The Best Bar in Vegas
Off the Strip
I'll admit it right off the bat. I'm a bar snob. I don't mean that I'll only hang out at places with a giant wine selection and $15 martinis (although those places can be awesome). I mean that in order for me to frequent a bar it has to meet certain criteria. Number 1 is that it can't be overpriced. You want to sell me a PBR for $4? Bud Light is 6 bucks? No thanks. It also has to have decent ambiance (which can be anything from comfy bar stools to an oldtimey jukebox), a friendly atmosphere, and tasty food. In short, the bar can't phone it in.
So, as I hiked the beautiful Mt. Charleston with several of my teacher friends today, and we all know that teachers like to have a cocktail once in a while, we discussed some of our regular places.
And I wondered, what IS the best bar in Vegas? The answer might surprise you. As far as I can tell, there isn't one. Well, not one that we could safely say takes the title of Vegas' Best Bar.
Sure, there are some places with good specials. Timbers is an old favorite because it's close to work and has a decent happy hour. Apache Joe's has pretty good drink specials. Carmine's has delicious food and a really good happy hour.
There are also some bars that have a cool ambiance. Insert Coins has video games all over the bar. Sierra Gold has a cool western theme and okay food. Mountainside Restaurant and Tavern has a great view of the mountains.
I have even been in bars with friendly bartenders and servers. Casinos tend to be good places for friendly people. Mugshots used to have great Midwestern people working in the bar before they changed owners. The bartender at Mulligan's will remember your name after you visit a couple of times.
My question is, with all of these bars that have the potential for greatness, why isn't one of them getting it perfectly right? I have a theory that there are a couple of contributing factors in Las Vegas that make it impossible to create a great bar.
#1 Video Poker
A friendly atmosphere is one of the most important parts of a great bar. In Las Vegas, however, it is hard to create that atmosphere. Every bar has video poker, which causes the customers to sit at their machines with their heads down. If someone comes up to talk to you, it is usually to ask you to move from their favorite machine.
#2 Limited Beer Selection
I understand that not everyone is a fan of microbrews. However, those of us who love them can't generally find them at local bars in Las Vegas. There are places like the Yard House or BJ's that have a large selection, but they are also often expensive and have more of a restaurant feel than a bar feel. There aren't a lot of local brewers here, and that can tend to limit the selection at the bars.
#3 No Closing Time
For most people this is probably a good thing. You can work any shift and go to the bar after work. Most places even have late night food and drink specials. Although I have never worked in a 24-hour bar, I have worked 3rd shift and know how hard it is. Bartenders or servers having to work those hours predictably get worn out and can be cranky.
As I said, this is simply a theory. Also, I have not been to every bar in the Las Vegas area, so I welcome any and all suggestions. I would love to try out some new places, and I would LOVE to find the best bar in Vegas.
Meanwhile, those of you who live in the area might want to try your hand at your own microbrews. See below for some suggestions!