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America's Best Bars 2012
  • July 03, 2012 : 18:07
  • comments

This is journalism, people. All year long our swarms of investigative reporters ping-pong across the nation, hitting juke joints, mixology meccas, beach bars and dives by the dozen. We look under every maraschino cherry, jotting down notes on wet napkins with steeled nerves and steady hands. To make our bar guide as definitive as possible, we spare lots of sleep and no expense. If you know of a drinking establishment that belongs on this list, clue us in. Meanwhile, pour yourself a tall one and enjoy this intoxicating menu.

Pancha’s (Yountville, California)

When night falls in Napa Valley, off-duty cult-cab winemakers, French Laundry chefs and vineyard workers gather at this dimly lit beacon to soak up Buds and shots with beef tongue burritos from the taco truck in the parking lot. (707-944-2125)

Jimmy’s Corner (New York)
Yards from the theme park that is Times Square, this utterly improbable, thoroughly New York dive is owned by an ex-boxer (that’s Jimmy pictured on the wall with Muhammad Ali). The drinks are strong and cheap, and the TVs are always tuned to a game. (212-221-9510)

Jumbo’s Clown Room (Los Angeles)
While fancier gentlemen’s clubs abound in L.A., here is a full-on urban pole-dancing circus of a bar where you’d actually be proud to take a date. The music leans toward the 1980s, and the Emmett Kelly clown art is creepily comforting. Hollyweird at its best. (jumbos.com)

Wally’s Café (Boston)
Is it a dive bar? A jazz hall? A historical monument? It’s all three, goddamn it. It’s been a long time since Charlie Parker played here, but the music is top quality, and the crowd is the most racially diverse around—and in New England that’s saying something. (wallyscafe.com)

Harvey’s By the Bay (Miami)
Though Mac’s Club Deuce is the Miami spot that always makes these lists (and for good reason), we recommend this quieter cave. Originally a prison, Harvey’s is situated on a 45-acre waterfront plot and named for the first Miami soldier to perish in World War I. Hoist a $2 LandShark and you’re living. (954-394-2763)

R Bar (New Orleans)
New Orleans has many great dives, but this one is special. Get a haircut, drink a Bière Pâle, eat crawfish and rent a room—all in one spot. (royalstreetinn.com/r-bar)

Tommy’s Mexican restaurant (San Francisco)
It’s not exactly a traditional dive. What it is: a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint that sells the best margaritas in the world. Owner Julio Bermejo stocks hundreds of tequilas. Take your pick, along with some killer ceviche. (tommystequila.com)

Jack London Bar (Portland, Oregon)
This fantastic haunt is hidden in the basement of an offtrack betting parlor turned pool hall. Enough said. (rialtopoolroom.com)

Lee Harvey’s (Dallas)
A half-century-old roadhouse (above) south of downtown Dallas, Lee Harvey’s melds grunge and hipster posturing with a distinct Lone Star edge. Customers prize the PBRs, the pool table and the outdoor fire pit. (leeharveys.com)

Earnestine and Hazel’s (Memphis)
Four blocks off Beale Street (ground zero for the American blues scene), beneath what was once a busy brothel, this bar (above left) has one of the best jukeboxes on the planet. The “soul burgers” are icing on the proverbial cake. (901-523-9754)

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read more: nightlife, magazine, alcohol, bars, issue july 2012

9 comments

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The best classic bar of N. Carolina is The Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar in Carolina Beach, free music and cold beer sitting on a hurricaine shortened pier over the atlantic ocean.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The best dive bar is the tip top tavern in breadenton floida
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The Very Best Dive Bar On The Treasure Coast Is " Ralphs Standup Bar " in Jupiter Florida :-)
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Only Nashville mention is the tourist trap Tootsie's?!? No Patterson House? No Springwater? No Boundary? No 12 South Taproom? No Virago? C'mon.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Weak sauce...gimme something I didn't hear about 4 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    im so happy for Cruise Room denver......spent many a new years there
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