Top five bars to get a (great) drink in Telluride, Colorado

telluride barsTo borrow a phrase, Telluride (and I mean this in the best possible way) is a little drinking town with a big ski problem. I’ve lived there off and on since 2005, and recently returned for a visit for the first time in two years.

Telluride–a former mining town–has never had a shortage of places to imbibe, but getting a well-made cocktail for under ten bucks is another story. Fortunately, there are a few old standbys as well as some new blood in town that hit just the right mix of ambiance, quality, and price.

Bonus: With just one exception, they’re all frequented by locals, so you can escape the tourist scene and get a true taste of Telluride. Just don’t wear a spanking new cowboy hat or boots, heels, or a starched button-down. This town is strictly casual, year round.

And a word of warning: You’ll feel the effects of alcohol more at altitude (Telluride is at 8,725 feet). Go easy, drink tons of water, and remember that one drink has the cumulative effect of two at this height. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

1. La Marmotte
Located one block east of the gondola, unassumingly nestled against the base of the mountain, this adorable, cozy, convivial restaurant is a dying breed: the classic French Alpine restaurant. Actually, it’s the historic Ice House, one of the oldest buildings in town, but inside, it’s dark, romantic, and surprisingly lively.

For over 20 years, “The Marmot” has featured well-rendered French country classics such as Coq au Vin and French Onion Soup, along with more contemporary versions. The 3-course, $35 prix fixe is the best deal in town, but if it’s just a drink you’re looking for, you also can’t go wrong. Take a seat on a stool at the tiny front bar, and have the friendly bartender (no ski town attitude here) pour you a glass off the thoughtful wine list, or whip you up a cocktail, such as the house-infused beet martini (trust me).telluride bars2. New Sheridan Bar/New Sheridan Hotel and Chop House Restaurant
A part of the famed New Sheridan hotel, this 1895 saloon is one of the oldest in the West, although the entire property underwent a major remodel a couple of years ago. Opt for cocktails, straight-up spirits, or beer at the dedicated bar (pool tables are in the back), which features its original mahogany paneling and filigree light fixtures. Happy Hour tends to attract visitors and locals (usually an older crowd) alike: it’s hard to pass up the wickedly strong five-dollar cocktail specials.

In the adjacent hotel lobby bar known as The Parlor, locals meet up for a glass or bottle of wine from one of the best lists in town (Wine Spectator has given it their Award of Excellence multiple times). Alternatively, grab a seat at the Chophouse’s beautiful long bar (my pick on where to eat/sit when I’ve got some extra cash), order some starters and a drink, and enjoy the good life side of Telluride.

3. Allred’s
The aforementioned tourist magnet, Allred’s is located at the top of the San Sophia gondola station, at 10,551 feet. Walking into the bar or adjacent dining room, both of which have giant windows, it’s easy to see why visitors (and locals celebrating special occasions or just a particularly gorgeous sunset) shell out the big bucks to dine here. The entire town lietelluride barss spread out below you, and the view includes waterfalls, red cliffs, evergreen forest, and the last snow clinging to the peaks across the valley. Try a glass of sparkling wine, a special house cocktail such as the pear basil swizzle (Grey Goose Pear Vodka, basil, soda water, and lime, $11), or, if you’re visiting in winter, one of the many excellent hot toddies on offer.

4. there…
Not everything in town is historic. This tiny space, tucked away on a side street in the residential “West End,” has been a pizza parlor, a Himalayan restaurant, and a longtime vacant space in the last five years. In December, it became a bar/Asian small bites spot, and reliably draws crowds for the creative cocktails and delicious, four-dollar steamed duck or pork buns (give the rest of the food a miss, ditto the silly and pretentious “jam drinks”). The decor is a schizophrenic mix of gorgeous Old West restoration with a hint of butt-ugly pop art, but super-fly bartender Oshane mixes up a mean house cocktail. He’s so gracious and charming, you won’t be able to resist coming back (the pork buns don’t hurt, either).

5. The Last Dollar Saloon (aka, “The Buck”)
PBR is King in Telluride, but you can also count on a reliably stiff drink at Telluride’s most classic bar, built in 1899: Don’t let your buzz distract you from details like the original stamped tin ceiling. TGIF is one of the best times to go if you want to mingle with locals (don’t expect a sober crowd) or see live music; The Buck is reliably packed weekend nights during the summer. My happy place is the corner table at the front, where the giant plate glass windows provide an aquarium view of Main Street.

5.5 O’Bannon’s Irish Pub (“OB’s”)
I can’t in good conscience write about drinking in Telluride without mentioning one of my favorite bars of all time, anywhere on the planet. Yes, it’s a hellhole, but if you really want to get down and dirty with the locals, no visit to Telluride is complete without a visit (if not a lost weekend) to OB’s. Plus, there’s a pool table and great juke. R.I.P., Harry (Force, the late owner).

[Photo credit: Laurel Miller]

See the New Sheridan Bar (those are actors, FYI) in this recent Coors ad.


19 perfect dive bars

We need dive bars more than we care to admit. They are the counterweight to a world overflowing with upscale lounges and designer “mixologist” cocktails, a way to keep it simple, hang out with friends old and new and tip back our favorite beverage. Gadling is a big fan of dive bars too. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 19 of our favorites. Where’s your favorite dive bar? Leave us a tip in the comments.

Crystal Cafe – Raton, New Mexico
The most remarkable thing about Crystal Cafe is the light up dance floor. That and the decor make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time, and that a disco maniac in a polyester suit will walk through the door at any moment. The bar is entirely retro, but not because they’re trying — the owners just haven’t changed anything since when the small town its located in was more happening.

Norma’s (a.k.a. the Domino Club) – St. Croix, USVI
Norma’s
is famous for two reasons: beer drinking pigs and a local brew called Mama Wanna. Animal rights concerns resulted in the pigs getting switched to non-alcoholic beer, but the patrons aren’t so restricted. Mama Wanna is some kind of wonderful spiced rum drink, and the local proprietress of this island hut tucked away in the jungle hasn’t even been tempted to sell the recipe yet. It packs quite a kick, so the locals use Elephant beer as a chaser.

Madam’s Organ Blues Bar – Washington, DC

With a slogan like, “Where the beautiful people go to get ugly,” how could you not love Madam’s Organ Blues Bar? Despite the popularity this bar enjoys, they haven’t managed to clean it up too much. There’s live music most nights, and more old couches upstairs than a used furniture store. After the bar closes, the local tradition is to grab a giant slice of pizza from one of the nearby all-night sliceries.Salty Dawg Saloon – Homer, Alaska
The buoys strung up on the outside of Salty Dawg Saloon, found inside a plain log and thatch cabin, hardly scream party time, but the partiers on the inside sure as heck do. The walls have thousands of dollar bills stapled to them, each one uniquely decorated by the patron who posted it. In true Alaska dive style, the floors are covered in sawdust. If you’re feeling frisky, you could even order a Salty Dog. The bar isn’t named for the drink, but they do serve them.

Neptune’s Net – Malibu, California
Despite this bar’s location in upscale Malibu, Neptune’s Net is a bit of a dive. You’ve got to fight (sometimes literally) for a table, it’s crowded with bikers, and the restrooms are of the portable variety. But it’s got some amazing fried seafood and beers a plenty. Plus, the outside tables have gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.

Crossroads Bar & Grill – South Royalton, Vermont
It’s dark, it’s dank, and it’s darling. Crossroads is the perfect dive bar where you could wile away a night, or an entire winter, given the local weather patterns. Set in the small and idyllic town of South Royalton, this bar is a meeting place for long time locals and cerebral students from the nearby Vermont Law School. There’s even a collection of offensive bumper stickers posted behind the bar, if you forget your reading material.

Gentleman Jim’s – Gaithersburg, Maryland
It’s not often you get a dive bar with two floors of drinking, but they’ve managed to make it happen in this industrial complex tavern. Upstairs is a small, windowless bar with a bit of a Cheers feel, since the variety of the patrons tends to be limited. Downstairs is the restaurant area with a service bar open to the public. What makes this place worth mentioning is the pizza — square, with sweet tomato sauce and a swiss cheese blend. Try it on a Monday or Tuesday for half price, and the happy hours are competitive as well.

The Alley Cantina – Taos, New Mexico
If it weren’t for the local crowd, a ratty old games collection, and $2.50 margaritas every day from 5 to 7, the Alley Cantina might not have even qualified as a dive. But thanks to the shuffleboard, crooked pool table, and some old french game where you’ve got to flick checkers around with your thumb, this is the perfect place to hang out and have a beer, or five. They’ve even got food, if you’re into fried.

The Broken Spoke – Austin, Texas

The Broken Spoke has become legendary, perhaps regrettably to its loyal local clientele. It’s claim to fame is its long affair with country music, with legends like Willie Nelson having made regular appearances through the years. It’s got a country dance hall vibe, and they even offer blue plate special lunches to stick with the theme. Not a bad place to have a couple beers and get rowdy.

Norton Rats – Cusco, Peru
You might not guess that you could find a biker bar in a South American town at an elevation of 11,000 feet but, lo and behold, you can. There is simply no explanation for Norton Rats other than divine providence. They offer a wide selection of beer, and a view of the main plaza in Cusco from the narrow balconies. Flags from a hundred countries are nailed to the ceiling, giving you something to look at when your drinks get to you early due to the altitude. Even if the place has a bit of a divey vibe, its a welcome respite for travelers who have made it this far into the wild.

— The above was written by Writing Kimberly, Seed contributor.



Malachy’s – New York, New York
Malachy’s might be the most miserable place on Earth. Horrendous lighting, depressed staff, despondent clientele and a perfect Guinness every time. The fat, juicy 1/2 lb. burger is real good too. Somehow, the cook has been spared.

Nolan’s – Long Beach, New York
A free standing shack made of old cedar, Nolan’s looks like even the faintest ocean breeze will knock it over. Trashed motocycles and cars litter the adjacent lot. Every lifer in the place is crusty and pissed off. Coldest bottle of Bud ever served. Step out into the sun, across the street and stumble to the beach.

The Goat Hill Tavern – Costa Mesa, California
The Goat Hill Tavern, an out-of-the-way hole in Los Angeles Southern California, might be the region’s greatest anti-attraction. Hundreds of tap beers, cramped quarters, stale smoke and that God awful dive bar smell. Top it all off with the wannabe screenwriter next to you stirring his vodka with his finger while plotting his next “murder the movie exec” thriller at one in the afternoon. Lights, Camera, Misery!

PJ’s Pub – Baltimore, Maryland
Is PJ’s Pub the best daytime watering hole in history? Homemade Bloody Mary’s and baskets spicy Old Bay dusted steamed shrimp at noon chase away any hangover. Hours pass effortlessly until the Johns Hopkins engineering geeks and Lacrosse studs start to file in for their nightly revelry. Guys, if you’re lucky, maybe a girl will even show up.

Mission Hill Saloon – San Francisco, California
Mission Hill is the “Cheers” of dive bars. Dark, dingy and depressingly plain – but the misery stops there. Ice, ice cold beers served by good people. Excellent jukebox and locals that have no problem making you feel like a local.

The Cat’s Eye Pub – Baltimore, Maryland
Ah, the Cat’s Eye Pub. You can’t move, you can’t breathe. Old salts stare you down and threaten with daggers. Old cougars troll for new meat. Killer blues bands play way too loud, right in your ear. The lost leg of a dead sea captain hangs above the men’s urinal. Fun!

The Bronx Bar – Detroit, Michigan
The Bronx Bar is in the “happening” part of town, whatever that means. Great tunes, cold beers. Ultimately, it just looks real cool and divey from the outside. Pure American depression. Rejoice!

Catacombs Bar – Boulder, Colorado

Catacombs Bar is huge hole in the ground – literally. On a weeknight, it feels like “Land of the Lost.” Spacious and desolate, an alcoholic paleontologist’s dream. Tunes echo from the juke, drinks are served by pretentious, cruncher wannabes who are too cool for school. “Is there anybody out there?”

McSorley’s – New York, New York
Step down off street level and into history at McSorley’s. The oldest operating saloon in New York. Dingy, quiet – reverent even. Don’t go for the music, the TV, the pool table. Go there to drink, lament and repent. That’s what you do in a dive bar.

— The above was written by Drew Moss, Seed contributor.

Related:
* The 24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer
* 15 more great cities for drinking beer
* The 20 greatest cities in the world for foodies
* The 25 greatest cities in the world for drinking wine

My favorite Detroit dive bar: The Old Miami

The building at 3930 Cass Avenue in Detroit doesn’t look like much. A short, squat brick square with a green awning proclaiming it as “The Old Miami,” the space has actually had several different names throughout the years.

In the 40’s and 50’s it was called The Miami Lounge and was an after-work hang for car salesmen in the area. The 60’s saw it transition into Ken’s Lounge, a sleazy joint popular with prostitutes and pimps and the site of several shootings. It then did a brief stint as the New Miami, but a fire quickly ended that life.

In 1979, the building was purchased by a local Vietnam Vet, who created The Old Miami (Miami is both a nod to its former name and an acronym for Missing in Action Michigan) as a haven for all war veterans. Over time, as more young people and struggling artists have moved into the neighborhood, The Old Miami has stayed true to its roots as a veterans bar. Only now, the vets rubs elbows with the new crowd.

On any given day, you’ll likely find the older generation camped out at the bar, while the city’s younger residents sprawl across the beautiful backyard (complete with porch swing and fish pond) hidden behind the building. On summer nights, it’s the perfect place to catch one of the bar’s many live music shows.

The Old Miami gets my vote for best dive bar in Detroit because there’s no pretense here. It’s as much a space for veterans as is it for those fighting a different kind of battle, working to make Detroit a better city. It’s a true community bar, the kind of place where everyone knows your name, even if they’re likely to forget it by the next time they see you. Plus….all the drinks are served in plastic cups, and you just can’t get more dive-y than that.

Guy Fieri dishes on dive bars, and the best barbecue in the U.S.

When the editors of Gadling announced the first of our ‘theme days’ would be dive bars and restaurants, I was admittedly a little concerned. I usually prefer a dirty martini to a cold beer, and I’m the one who eats the carrots and celery sticks from the chicken wings platter before the bleu cheese dressing is gone. That’s not to say I can’t appreciate a good dive bar, and I’ve spent plenty a Sunday afternoon watching football with a cold Sam Adams in some of Boston’s best dives. But an expert? Not even close. So I turned to the only expert I know on the subject of dive bars and restaurants and asked for his input: The Next Food Network Star Guy Fieri.

Fieri is the host of four food shows – “Guy off the Hook,” “Guy’s Big Bite,” “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” In October 2008, Guy released his first book Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: An All-American Road Trip…with Recipes!, based on his TV show, which offers tales and tips from some of Guy’s favorite dives.

I caught up with Guy in Los Angeles and asked him to break down a few dive bar essentials for me.

What’s the best thing on the menu at any dive bar? It’s usually got to be something fried. Fried food is quick and just about anything tastes good once it’s been through a pool of hot oil. The key is to be creative and put your own spin on it like Bar-B-Q King in Charlotte, NC. Their fried chicken is money and it’s drenched in their top-secret homemade bbq sauce.

How can you tell an ‘authentic’ dive bar/restaurant from a wanna-be dive bar/restaurant? What are the top things every good dive bar should have? An authentic dive has wear-marks on the doors, floors and chairs. Décor isn’t front and center; it’s all about the food and the atmosphere. The best dive bars play good music and have savory characters, nostalgic nonsense, a dart board, and poorly working neons.

What’s the most important piece of dive bar etiquette any newbie should know? Don’t ask for it, just find it. That means ketchup, napkins, etc. Most dives aren’t fully staffed – you might even walk into a place where your waiter is also the chef and the cashier. He’s got enough on his plate, so if you need something, take a look around and grab it yourself.

Let’s talk food: What’s the staple dive bar/restaurant menu item? And what’s the proper way to eat it? Chicken wings with bleu cheese dressing. NO battered wings!! It’s a sin not to eat ALL the meat off the chicken. You’ve got to strip it to the bone. Also ask for your own bleu cheese to dip the wings in. That way the folks you’re dining with don’t accuse you of double-dipping.

Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled to eat at a dive bar/restaurant? Thanks to Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, I’ve been all over from the north to the south to the east to the west. I’ve met some stand-out people and enjoyed all different kinds of food. I love getting to know the people behind the establishments and having them teach me how to make one of their signature dishes. I walk away learning something new in the kitchen every time.

You can find Guy’s recipes on his website, or stop in to one of Guy’s restaurants next time you’re truckin’ through Cali.

Death of a dive bar: Mike’s Place in Tucson, Arizona

Your first dive bar is like your first love; you never forget it.

When I started college at the University of Arizona in Tucson back in 1989 I discovered Mike’s Place near the corner of Park and University next to campus. It didn’t look like much with its grotty interior, the smell of hot grease wafting from the kitchen, and mix of locals and students. But it did have two things going for it–the bartenders didn’t card much and there was a spacious patio where you could watch the sunset over the Tucson Mountains.

I spent a lot of time on that patio. The Cliffhangers, the U of A rock climbing club of which I was a member, gathered there at least once a week. We’d drink pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon or, if we were feeling flush, Sam Adams, and plan our next expedition.

The food wasn’t too bad if you were an undiscerning 19 year-old with no ability to cook for yourself. I usually ordered the hot wings. The owners claimed they made the hottest in town and while that’s debatable they certainly had some fire in them. My friend Chainsaw worked there and I once challenged him to cook me up a dozen wings I couldn’t eat. To this day I don’t know what the hell he put in them. He hurt me, but I won.

Then there were the nickel beers with Sunday breakfast, the slop bucket of extra PBR that turned Chainsaw off of drinking forever, and the guy who threatened to kill me with a nonexistent gun. Good times! Good times!It’s the patio and people I remember most. Fresh-faced college kids who couldn’t handle their beer got leered at by middle-aged drunks, while bikers guzzled gallons and kept to themselves. And in the midst of it all sat the Cliffhangers, partying late into the warm desert night but always getting up at dawn on Saturday to go climbing on Mt. Lemmon.

Mike’s Place has been gone for years. In the name of “development” the university built a parking garage next to it and a Marriott soon opened up. These blocked the view of the sunset and killed the main reason people gathered there. The bar shut its doors shortly after that.

The corner of Park and University looks different now. All the old places are gone and the buildings have been torn down and replaced with modern, clean, strip-mall suburbia. What used to be a tattered but living neighborhood now looks like just about everywhere else.

Mike’s Place lives on, though. It gave me an appreciation for a great human institution. I’ve been to many dive bars since, and have found that every culture has its equivalent. The chicharias of Peru, the backroom bars of Syria, the men-only drinking dens of India, all have something in common. They’re rough and poorly kept, places that look like nobody gives a damn about them but are truly loved by the regulars. Learning to appreciate dive bars gives you an unexpected passport to the world. Most tourists won’t go drinking in some dirty boozer where nobody speaks English but if you walk inside, grab a beer, and don’t look too closely at the food, people will recognize you for someone who enjoys the good things in life.

So thanks, Mike’s Place. All those sunsets and hot wings and drunken conversations actually helped me become a world traveler. Strange how things work out. Next month I’m off to Addis Ababa and I’ll be trying some of the local tej bet, the Ethiopian equivalent of Mike’s Place. No doubt I’ll get that old feeling of familiarity I’ve experienced in so many other dives. I wonder if I’ll find Chainsaw behind the counter cooking me up some hot wings?