Wooly’s Bomb, a signature drink consisting of Southern Comfort, Irish beer and orange juice.
4755 W. Flamingo Rd., 368-1828, MoneyPlaysLV.com
Claim to Fame: Everyone comes to Money Plays to see “Big Stan,” the dreadlocked owner/bartender who describes his lively joint just west of the Palms as “the best place to slum in Vegas.” No argument here. There’s shuffleboard, foosball, darts, Golden Tee and a kick-ass jukebox that’s always playing—unless it’s one of Money’s live-music nights. Gone from last year is the limited liquor license, so Money now has a full-service bar. However, the specialty brews—there are 20 different taps and more than 100 beer selections in all—remain the marquee attraction.
Bonus Fact: When the munchies set in, step through the doorway to the 24-hour El Taco Feliz for $1.75 beef or chicken tacos that will blow you away—in a good way!
Bartender, I’ll have: Two things: an Indian Wells Whiskey Barrel Amber, and the number for a cab, as this bad boy comes with a 12 percent alcohol content!
6020 W. Flamingo Rd., Suite 10, 873-8990, NorasCuisine.com
Claim to Fame: None other than Tony Abou-Ganim, the master mixologist and menu adviser to some of Vegas’ best cocktail programs, has said that the bar at Nora’s Italian Cuisine mixes “some of the best cocktails anywhere”—and we wholeheartedly concur. In fact, Nora’s could be credited with re-introducing proper cocktails to Las Vegas when it opened around the time some of our city’s bartenders were born. That they back up their masterful Manhattans, sublime Side Cars and narcotic Negronis with delicious Italian fare also served at the bar (try the spinach and farro salad) makes Nora’s a sure thing in a city that has precious few.
Bartender, I’ll have: A very well-made Sazerac.
PIERO’S MONKEY BAR LOUNGE ✯
355 Convention Center Dr., 369-2305, PierosCuisine.com
Claim to Fame: The lounge in Freddie Glusman’s classic restaurant has that Old Vegas vibe down. The space around the little J-shaped bar is sexy and intimate, with a piano somehow squeezed in there for live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays. The mood is both classy and playful, thanks to top-shelf service by affable, black-bowtied bartenders and décor highlighted by oil paintings of monkeys who look more like ancestors than primates. Amid it all is a mist of mystique. This place has hosted a who’s who of characters, from the Casino cast to Presidents Clinton and Bush to a couple of MJs (Jagger and Jordan). It’s the feeling that you never know who’s gonna walk through that door.
Bonus Fact: Yes, that’s Glusman holding hands with a monkey in one of the paintings.
Bartender, I’ll Have: A gin martini—very dirty.
In Wynn, 770-7000
Claim to Fame: So many casino bars, so few mixology legends. This exception to that rule has innovative bartenders, attractive servers and a sophisticated two-level space that stimulates everybody’s favorite Vegas quality: escapism. Or is that “people watching”? Either way, if you need a rendezvous point on the Strip, this is a surefire suggestion. Stay Up, and you’ll be hugging the action of the bartenders, led by renowned property mixologist Patricia Richards. Go Down for a more intimate, romantic feel that includes a sweet view of Mr. Wynn’s lake (whose waterfall becomes the backdrop for the “Lake of Dreams” show at night).
Bartender, I’ll have: The Sinatra Smash, a sensational Richards creation that features Gentleman Jack, crème de cassis, vanilla and muddled blackberries.
Multiple locations, PTsTaverns.com
Claim to Fame: With 40 taverns throughout the Valley, you almost literally can’t turn a corner without running into a PT’s. While the king of the local tavern industry has refurbished several of its older properties, we prefer its four upscale Sierra Gold locations, featuring wood-trussed ceilings, fireplaces and an extensive food menu.
Bartender, I’ll have: A 25-ounce domestic draft, which runs $5.75 at Sierra Gold ($5.25 at PT’s), but is half-off during happy hour.
RAM’S HEAD BAR
In Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino, 456-7777, SamsTownLV.com
Claim to Fame: Just as Tavern on the Green was to New York’s Central Park, so the Ram’s Head Bar is to Mystic Falls Park—the heart of the faux-forest in Sam’s Town’s giant atrium, overlooking a giant waterfall. Having drinks in this built environment is actually kind of relaxing, right up to the second that the free Sunset Stampede show shatters the reverie with its dancing waters, robotic bears and earnest tribute to NASCAR. This is Vegas Dadaism at its pinnacle, and the Ram’s Head is all up in it.
Bartender, I’ll have: Beer, gin, whatever. Inevitably, it’s the Stampede that’ll make your head spin. Ooh, lasers!
In Mandalay Bay, 632-7407, RedSquareLasVegas.com
Claim to Fame: Hmm, let’s see here: There’s the headless Lenin statue that greets you out front. The back bar that’s illuminated Russian red. The approximately 100 varieties of vodkas on offer (and countless more in the private, zero-degrees vodka vault). Oh, and the iconic frozen ice bar upon which your vodka is served.
Bonus Fact: Playboy named Red Square the Best Bar in America in 2000. If it’s good enough for Hef …
Bartender, I’ll have: Stakanchik vashei samoi luchshei vodki, pozhalusta! (For those of you not up on your Russian, that’s “a shot of your finest vodka, please!”)
9820 W. Flamingo Rd., 243-5329; and 921 N. Buffalo Dr., 242-2822, RoadRunnerLasVegas.com
Claim to Fame: This mini local chain—cut down to two links when PT’s took over the South Eastern Avenue location last year—has a pleasing whimsical character inside and out, unlike most neighborhood bars. The one on Flamingo near the 215 is especially well-designed for a good time, from its cozy bar seating to a rustic patio oasis that you’d love to have as your backyard. Which brings us to why we like Roadrunner so much: It feels like home away from home.
Bonus Fact: It’s worth the trip just for chef Matthew Silverman’s imaginative vittles, such as the legendary Dr Pepper-marinated steak tacos.
Bartender, I’ll have: For the ladies, the Texas Yellow Rose (it’s a mango-y margarita); for guys, a pitcher of Heineken and a couple of Cuervo shots (all that for only 13 bucks from 3-6 p.m. daily).
4790 S. Fort Apache Rd., 257-2467, SagosBar.com
Claim to Fame: Family-owned and operated by Las Vegas natives, this west-side, island-themed tavern attracts a youngish crowd that comes to play as much as it does to drink. There’s video golf, shuffleboard and an off-bar viewing room dominated by a 170-inch by 204-inch big screen. It’s even better if your play involves the bar-top machines, as Sago’s is one of the best watering holes in Vegas for gamblers (see “The Deal,” Page 22).
Bonus Fact: Some of the tastiest bar food in town comes from the kitchen, including excellent burgers, cheesesteaks and street tacos, all priced at $10 or less. Or slip a $20 in a machine and your breakfast or lunch is free.
Bartender, I’ll have: Stop by daily from 3-7 p.m. and 2-5 a.m. for Smirnoff, Bacardi, Jim Beam and Cuervo shots, and domestic drafts, all $2 each.
3805 W. Sahara Ave., 871-4952
Claim to Fame: If you have a dive-bar to-do list and Shifty’s isn’t on it, you need a new list. It first showed up on West Sahara nearly 50 years ago and has survived several name changes; it was known as Squiggy’s in 2005 before the current owners acquired the place and rechristened it Shifty’s Crow’s Nest (though the sign simply says “Shifty’s”). Some might describe the clientele here as “rough,” but “earthy” is more accurate, as you’ll discover on Sundays during football season (when the joint fills up with Raiders fans) or during karaoke nights on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Bonus Fact: Shifty’s has an interesting but limited food menu that features a steak with fries (or home-made potato chips) and a slice of garlic toast for $5 (or $7.50, depending on the market price of steaks that week). It is available 24/7, but you have to ask for it—and hope the bartender knows how to cook. If she doesn’t, there’s a good chance you’ll be compensated with a free hot dog.
Bartender, I’ll have: Hamm’s, in a plastic cup, for a buck.
1402 S. 3rd St., 385-9298, SnicksPlace.com
Claim to Fame: Snick’s is Las Vegas’ oldest operating gay bar, and coincidentally, its best-preserved 1970s-era dive. It’s a friendly place, cozy and sort of elegant in its way, with subdued lighting and cartoonish pictures of elephants adorning the walls.
Bonus Fact: Founder Ralph Vandersnick put those elephants up there. One of them represents himself, and the other—the one with long eyelashes—represents his partner.
Bartender, I’ll have: A bottled beer. It’s easier on the bartenders, who have limited room to work with—particularly on First Friday, when the place fills up with “straights ordering martinis.”
3449 Industrial Rd., 731-5553
Established: 1973 (former location); 1997 (current location)
Claim to Fame: Happen into Sonny’s before, say, 11 p.m., and you’ll probably wonder how in the hell this joint made our list. Wander in after 11 p.m., though, and you’ll get it—quickly. That’s because Sonny’s has been a late-night, off-shift hangout since the original location opened nearly four decades ago on land where the Fashion Show now stands. Old-timers, casino dealers, dancers, and, ahem, working types—they all make for one of the best people-watching spots in Sin City. (Ever been to a watering hole where a guy once bellied up to the bar with a monkey? You have now!)
Bonus Fact: Sonny’s earned a place in infamy as the ransom drop-off location of Steve Wynn’s daughter, Kevyn.
Bartender, I’ll have: Tell longtime bartender Bill Marchesi you want an all-American Budweiser. He’ll appreciate it.
Multiple locations, SteinersPub.com
Claim to Fame: Let’s be honest: You could airlift many of our bars, drop them in the middle of Minnesota and they’d still work. Not this self-proclaimed “Nevada Style Pub,” which pays respect to the Silver State’s history and heritage with an impressive array of memorabilia, from nostalgic photographs to newspaper clippings to genuine stock certificates. Even the diverse food menu features items named after Nevada landmarks, such as the “Searchlight” Caesar salad and the “Red Rock” grilled steak sandwich.
Bartender, I’ll have: A seat at the pub table, where you can pour your own black and tan.
TENAYA CREEK BREWERY
3101 N. Tenaya Way, 362-7335, TenayaCreek.com
Claim to Fame: You’ve heard the expression “beer is food”? Well, the folks running this brewery on the outskirts of Summerlin have taken that to the next level: “Beer is better than food.” In June 2008, Tenaya Creek tossed its fine-dining menu (and wine list) in the trash can and abandoned its kitchen in order to focus solely on brew-making. Good call, as increased demand forced a brewery expansion in 2010.
Bonus Fact: A 22-ounce bottling line was added as part of the expansion, allowing Tenaya Creek to not only stock local retail outlets but also those in such locales as Ohio, Vancouver and Utah. Yes, Utah.
Bartender I’ll have: Got your big-boy pants on? Then take the Hop Ride IPA (and its 7.2 percent alcohol content) for a spin. Or kick it up another notch with an Old Jackalope, a seasonal barley wine (think strong ale) that registers 10.4 percent on the alcohol-content scale.
Multiple locations, TimbersGaming.com
Claim to Fame: This rustic, lodge-themed local chain offers a twist on the traditional neighborhood bar-and-grill environment with wood furniture and accents. Yes, there’s gaming at the bar, but there are also comfortable sitting areas where you can enjoy one of the most popular bar-food menus in town—and some actual conversation. Here’s what else Timbers offers: a very loyal (and vocal) clientele, which our inbox can attest to after we left the place off last year’s list.
Bartender, I’ll have: The Bear Claw, a knock-you-off-your-stool mix of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Myer’s Dark Rum, Bacardi 151, pineapple and orange juice, with a float of Crème de Noyaux. It’s served on the rocks with a pineapple ring.
TOMMY ROCKER’S ✯
4275 Dean Martin Dr., 261-6688, TommyRocker.com
Established: 1989 (former location); 1995 (current location)
Claim to Fame: In a city with a dearth of true rock bars—ones that can manage to keep their doors open for more than six weeks, that is—you have to applaud Tommy Rocker (the proprietor), not only for filling a void but for managing to survive well into a second decade. While it would be nice if Rocker—who takes the stage most Friday and Saturday nights—would book a more steady midweek rotation of acts, we’ll take what we can get. Also, bonus points for opening his parking lot for the Saturday night “Back of the House Brawl,” a lively weekly throw-down between local food trucks.
Bartender, I’ll have: A pint of Tommyknocker. No, it’s not the last remnant from the bar’s failed strip-club experiment from a few years back, but rather a maple-nut brown ale imported from the Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs, Colorado.
TRIPLE 7 ✯
In Main Street Station, 200 N. Main St., 388-2683
Claim to Fame: With a long, serpentine-like bar; a bright, open floor plan; a vaulted ceiling; and tall glass windows (through which you can view the massive copper brewing tanks), this microbrewery just off the casino floor is easily one of the most attractive brew pubs in the Valley.
Bonus Fact: Step outside the brewery to Main Street Station’s casino bar, where you can grab one of Triple 7’s microbrews—they have four of the six varieties—for $1.75.
Bartender, I’ll have: Triple 7’s newest creation, the Soothsayer Saison, modeled after the traditional Belgian farmhouse ale, which goes down nicely on hot, summer days.
VINTNER GRILL ✯
10100 W. Charleston Blvd., Suite 150, 214-5590
Claim to Fame: This hidden gem (in the back of an office-complex parking lot) has become a de facto social club for upscale west-siders, and its bar gets some credit for its sustained success. The centerpiece of this light, bright Hollywood chic space is a long bar manned by sharp, personable bartenders who offer first-rate cocktails and a giant by-the-glass wine list. It’s also a great space to sample some of chef Matthew Silverman’s innovative cuisine, including his handcrafted cheeses.
Bartender, I’ll Have: The wine-tasting flight, plus an order of oven-roasted beets with spinach and lavender goat cheese.
VOODOO ROOFTOP NIGHTCLUB
In the Rio, 777-6875
Claim to Fame: Voodoo has donned a lot of different dresses in her 16 years of life: after-hours hangout with parties raging till way past the brink of dawn, upscale cigar lounge, bottle-service nightclub, live-music venue. The place has even undergone a name change (when our backs were turned, the erstwhile Voodoo Lounge gave way to Voodoo Steak and Rooftop Nightclub). The various incarnations aside, Voodoo remains, at its core, a flair bar of the first order. And it not only delivers a killer view from 51 floors up, but it actually acts its age with music that’s heavy on Top 40 and hip-hop, and light on house.
Bartender, I’ll have: The Witch Doctor, the signature fish-bowl-size cocktail that contains five different types of rum, a shot of schnapps and various fruit juices, while a little dry ice provides a smoking effect. And in case you didn’t get the hint, those multiple straws mean this wicked concoction is meant to be shared.
Reviews written by Geoff Carter, Anthony Curtis, Sean DeFrank, Phil Hagen, Matt Jacob and James P. Reza.