10 best new bars in the U.S.
August 16th, 2012
01:00 PM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

When the conversation turns to cocktails, as it often does at Food & Wine, there’s one person we listen to loud and clear: Jim Meehan. He’s been called many things, including: Bartender of the Year; the bar manager at Manhattan’s outstanding PDT (a.k.a. the place that you walk through a phone booth, Bond-style, to enter); and Deputy Editor of Food & Wine's book series on cocktails. Because this is one of the best times in memory to be drinking great cocktails, we asked Meehan to pick his 10 favorite new spots in the U.S. He obliged:

Canon (Seattle, Washington)
At this genius spot, you can get gorgeously made cocktails like the gin-based La Bicyclette, served in a handy glass flask that you'll get in trouble for if you don't drink from it.  In a marked change from many bars you’ve probably been to, this one has an outstanding bathroom. In fact, it won a best bathroom award in 2011 from Eater.com.

The NoMad Hotel (New York City; pictured above)
“This feels like what it is - a big, beautiful American hotel bar,” says Meehan of this space, which is anchored by a 24-foot mahogany bar and boasts additional rooms, like the Library. Leo Robitschek breaks the cocktail menu into categories like Soft Cocktails and Dark Spirited. Those categorized as Classics aren’t classic classics; instead they tend toward terrific lesser-known drinks, like the Morning Glory Fizz, a mix of Scotch, absinthe, lemon and egg white.

The Barrelhouse Flat (Chicago, Illinois)
“This place is brilliant,” says Meehan, who also likes that it’s open later than most places in Chicago (in fact, the website doesn’t include closing times). The huge bar houses two concepts: Downstairs is casual, with a great jukebox and a gorgeous punchbowl set-up (available by the cup, the pitcher and the bowl). Upstairs, you can find more of that perennially popular speakeasy ambiance.

Pour Vous (Los Angeles, California)
This Parisian-style cocktail lounge, with its red velvet banquettes, is gorgeous. The menu focuses on French spirits and has category titles like Parfum, with drinks like Pret a Poire (Armagnac, pear eau de vie and bitters, atomized). “It’s fun,” says Meehan. Out back, there’s an old-school trolley car for smokers to hang out on.

The Hawthorne (Boston, Massachusetts)
Jackson Cannon is one of Meehan’s favorite mixologists. (Cannon also oversees the drinks at the neighboring Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard, which makes things easy if you want to get something to eat before or after The Hawthorne.) The space is made up of several lounges, including a comfy living room-style one outfitted with a vintage Russian vodka chiller.

Williams & Graham (Denver, Colorado)
“Sean Kenyon is just killing it,” Meehan says approvingly. “And he’s successfully figured out the hidden entrance scenario.” To enter Williams & Graham, drinkers walk through a faux bookstore and past a bookcase into the dark, sexy space. Cocktails include the altitudinally appropriate Smoky Mountain (a mix of local honey vodka and mezcal).

Woodsman Tavern (Portland, Oregon)
Like the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, this place is a collaboration of all-stars. Mixologist Evan Zimmerman is teamed up with Duane Sorenson (owner of the exceptional Stumptown coffee) and chef Jason Barwikowski (formerly of Clyde Common). “It’s really comfortable, has great food and has the amenity of one of the city’s best bartenders making your drinks,” says Meehan.

Bellocq (New Orleans, Louisiana)
“Here, we have an elegant alternative to the craziness of Bourbon Street,” Meehan says. Bellocq, a classic-looking spot in the new Hotel Modern, features the team from cocktail bar Cure: Neal Bodenheimer, Kirk Estopinal and Matthew Kohnke. “They’re focusing on cool things, like great cobblers [refreshing, fruit-based drinks]. Making good drinks in New Orleans is challenging: It’s hot! The food is rich! And they get it done.”

Scott & Co. (Tucson, Arizona)
This place isn’t brand new (it opened in the summer of 2010), but for Meehan it’s a terrific recent discovery. “Basically, it’s an elite NYC bar in the middle of Arizona,” he says. It’s small, and tucked in next to a restaurant. The seasonal menu features drinks like the Preakness Punch (peppercorn-infused gin, yellow Chartreuse and lemon) and the Vagabond (tequila, sage-infused agave nectar, lime and orange bitters).

Midnight Cowboy (Austin, Texas)
This Prohibition-era speakeasy is in a space formerly occupied by the Midnight Cowboy Modeling massage parlor. A buzzer labeled "Harry Craddock" lets you in. “No way you’d know the place was there if you weren’t looking,” says Meehan, who is good at finding hidden bar entrances. Drink selections include Dill + Tonic (dill-infused gin and tonic liqueur) and Hot & Bothered (two kinds of rum, ginger beer and Fire & Damnation bitters).

More from Food & Wine

America’s Best Bars

Best Beer Bars in the US

Best Burgers in the US

Best Pizza Places in the US

Ultimate Cocktail Primer

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Bars • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip

soundoff (97 Responses)
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    April 18, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  4. Nina

    Good to know stuff but Im not sure I'd use it! Bars on such lists become for no known reason, espensive and that sort of sucks! So, Im still gonna go to my old place! If any of you make it to one of these places, put your exppirience up here. Just for the fun of it, I'd try to run a survey! A friend of mine has an account with one of the best online survey tools that is lying unused. I want to do something about it! Sounds lame but need to ro something at the minute.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:26 am |
  5. publicidade

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    August 22, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  6. Nigel T

    My two cents:
    Nomad in New York: Beautiful bar, great drinks, douchey crowd.
    Bellocq in NOLA is great. Perfect blend of great cocktails, sexy room yet no attitude from the bar team.

    August 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
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    August 22, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  8. bill

    Best bar with great history was the Wagon Wheel in Mountain View Cal. As you enjoy your cell phones, computers and all the electronic gadgets used for commercial and military applications, think of that bar as the place were genius folks gathered every night to celebrate their achievements, talk business, meet the endless women parading through the place. I have enough stories about that bar to fill a book. That was my bar and was there every night, will never forget the good times. Sorry folks the place closed about thirty years ago.

    August 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Hulla B. Loo

      Sounds like a dump...

      August 22, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Just sayin'

      Sounds like a g@y bar...

      August 22, 2012 at 11:57 am |
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    August 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  10. John

    That was Arlington, near the heart of our capital. Strait men, strait women and stiff drinks with enough foo foo to blow your skirt up.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  11. snookers

    sniff. I expected 10 pics, not just one.

    August 18, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  12. texas2e

    I appreciate the tip on how to get into Midnight Cowboy. After reading about it in, I believe, "Community Impact" newspaper or perhaps "Austin Chronicle" I asked the operator of "The Best Wurst" food cart on 6th Street about it and he told me that you had to have a reservation, know the right button to push and have a password! If you are in Austin and looking for a great bar, I highly recommend Peche on 4th St where they serve traditional absinthe and a menu of artisan quality cocktails in the ambiance of fin de siecle Europe.

    August 18, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  13. .

    foo foo shee shee bars. Except for the one in Austin. They don't let foo foo shee shee bars in Austin. They let them in Houston and Dallas, but not in Austin.

    August 18, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  14. John

    Try A-Town in Alexandria. It's new, hot and happening. Drinks and food are best. Scott Parker is a supreme host.

    August 18, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  15. man air max griffey

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    August 18, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  16. Erik

    Oh no, another "best of" list for bars. That means it's the best $30 margarita they ever had, stuffed full of fluffy adjectives like "hand poured", "crystal stirred", "organic Himalayan limes" but with precious little decent tequila. No thanks, I'll either make my own or find a local friendly bar with down to earth prices.

    August 17, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Ron Long

      I agree!

      August 18, 2012 at 5:59 am |
    • sman1234

      I know seriously. When I see those types of drink descriptions on a menu all I hear in my head is cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. I am not interested in a weak cocktail that cost more than my entre. When I order a Vodka & Coke I want to be able to take an eye test through it.

      August 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Maty

      Yeah, I'd rather just drink the same old same old in some generic highway off-ramp saloon, too. Why be curious or expand your palette and standards? Status quo, babe!

      August 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  17. murfizoid

    sweet berry wine!

    August 17, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  18. ftlbobby305

    Just to get this survey all riled up.....how about which is your favorite GAY bar? To name a few would be 440 in San Francisco and Cafe Lafitte in Exile in New Orleans (where they had to move up one block because straight people made them). So how bout it? What's your favorite gay bar?

    August 17, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  19. ftlbobby305

    Just to start a wildfire here in what is a not very interesting survey, how about your favorite GAY bar?? I have several, 440 in San Francisco and Cafe Lafitee in Exile in New Orleans. Can't wait for the response to this one.

    August 17, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  20. herfules

    San Francisco is the cocktail capital of the US, and not one SF bar in the top ten? No way. Not credible. :)

    August 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • H. Deca


      August 18, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  21. TED

    williams and graham is overrated....there are far better bars in denver.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  22. M.E.

    Should be renamed 10 bars full of hipsters. Screw that, just give me a place that isn't full of idiots and a decent selection of various good booze. Better yet, just give me a nice bottle of something red, preferably French, possibly Italian, or some of our nice local microbrews at home. I looked up where Williams&Graham is, saw that it was in the Highlands, and immediately decided that no bar could ever be worth that level of annoyance.

    August 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Truth™@ME

      I've lived in Denver since 1994 and having been to Highlands once will suffice me for the rest of my days...

      August 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  23. Jeann

    Wow, such Americans are all such alcoholics. You should learn to be more refined and dignified in your drinking, much like we Europeans are. This is why the world is not taking America seriously.

    August 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • rude american

      sod off

      August 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
      • rude american


        August 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

      Is that the reason.....Europeans don't drink do they?

      August 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Brian32

      Funny you say this. Europeans were considered the least behaved drinkers in the world and most likely to get arrested for public intoxication/nuisance along with most likely an alcoholic according to world polls.

      August 17, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  24. Tap

    The Red Table...Huntington Beach CA...

    August 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  25. zaglossus

    Foodie and Boozy lists just something to take up empty space on a slow news day. Nobody, unless you work for a gourmet magazine, is going to go to more than one or two of these places in their entire lives.

    August 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  26. Olaf Big

    I could never understand coctail craze. Nothing beats a glass of good wine, a mug of good beer, or neat Scotch (no ice to dilute the good stuff please). Gin & Tonic is one exception to the rule.

    August 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • eltroyo

      I never understood people that thought their taste were absolutely correct and everyone else was wrong.

      There are many great cocktails ...try a Sazerac, Fitzgerald or a Whiskey Smash sometime. I too love beer & wine but a Sazerac made with a good rye whiskey is amazing.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • eltroyo

      I guess what I'm trying to say ..stop limiting yourself.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  27. Mike

    Those in North Carolina should check out Bida Manda in downtown Raleigh about to open within the next month. One of the coolest decors for a bar I have ever seen!

    August 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  28. Ray Smith

    What all of you super-numerary-bar-wannabees need to do is get your head out of your backside, and stop thinking that because you pay a king's ransom for a drink in some over-stuffed-furnitured-bar, that it makes you somehow "special." The best "new" bar I've ever been to is my own living room, where I mix-up some of the finest drinks anywhere, among friends and/or family, don't pay an arm-and-a-leg for any booze, and of course never speak in a noblesse oblige tone of voice that no one can understand, let alone hear.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • There's Help If You Want It™@Ray Smith


      August 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • The Witty One@Ray


      August 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Benn

      Way to shoot that balloon out of the child's hands. Now go blow the candles out of someone else's birthday cake. Better still, go p!ss up a rope.

      August 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • lindaluttrell

      Bravo, Ray! Sounds like you'e got it going on! I also have the best music at my bar...blues & bourbon! B&B never fails!

      August 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  29. Ally

    I do like reading these lists for info on where to go if I'm travelling. But the title should be 10 Best New Bars the author Has Been to.

    Think of how many great places that aren't on this list just because the author didn't travel there. The Old Fashioned in Madison, WI gets my vote for top 10. Great place!

    August 17, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  30. Colin

    You guys should check out this place called Dukes in Milwaukee.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  31. RobD York PA

    Honorable mention: Holy Hound Tap Room, Market and Beaver Streets, York, PA

    August 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  32. Eriberto Aguilar

    I am not a fan of Scott &Co/47 Scott. I found the place to be insanely pretentious in a way I'd never seen before in Tucson, and extraordinarily so. Placing the words "Eat. Drink." on your menu and website is supposed to sound hip, to the point and somehow classy, but that sort of thing has been annoyingly overdone over the past decade. Calling your drinks "hand crafted" is as empty a statement as I can imagine: of course someone used their hands to pour things into a shaker and glass. Unless the bartender actually stirs it with his fingers, then I guess they can claim that "hand crafted" means something special in this case. No, the place offers nothing special except its own narcissism. It's not BAD, exactly, but it's hardly anything special, and certainly not at the prices they're charging. It's places like this that make me regret ever being excited about downtown redevelopment in Tucson.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • AJ

      Sounds like someone who has more of a financial stake in a rival bar than mere criticism. Why don't you fess up about your connections with another Downtown Tucson bar? I mean, if you're going to be honest, Eriberto - be honest.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
      • Jen

        Have to agree with AJ on this one...

        August 17, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  33. NoMoreFedoras

    The cut-and-past, paint by numbers, über provincial bar formula of worn wooden tables, twisty mustaches and votive candles is long dead in cities that set these trends. It's as amazing as it is disappointing that the food writers of this country are still so behind the curve.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  34. Vern Sawyer

    The idea of people drinking liquor for culinary purposes and not just to get drunk literally turns my stomach.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Joe

      What, are you a teenager or something?

      August 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Eriberto Aguilar

      Excellent comment.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
      • AJ

        What's the name of that bar in Downtown Tucson you have you money sunk into again?

        August 16, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  35. Ashley

    Scott & Co is Tucson is AMAZING. The owners own the restaurant right next door, 47 Scott, with equally impressive food.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  36. Peter

    Pour Vous rocks! Cocktails are amazing!! and the trolley outside is a touch of class

    August 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  37. O.T.

    Plug Ugly's in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore is an outstanding new bar/restaurant.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  38. Ozy

    Here's a tip for the editor: the Smokey Mountains are in Tennessee. A drink named "Smoky Mountain" is not regionally appropriate for Denver.

    August 16, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Pete

      The mountains have been quite smoky here lately

      August 16, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Joe

      The writer said "altitudinally appropriate" name, not regional. Mezcal is made by roasting which gives it a smoky flavor, hence the name and omission of the "e" in the aforementioned Smokey Mountains.

      August 17, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  39. PIssedOffGnome

    St Paul Minn, old fire station house
    Best bar in the world.
    best food, best craft beer drafts and bootls (75+/400+ draft/bottle) and over 300 scotch/whiskies!!

    August 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  40. Sam Meyer

    I've only been to two of these (NoMad and Bellocq), but I highly recommend them. I think I'm going to have to use this as a checklist. Where's that Powerball ticket?

    August 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  41. Homer Simpson

    How about Moe's?

    August 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Moe

      Weight of the world got you down and you wanna end your life
      Bills to pay, a dead-end job, and problems with the wife
      But don't throw in the towel because there's a place right down the block
      Where you can drink all your miseries away

      At Flaming Moe's
      (Let's all go to Flaming Moe's)
      Happiness is just a Flaming Moe away
      Happiness is just a Flaming Moe away

      August 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  42. Bobby

    Bars are for losers.

    August 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Yeah Buddy®

      Not if you own a cell phone.

      August 17, 2012 at 6:34 am |
  43. disagreement

    Oh the life of a professional bar hopper. Wearing my top hat and monacle as a take my private train from town to town speaking of things like the DOW and croquet.

    August 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • penguins42

      Rightie-o, my good chap. Let us indulge in beverages of an alcoholic nature whilst discussing the finer things of life.

      August 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  44. Al

    Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, in Kalamazoo, Michigan
    Tons of microbrews, in an old downtown building, and a neat idea. The price of beers rises and drops every 15 minutes depending on how many people buy it. Then once a night the whole market collapses and all the beers fall to rock bottom prices.

    August 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • O

      Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo is also pretty awesome! Best beer in the country!

      August 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
      • Luke

        I like Bells but it is Midwest specific. I think it might have been the second or third micro I ever had (cherry stout) back in '93.

        Oregon – tons of great beers here that the midwest and east coast never see. Heck, I've planned my next vacation around coastal breweries.

        August 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
        • RA Caldwell


          As a 20 year Oregon beer drinker I'd encourage you to try something else. Oregon has a lot of breweries but most of them serve the same IPA swill as the next – rough, primitive and so skunky you'd think there was a skunk in every batch. You'd do better in Washington or BC.

          August 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
      • eltroyo

        Bells beer is really good but their bar is lacking taste & style. I also wouldn't go there to sample anything but their beer. Do they even offer cocktails?

        August 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  45. John Smith

    Best Burgers... Louis', New Haven, CT... If you sak for ketchup, they ask to depart... perfect! Thank you, CNN of including In 'n Out in CA, a super chain, the very best in everything !!!!

    August 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Joe

      Well f*@k them...

      August 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • RA Caldwell

      Burgers? Including In 'n Out is like including Sears in designer clothing suppliers. Basic burgers, nothing outstanding, OK shakes. You get a Bible quote with every package. I avoid them for bad food, but lump them with Chik-fil-a and Dominoes as businesses I don't want my money to go to.

      August 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
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