Aces & Ales
3740 S. Nellis Blvd., 702-436-7600; 2801 N. Tenaya Way, 702-638-2337, acesandales.com
Pouring since: 2009
Where you’re drinking: An extensive menu of taps and bottles will satisfy the most ardent brew snob, but snobbish this place ain’t. In fact, Aces & Ales is a craft beer gastropub dropped in a neighborhood bar setting, the kind of place where you stop in for a quick pint and find yourself lingering over a few as you sink in your comfy chair, and are hypnotized by the TV screens. And, oh, those beers.
What you’re drinking: Deliberate over a choice of IPAs and porters, or tickle your palate with a black-cherry sour ale or perhaps a spiced ale with curry, cumin and Kaffir lime. Stop by either location for beer pairings with specialty dinners from the outstanding kitchen.
Trivia round: Aces & Ales maintains a Twitter account and website that feature daily updates of the beer list—not only to let you know what’s pouring out of the 22 craft beer taps, but also which kegs are running low.
917 Fremont St., 702-982-3000, atomic.vegas
Pouring since: 1952
Where you’re drinking: “There are no second acts in American lives,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. While that may be true for most of Las Vegas, Atomic Liquors is the exception. The recipient of the first liquor license issued in Clark County was a neighborhood stalwart for decades, welcoming patrons from Rat Pack-prime Sinatra to recession-era motel residents. Atomic shut down in 2011, changed owners, renovated and reopened two years later. (It kept its liquor license by opening for a single day each year during the makeover.) Sure, there’s a patio where the “ring bell for entry” used to be, and you’re more likely to run into Anthony Bourdain taping a TV show than a Vietnam vet discoursing on The Who. But Atomic is still a damn fine place to throw back an Old Crow.
What you’re drinking: Sure, you can get a Bud Light, but why would you when there’s dozens of carefully curated selections, from saisons to porters? Or try one of their barrel-aged cocktails.
Trivia round: While sprucing up the old joint, the new owners made a point to respect the past, which is why today’s patrons will find vintage signage, a sparkly ceiling and an old floor safe that has been turned into a mini-shrine to original owner Joe Sobchik.
7700 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-736-4939, bootleggerlasvegas.com
Pouring since: 2001 (1972 original location)
Where you’re drinking: After 29 years at Tropicana and Eastern avenues, the Boot kicked over to a new spot far south on Las Vegas Boulevard. Sidle up to one of the high-back red booths on a Monday night for Kelly Clinton’s “karaoke” night (wink, wink), and you’re likely to run into any number of old Vegas movers, shakers, entertainers and moneymakers. Sit in the bar after 11 p.m., and it’s all industry, all the time, while multiple flat panels screen everything from sports to election returns.
What you’re drinking: During dinner hours, most patrons quaff wine or a classic cocktail. Late night, it’s vodka and whiskey. Booze prices are fair, and bartenders are quick (quicker for gamblers).
Trivia round: The founding Perry family started in Vegas in 1955 by helping Lou Ruvo’s family with the original Venetian restaurant (on Fremont Street). Daughter Lorraine Hunt was lounge singer Lauri Perry long before she was our lieutenant governor.
9295 W. Flamingo Rd., 702-562-2050, brooksys.net
Pouring since: 2010
Where you’re drinking: Who knew one of the city’s best sports bars would be housed in a funky, castle-looking building on West Flamingo Road, adjacent to the Las Vegas Ice Center? Did we say “adjacent to”? Well, that’s technically true. But the entire north wall of the bar is a window overlooking the rink. No wonder this is a popular landing spot for hockey players and fans. In fact, with games being played on the regular, you get free live hockey with your evening libation.
What you’re drinking: Crown Royal and Yukon Jack. Keep it Canadian, out of respect.
Trivia round: Wayne Gretzky runs his $15,000-a-player fantasy camp at the Ice Center. Time it right and you can see the Great One from the comfort of a table, without having to spend the price of a Civic to embarrass yourself on the ice in front of the greatest player of all time.
3557 S. Maryland Parkway, 737-1699, champagnescafe.vegas
Pouring since: 1993
Where you’re drinking: Much of this red-lit Paradise Palms neighborhood bar is shrouded in something. The walls are covered with flocked red-velvet wallpaper, the air is weighed by a faint smell of old sins, and its history is immersed in rumors that both the Rat Pack and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro hung out here, back when it was still called The Old Inner Circle. It was converted to Champagne’s in 1993, and there’s been a pleasant mix of young hipsters and old drunks ever since.
What you’re drinking: Champagne’s recently got “renovated” by the dreaded Bar Rescue show, but they left the wallpaper alone and added a Manhattan to the drink menu. Or you can just stick with a beer—from the bottle.
Trivia round: No, Casino was not shot here, but Robert De Niro supposedly dropped in during filming, probably hoping to soak up some of that Vegas mob vibe or looking for a café, which doesn’t really exist.
3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-698-7000, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com
Pouring since: 2010
Where you’re drinking: Few casino bars past or present even begin to approach the wow factor of the Chandelier. A three-story lounge hung with cascading curtains of crystal, it’s a work of art—a shimmering, elegant marvel. Just stepping foot in here is enough to make your head swim: This place embodies the supreme confidence that built Las Vegas in the first place. The bottom level attracts tourists; the top, large parties of friends. The middle level seems to be where the serious cocktail lovers hang out.
What you’re drinking: The Chandelier has a very, very good cocktail program, and their bartenders invest every drink with patience and care. Try the Verbena: a magnificent blend of ginger and the namesake herb, garnished with a mouth-tingling Szechuan button.
Trivia round: The sparkle comes from $30 million worth of Swarovski crystals.
6750 W. Sahara Ave. 702-220-8849, vampdvegas.com
Pouring since: 2009
Where you’re drinking: If you rock, this is where you roll. “Count” Danny Koker’s freestanding westside pub and grub is our city’s well-executed answer to Hollywood’s Rainbow Bar & Grill. Where else in Vegas can you eat, drink, dress and raise a fist to the rock lifestyle seven days a week?
What you’re drinking: There’s a nice selection of draft beer to go with your (very good) grub. Otherwise, I wanna whiskey and Coke all night (and party every day!)
Trivia round: It’s a wonderful world where EDM never happened. Leather pants, motorcycles, and big, sexy hair, plus live bands—including Sin City Sinners and Koker’s own Count’s 77, as well as a range of tribute acts—appearing on perhaps the best non-casino stage and sound system in town.
3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd, 702-891-7318, craftrestaurantsinc.com/craftsteak-las-vegas
Pouring Since: 2002
Where you’re drinking: This is, and always will be, a steak town. And good steak requires a good scotch menu. Well, nobody does that combo better than Craftsteak at the MGM Grand. If there’s anything better than Tom Colicchio’s menu, it’s waiting to peruse it at his bar. It’s a long, handsome number that features 197 bottles of dead-sexy single-malts on the backlit wall
What you’re drinking: Scotch. Knowledgeable and passionate bartenders help you pick one that’s right for your palate (smoky and peaty, please) and your wallet (from a $23 Bunnahabhain to a $2,000 57-year-old Macallan).
Trivia round: Exceptional liquor demands exceptional ice. The bar’s special Hoshizaki machine makes a dozen 2-inch crystal-clear cubes an hour.
3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-414-3737, emerilsrestaurants.com/delmonico-steakhouse
Pouring since: 1999
Where you’re drinking: The bar at Emeril Lagasse’s steakhouse is a great little space, with glowing lighting, intimate seating, a grand piano and a marble-topped bar. But the big deal is what’s behind that bar: One of the largest whiskey collections in the country with over 500 varieties and climbing.
What you’re drinking: While founding mixologist Max Solano has moved on gone, Juyoung Kang has picked up the cocktail shaker and is concocting her own creations. Try one of the Bourbon-based cocktails such as the sweet Brown Derby or the smoky New Father.
Trivia round: Seduced by the smell of that steak? You can dine at the glass-walled chef’s table, which has a view of the kitchen and a menu that changes daily.
1516 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 382-3894, dinoslv.com
Pouring since: 1962
Where you’re drinking: Dino’s calls itself “The Last Neighborhood Bar in Las Vegas,” and while some colleagues on this list might dispute that, Dino’s shouts it in neon. As any downtown resident will tell you, it does an outstanding job of backing it up. A dozen or so competitors have opened in recent years, but Dino’s has been doing this dance since 1960. Opened as Ringside Liquors by gangster Eddie Trascher, the joint was bought by the Bartolomucci family in 1962, and they’ve held it ever since (current operators are sisters Casey and Kristin). Add to its rich history some live music and some of the city’s most entertaining karaoke (Thursday-Saturday) and Dino’s may not be the last neighborhood bar in town, but it’s unquestionably one of the best.
What you’re drinking: It’s a neighborhood dive: Beers, shots, anything with two ingredients or less.
Trivia round: Dino’s infamous “Drunk of the Month” poll lets customers vote on their favorite regular, who receives bragging rights, a T-shirt and their picture on the Wall of Fame.
2451 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-458-6343, TheDispensaryLounge.com
Pouring since: 1976
Where you’re drinking: Think Quentin Tarantino movie. Seriously: The Dispensary is Las Vegas’ best-preserved fern bar, with its clunky dining-nook furnishings, fake flowers, wood-paneled walls and softly churning water wheel. Occasionally ’70s and ’80s hits flood the room to complete the illusion. It’s some kind of wonderful.
What you’re drinking: Keep it unsophisticated. This isn’t a mixology bar or a place with a huge wine cellar. Just order a gin and tonic, like your old man had to drink to get through the malaise of the Jimmy Carter years. And don’t be cute and ask for a weed menu. We’re not quite there. Yet.
Trivia round: The Dispensary features live jazz on Fridays, Saturdays and some Wednesdays, curated by UNLV bandleader Uli Geissendoerfer. The band sets up right next to that water wheel.
Double Down Saloon
4640 Paradise Road, 791-5775, DoubleDownSaloon.com
Pouring since: 1992
Where you’re drinking: Although owner P Moss would likely bristle at the words “venerable” and “institution,” there’s no better way to describe this punk-rock dive bar. The Double Down Saloon has been a goddamned pillar of our community for almost 25 years and is a credit to Vegas in every detail: the psychedelic murals, the punk and garage bands on its tiny stage, the wildly eclectic selection of music in its jukebox, its Bukowski/Black Flag cast of regulars. No wonder New York City asked for a Double Down of its own—and got one.
What you’re drinking: While this is a beer & shot of Jameson’s-type place. It does have its specialties. There’s Ass Juice, the magical shooter served in miniature toilet bowls and the legendary bacon martini made with house-infused bacon vodka (try the vodka in a Bloody Mary during daylight hours.)
Trivia: The Double Down loves a holiday—come celebrate Christmas with free haircuts and Spaghetti-Os.
Downtown Cocktail Room
111 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 880-3696, TheDowntownLV.com
Pouring since: 2007
Where you’re drinking: Everything and nothing has changed under the red “Downtown” sign since Michael Cornthwaite’s speakeasy-style watering hole appeared like a desert mirage to cocktailians thirsting for a proper Sazerac, aviation or hand-shaken daiquiri. Those successfully able to locate the door walk inside are treated to a most intoxicating combination of dim lighting, inspiring artwork, a seasonal cocktail menu and a groovy, bohemian vibe.
What you’re drinking: DCR has some of the best bartenders in town. Get a proper Absinthe service, a specialty cocktail with exotic ingredients or let the folks behind the bar create one for you.
Trivia round: Check out the slightly more lo-fi and low-brow backroom, Mike Morey’s Sip ‘n’ Tip.
Frankie’s Tiki Room
1712 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-385-3110, frankiestikiroom.com
Pouring since: 2008
Where you’re drinking: A description really isn’t necessary since every Vegas barfly has been in Frankie’s for an early-morning nightcap at some point: Good thing those glowing blowfish can’t talk because they’ve seen some shit. The smoky bar is decorated with handmade wooden tikis and custom artwork including the “Vice Tester” carnival game machine at the back of the bar. Dick Dale riffs play in the background as vintage island pinup footage or weird puppet pornos entertain/bewilder drinkers.
What you’re drinking: Ordering a tiki drink is a no-brainer, but stick to the rum cocktails. The menu has a large selection of classics like Mai Tais or Zombies, and originals such as the Bearded Clam mojito or the Wild Watusi with its 160 proof float.
Trivia round: The interior of the bar was designed by the famous designer Bamboo Ben, who is the grandson of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room designer, Eli Hedley.
4178 Koval Lane, 702-733-8901, EllisIslandCasino.com
Pouring since: 1986
Where you’re drinking: Ellis Island originally opened as the Village Pub in 1967, this is where you’ll find some of the best karaoke in Las Vegas every night starting at nine. Even if you’re not here to lay down your best Adele or Drake, 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).
What you’re drinking: A pint of the IPA, one of the five regular microbrews on tap.
Trivia round: Want to learn more about the beer? Free brewery tours are available. Check their website.
2985 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 735-4177, PeppermillLasVegas.com
Pouring since: 1972
Where you’re drinking: If the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation time-traveled back to the disco era to hold a swinger’s party, this dark, sexy sci-fi make-out chamber would result. People come from all over the universe to drink bowl-size cocktails (such as the mighty Scorpion) around the pit of firewater. The servers wear long black gowns and sit down to take your order—a classy touch—and televisions abound; they were reportedly installed because of rampant exhibitionism. (Worf, Troi: Behave yourselves!)
What you’re drinking: Take your time perusing the illustrated cocktail menu. Why not go full 70s and order a Brandy Alexander or Harvey Wallbanger?
Trivia round: The Fireside Lounge has been featured in films from Casino to Showgirls.
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-632-7631, HouseOfBlues.com/LasVegas/FR
Pouring since: 1999
Where you’re drinking: Subtly promoted, hard to find and still rather exclusive, this 43rd-floor Buddha/voodoo-style lounge operated by House of Blues has survived both the recession and the headlines to remain one of the most interesting spots to drink with a view. The scenery, inside and out, is gorgeous, and access for the nonmember hoi polloi has been eased in recent years. Sexy, seductive and selective describe both the venue and the crowd, so dress the part and you too might party with the players high atop the southernmost resort on the Strip.
What you’re drinking: Cocktails. This isn’t the kind of place where you suck on a bottle of cheap domestic brew.
Trivia round: Members of the Foundation Room club get all manner of perks, including the right to keep their own liquor bottles in-house. Look for Dan Aykroyd’s bottle of Crystal Skull vodka, safely locked in its case.
Fun Hog Ranch
495 E. Twain Ave., 702-791-7001, FunHogRanchLV.com
Pouring Since: 1997
Where you’re drinking: Wood-paneled and festooned with porcine ephemera, Fun Hog Ranch is a nice, cozy gay dive. The bartenders are attentive, the crowd is friendly (pencils are provided atop the bar, should one prove friendly enough to give you a phone number), and the overall vibe is one of relaxed debauchery.
What you’re drinking: Cheap beer, shots and mixed drinks. Lots of ’em. Booze specials are common here—there isn’t a day of the week that doesn’t feature a beer bust, a buy-one-get-one special or an early-morning happy hour.
Trivia round: “If it’s got tits/testicles or tires, it’s sure to give you trouble,” read signs on the bathroom doors. Fun Hog also has Studz, the only gay-themed pinball machine we’ve encountered. Find out what happens when you light up “Tom’s Ball-Buster.”
511 Fremont St., 702-382-0577, facebook.com/theofficial.vegasgriffin
Pouring since: 2007
Where you’re drinking: Drink in the dark the way God intended at the Griffin an OG of East Fremont that’s been a locals’ favorite since opening. Tourists may flood through the doors on weekends, but weekdays hold on to the vibe that existed did before container parks were a thing. The three firepits and the vaulted ceilings are Griffin staples; the bar is stocked with liquor and as excellent as the music in the jukebox.
What you’re drinking: The bartenders here are known to have a heavy hand, especially if they like you, so go for shots or simple cocktails. Rather than PBR or Bud Light, Hamm’s is the cheap beer of choice.
Trivia round: On sporadic Fridays, the bar has free shows in the back room. The bands typically hail from Los Angeles, home of the original Griffin, and are always worth coming out for.
Hard Rock Center Bar
4455 Paradise Rd., 702-693-5000, HardRockHotel.com/Party/CenterBar
Pouring since: 1995
Where you’re drinking: The Hard Rock was the place to see and be seen for the better part of a decade, but it served as the center bar architectural prototype that was ripped off by hotels all over the city and beyond. (Even the Hard Rock itself copied the concept, constructing circular bars in properties from Biloxi, Mississippi, to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.) After two decades, the original Center Bar wasn’t packing them in like it used to, and the bar received a $3 million makeover—sure they added some comfy chairs and flashy lights, but it’s still the Center Bar.
What you’re drinking: Most of the crowd is clutching bottles of Bud, but you could be less cretinous and order one of their Goose Island brewery selections. House cocktails have cutesy names and run toward the sweet side, although that Cherry Mule is tasty…
Trivia round: On weekend, the Center Bar often hosts DJ gigs by the likes of Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore and party animal Andrew W.K.
Herbs & Rye
3713 W. Sahara Ave., 702-982-8036, HerbsAndRye.com
Pouring since: 2009
Where you’re drinking: This unassuming building in the central Valley is where Lou Ruvo’s family presided over their venerable Venetian Ristorante for 31 years. Fast-forward past a couple of ill-advised “makeovers” into suggestively named video poker bars, and in steps booze maestro Nectaly Mendoza to make the old new again, birthing a top-notch, speakeasy-style watering hole and Italian chophouse. If you visited Herbs & Rye in the beginning, the past few years have seen the food and service improve substantially, while maintaining the joint’s heart and soul: the ass-kicking classic cocktail menu. Herbs might be the perfect date spot, but the friendly crowd and staff makes even solo drinkers happy.
What you’re drinking: Don’t let the extensive drink menu fool or intimidate you; this is no froofy martini joint. Skilled bartenders mix up multiple pages of perfectly balanced classics. Our fave is the Ford.
Trivia round: During two daily happy hours (5-8 p.m.; midnight-2 a.m.), most steaks and well drinks are half price. Hint: Don’t order from the Dark Ages drink menu, and don’t ask for flavored vodka. Just don’t.
1116 E Charleston Blvd., 702-384-7377,
Pouring since: 1962
Where you’re drinking: The last man standing. Other neighborhood bars of the Huntridge Tavern’s generation have been remodeled, repurposed or closed outright, but this 54-year-old dive keeps on going—and if you ignore the flat-screen TVs and internet jukebox, this place doesn’t look all that different than it did 10, 20, even 30 years ago. The paneling and wallpaper are vintage, as are the patrons. The HT is a treasure, pure and simple, full of grizzled drunks, Gen X homeowners and millennial punks. Good people, all. Finest you’ll ever know.
What you’re drinking: These are some of the cheapest drinks in town. Not fancy—we’ve never ordered anything with more than three ingredients, and even that’s pushing it—but this is one of the few places in town where you can say, “A round for the house!” and mean that shit.
Trivia round: The Huntridge was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown TV show. He actually looked happy here.
Italian American Club
2333 E. Sahara Ave.,702-457-3866, iacvegas.com
Pouring since: 1965
Where you’re drinking: “Back when the mob ran the town …” is a familiar phrase for many Las Vegans, but only a fraction of the Valley’s population can say they experienced that era. That’s what’s so great about the more-than-five-decades-old Italian-American Club, where you can step back in time to an age when dimly lit lounges with crooners behind the mic ruled the city’s entertainment scene. And you don’t need paisano blood to enjoy the club’s live music, robust wine list or red-sauce menu.
What you’re drinking: Red wine or limoncello, a gin and tonic or Scotch and soda. If you can’t go Italian, at least go classic.
Trivia: The IAC also has bocce ball courts. The old-school pastime is alive, well and rolling deep.
6020 W. Flamingo Rd., 888-881-9367, beststeakdeal.com
Pouring since: 2003
Where you’re drinking: A relaxed, wood-paneled space adorned with sports memorabilia, Jackson’s is less about decor and more about what’s on the screen and in your glass. The joint is big with sports fans and is flat-out jammed for Packers games—they even serve poutine and cheese curds for Wisconsin realness.
What you’re drinking: Shots start at $5 and a draft Busch is $2.50, or get two—yes, two—pitchers for $11. Hungry? This neighborhood gaming bar is home to some of the best steak specials in Las Vegas, including a 16-ounce rib eye for $15.99 and a 10-ouncer for $13.99, both available 24/7. Better yet is the Mondays-only prime rib, which might be the best prime rib value in the entire city.
Trivia round: Jackson’s is the rare bar with a bitcoin machine on the premises.
3752 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 888-881-9367, mandarinoriental.com
Pouring since: 2009
Where you’re drinking: Many places on the Strip claim spectacular views, but few match Mandarin Bar’s sophisticated ambience 23 floors up. With dark wood floors, a jewel-toned color scheme and floor-to-ceiling windows, you half expect 007 himself to sidle up to the bar and pull that shaken, not stirred bit.
What you’re drinking: The bartenders at Mandarin are about creating one-of-a-kind sensory experiences, from the hotel’s custom scent to the bar’s Golden Leaf Martini—Hendricks gin, Aperol, muddled mandarin oranges and pineapple and lime juices—created for the Las Vegas property. Check out the zodiac cocktail menu and have a drink customized to your astrological sign.
Trivia round: If you’re on a first date, the view does all the work. But as a place to take in the luxurious trappings of Vegas without the tourist trap, Mandarin Bar is hard to top.
4650 W. Tropicana Ave., Suite 110, 247-7000, McMullansIrishPub.com
Pouring since: 2002
Where you’re drinking: Yes, we’ve done a good job of importing “authentic” pubs to Las Vegas, but this place is a favorite, because it feels authentically authentic. McMullan’s was built in Dublin by the owner’s pub-building company. It proudly wears his name and features family photos that date back more than 100 years, to when his grandfather ran a pub in Northern Ireland. It also feels correctly broken in—like an old shoe, it just fits right. The pub’s little compartments make it cozy and conducive to small, intimate gatherings, yet it flows well enough to host boisterous parties and events.
What you’re drinking: McMullan’s has more than a dozen beers on tap, including Guinness, Boddington’s, Smithwick’s and Innis & Gunn. Check out their Irish whiskey list too.
Trivia round: Every March, McMullen’s hosts St. Baldrick’s Day, a charity event for cancer research that involves getting your head shaved.
4755 W. Flamingo Rd., 702-368-1828, MoneyPlaysLV.com
Pouring since: 1989
Where you’re drinking: 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. However, the specialty brews—there are 20 different taps and more than 100 beer selections in all—remain the marquee attraction.
What you’re drinking: You’ll need 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!
Trivia round: 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!
4321 W. Flamingo Road, 933-9900, N9NEGroup.com
Pouring since: 2001
Where you’re drinking: Opened with the Palms, the two spacious bars at N9NE were among the first to capitalize on the trend to attach nightlife-quality lounges to restaurants. The steak house itself is loud and pretty, a true see-and-be-scene joint, so it was a no-brainer to cast comfy club chairs, sofas and loungers in the slightly elevated bar area, thus integrating a vibrant nightlife scene with no lines, no cover and (hallelujah!) no bottle service. The nightclub crowd uses it to pre-game, while the more mature diners hang out after dinner.
What you’re drinking: An extensive wine list might lure you to the grape, but N9NE has solid cocktails as well.
Trivia round: The restaurant is a popular celeb hangout. Watch out for athletes, actors and maybe a Kardashian or two.
4480 S. Paradise Rd., 702-434-0031, ParadiseCantinas.com/LasVegas
Pouring since: 2005
Where you’re drinking: There’s always a time for burritos and beer or tacos and tequila, and it is these elemental cravings that keep the barstools full at Paradise Cantina. The tiki thatch over the bar, Coors surfboards and Mardi Gras beads make this place look like an archetypical tourist trap—and in any other town it would be. In Bizarro World Vegas, though, it’s where locals hang out, particularly off-duty industry types and UNLV denizens.
What you’re drinking: Margarita, Corona, tequila. The reasonable drink prices get even more reasonable during the daily two-for-one happy hour.
Trivia round: The two dozen televisions and close proximity to the university mean that the game is always on, especially if the Rebels are playing.
3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-693-7111, Bellagio.com/EN/Nightlife/Petrossian-Bar.html
Pouring since: 1998
Where you’re drinking: If the lobby bar is a casino’s welcome mat, this piano lounge is the red carpet. Open 24/7, Petrossian has greeted guests since Steve Wynn’s masterpiece, Bellagio, opened its doors. Here, a long legacy of serious, award-winning bartenders in white coats lure guests to its club chairs for afternoon tea, a cigar or cocktails ranging from the classic to the avant-garde. While many hotels have succumbed to the pressure to stay young by bringing in DJs and bartop-dancing cocktailers, Petrossian is an island of adult pursuits. No matter how tastes have changed over the last decade and a half, taste itself remains.
What you’re drinking: The cocktail menu is divided into Mixology Collection, Bellagio Classics and Hand Selected Aged Barrel. Each section offers elegant concoctions created by the Petrossian’s expert bartenders.
Trivia round: World-class pianists on the Steinway include David Osbourne, who has played for at least four U.S. presidents.
310 W. Spring St., Goodsprings, 702-874-9362, PioneerSaloon.info
Pouring since: 1913
Where you’re drinking: Located in Goodsprings, halfway between Las Vegas and the California border, the Pioneer began serving the area’s prospectors and miners back when Woodrow Wilson was president. The bar’s been refurbished, but it’s also been preserved to look pretty much the way it did a hundred years ago. Get a drink, have a bite, or play some pool in the back. The Pioneer has become popular with bikers in recent years, but they’re a friendly bunch that coexists with a steady stream of tourists.
What you’re drinking: Olympia beer in a can is $3.50, draft Dead Guy Ale is $5 or just order a whiskey. The burgers are good enough, better when you doctor ’em up at the 14-item condiment bar.
Trivia round: The Pioneer is where Clark Gable famously drank while waiting for news of wife Carole Lombard’s fate after her plane crashed at nearby Mount Potosi. The saloon hosts occasional “ghost lockdowns” for those who want to make contact with her spirit—or any others.
Multiple locations, PTEGLV.com
Pouring since: 1982
Where you’re drinking: 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.
What you’re drinking: A 25-ounce domestic draft, which runs $5.75 at Sierra Gold ($5.25 at PT’s), but is half-off during happy hour.
Trivia round: Check the website for monthly specials on a variety of liquors and beers.
Sand Dollar Lounge
3355 Spring Mountain Rd., 702-485-5401, TheSandDollarLV.com
Pouring since: 1976
Where you’re drinking: Resurrected in 2009, the Sand Dollar is a dressed-up dive with music in its bones. B.B. King and Mick Jagger were said to frequent the former biker joint; portraits of them adorn the walls today. That spirit continues with live blues and rock ‘n’ roll six nights a week. While many come for the entertainment, the late-night shift comes for a beer and whiskey program that rivals those on the Strip.
What you’re drinking: If you’re encyclopedic about your brews, you can hunt down the $50 a bottle Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen. If not, cop a $4 Colt 45 tallboy from the beer vending machine.
Trivia Round: The venue got a short-lived Bar Rescue rebranding in 2013 as Bar 702, but once a dive, always a dive.
4790 S. Fort Apache Rd., 257-2467, SagosBar.com
Where you’re drinking: Family-owned and operated by Las Vegas natives, this westside, 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.
What you’re drinking: Stop by daily from 3-7 p.m. and 12-4 a.m. for $2 and $4 happy hour drink specials.
Trivia r: 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.
5589 W. Charleston Blvd., 870-2111, TapHouseLV.com
Pouring since: 1983
Where you’re drinking: If the walls here could talk, let’s just say they’d never talk again. Capice? Vegas “operators” of all ilk—from wise guys to guys who are wise to them (i.e. journalist John L. Smith)—have gravitated to the Tap House since it took over from the old Black Whale in the early 1980s. And while the nefarious aspect has diminished somewhat since the closing of sister restaurant Fellini’s next door, certain Tap House truths remain self-evident: The place will fill up for every Cleveland Browns game; your pizza, stromboli and chicken wings (spice lovers order them twice-baked) will rival any other in town; and money will change hands nightly over its venerable shuffleboard table.
What you’re drinking: A pitcher of beer to wash down the pizza and wings.
Trivia round: Proprietors Bob Harry and Jim Gerard are often on the premises, especially on Mondays when open-mic night draws standing-room-only crowds.