Gourmet Pub Grub: The 40 Best Bars in America for Food Lovers

Leave those basic burgers and no-frills fries behind at these watering holes where you can slake your thirst without sacrificing your appetite.

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Haute Watering Holes

Getting to sip top tipples doesn’t preclude having a gastronomic experience — at least not at the country’s top 40 bars for food lovers. These bars, pubs, lounges and speakeasies could have phoned it in when it came to the food menu, but instead they sought top talents to produce dishes that go far beyond cheese and charcuterie or a gourmet burger. Think sardines a la plancha, eye-catching okonomiyaki and seafood towers overflowing with the ocean’s bounty. These watering holes are known first and foremost for their drinks, but maybe they shouldn’t be.

Photo of Matador Bar’s avocado pizza courtesy of The Miami Beach EDITION

The Alembic Bar (San Francisco)

Known for its flattering lighting and its throwback cocktails that come with stories, this Haight Street watering hole deserves more love for what’s flying out of the kitchen. While the menu changes with the chef’s whims, there are two dishes that would incite a riot if they were removed from the repertoire: jerk-spiced duck hearts served with pickled pineapple and thyme salt, and bone marrow smeared with caper gremolata and garlic confit. Other highlights include house ricotta, Berkshire pork fritters and a Meyer lemon parfait for dessert. A backyard garden supplies the bartenders and cooks with the herbs they need to turn out inspired drinks and plates.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Dalton

Go to: The Alembic Bar

Leyenda (New York City)

Most flock to Leyenda Brooklyn Cocteleria to sip a drink from renowned cocktail maven Ivy Mix. The Latin American-inspired Brooklyn bar turns out drinks like the Say Anything, with jalapeno-infused tequila, cachaca, Aperol, watermelon, lime, mint and salt. It tastes like vacation. So does the food. Chef Sue Torres’ churrasco skirt steak is memorable long after the check is settled. So, too, are her panuchos — fried tortillas topped with coconut-habanero shrimp, refried beans and avocado. Mix jokes that she "accidentally opened a restaurant," but the kitchen and bar are equal parts awesome.

Photo courtesy of Hanna Lee

Go to: Leyenda

Drink (Boston)

Drink’s cocktail game changed Fort Point when it won Tales of the Cocktail World’s Best Cocktail Bar award in 2013. Maybe it even changed Boston. The cocktails, like the food, rely on farms for the freshest ingredients, and the bar team and kitchen staff work together seamlessly. While it’s impossible to make a stop at Drink without dipping thick-cut fries into malt vinegar aioli, in-the-know visitors save room for steak tartare, savory doughnut holes, the foie gras frankfurter and the ice cream sandwich of the day. Every visit feels like you received a coveted invitation to a cocktail party.

Photo courtesy of Wayne Chinnock

Go to: Drink

Vanguard Bar (Milwaukee)

Opening a food-lover’s bar doesn’t mean you need polished utensils and cloth napkins. Vanguard Bar, which makes its name on a list of more than 100 brown spirits, is also a sausage emporium. The top-selling sausage is the duck BLT, which comes wearing shredded lettuce, hollandaise aioli and bacon, but the bar is also home to the original Milwaukee-style bratwurst topped with cheese curds, cheddar cheese and Cheez Whiz. The 26 sausages in total tempt patrons with exotic combinations like octopus chorizo and, for vegetarians, Soy Meets World. Each link comes with a recommended beer pairing.

Photo courtesy of Vanguard Bar

Go to: Vanguard Bar

Pub Royale (Chicago)

The first thing patrons check when they enter Pub Royale is the draft list at the back of the India-inspired pub. That’s where a board displays a swath of low-bitterness beers and ciders because they pair best with the spicy Indian food coming out of the kitchen. Cocktails, too — like an Iced Royale Chai, with whiskey, coconut, chai, cinnamon and black pepper — can tame the heat. One of the most-popular dishes, Gobi Manchurian, is the ideal bar snack, with crispy cauliflower, sweet and spicy Manchurian sauce, sesame and cashews. Other favorites include the buttered paneer, India hot chicken, mussels and naan, and salt cod samosas.

Photo courtesy of Martha Williams

Go to: Pub Royale

Trou Normand (San Francisco)

San Francisco’s Trou Normand is known equally for meticulously crafted cocktails and in-house charcuterie. The drinks let French brandies and spirits take the lead, most notably Armagnac and Calvados. Trou Normand, after all, refers to the French tradition of taking a small drink between courses to cleanse the palate. The owners feel the rich, fatty flavors of cured meats stand up well to distilled spirits, hence the 40 different types of charcuterie on offer, from the familiar mortadella, bresaola and 'nduja to exotic salame like rabbit with preserved orange, cumin and cara cara. Order charcuterie by the board for the best value, and also consider the roast pork off the dinner menu.

Photo courtesy of Colin Price

Go to: Trou Normand

Nightcap (Austin)

The cocktails are fun to order at Nightcap because of their clever names like Tequila Mockingbird and Jalapeno Business, but the real magic lies in the fact that you can order a next-level dessert with your drinks. Take the doughnut and foie gras, for example: a ricotta beignet, lemon, pickled blueberry, foie buttercream and granola. Nightcap has plenty to entice you on the savory side, too. The roasted chicken breast with potato dauphine, black garlic, maitake mushroom and truffle jus has already emerged a winner at the still-new spot.

Photo courtesy of Kristyn Miller Photo

Go to: Nightcap

Cure (New Orleans)

NOLA is smitten with Cure’s happy hour, which stretches seven days a week and includes 12 classic cocktails priced at $6 each. The bar’s generosity during peak hours isn’t the only ride worth buying tickets for on Freret Street: The seasonal cocktails are fiercely original, and the small plates are so fresh they don’t feel like bar food. Chef Jason Klutts says he can’t get enough of his own steak tartare, but patrons are also smitten with the pimento cheese and the crunchy, oven-fried chicken served with arugula salad.

Photo courtesy of Cure

Go to: Cure

Eat the Rich (Washington, D.C.)

Ice-cold Virginia oysters are the yin to hot hushpuppies’ yang at Eat the Rich. The punk-rock bar from James Beard nominee Derek Brown is so unpretentious that the cocktails come in pitchers, oyster cages serve as chandeliers, and bartenders seem to instantly know your name. They serve Rappahannock River Oysters — some of the region’s best bivalves — plus a slate of seafood dishes like trout hash, a fried fluke sandwich, prawn mac and cheese, and "redneck laundry," or caviar served with Route 11 potato chips. Wash it all down with the Buck Hunter, a pitcher of bourbon, house ginger syrup, lemon, soda and angostura bitters.

Photo courtesy of Scott Suchman

Go to: Eat the Rich

Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen (Denver)

Euclid Hall borrowed drinking foods from around the world to complement its lengthy, idiosyncratic beer list (divided by types of math to indicate drinking difficulty level). That’s why you’ll find pad Thai pig ears served alongside Bavarian schnitzel and Canadian poutine. Where the kitchen really shines, though, is sausages. From short-rib kielbasa to boudin noir, there’s something for every sip. What you’ll notice is that chefs and bartenders share one counter during service — a sign that the food and drink operations are as linked as their sausage.

Photo courtesy of Chad Chisholm

Go to: Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen

Armoury D.E. (Dallas)

Armoury D.E. graciously keeps its kitchen firing until 2 a.m., which means haute Hungarian late-night eats for the crowd in Deep Ellum, an artsy neighborhood in East Dallas. Gulyas, a Hungarian goulash soup, goes great with the extensive set of double-distilled fruit brandies and strong house cocktails. There are some popular picks that don’t carry a Hungarian accent, like the short-rib burger made even better by pecan-smoked bacon and the charred pulpo featuring octopus that simmers in white wine and Spanish spices before seeing the grill.

Photo courtesy of Armoury D.E.

Go to: Armoury D.E.

Standby (Detroit)

The kitchen and the bar play like old friends at Standby. That’s why the barbecue sauce is spiked with mezcal, olives are marinated in gin, and carrots get a boost from brandy. The cocktail newcomer found on the Belt has a substantial food menu with hearty entrees that lean a little Renaissance Festival, such as milk-braised lamb, Moroccan steak and lacquered turkey leg. If you’re just grazing, there’s horchata and shrimp cakes, duck-fat-fried almonds and an American take on the classic Japanese street food takoyaki that folds in hot sauce, feta and fennel pollen.

Photo courtesy of Sal Rodriguez

Go to: Standby

Interurban (Portland, Ore.)

North Portland’s Interurban humbly describes itself as a neighborhood drinking den, but its enviable whiskey list and command of craft cocktail recipes add up to more, especially considering that the kitchen cranks out memorable snacks for $16 or less. The boar burger satisfies on a carnal level, with Los Roast Hatch chiles, fried onions, queso botanero, pickled jalapenos and aioli. Jonny Henry does all his curing and sausage-making in-house, which doesn’t go unnoticed on the Publican’s Board, boasting rabbit rillettes, venison-cherry terrine and more. There’s also a corn dog, for those who fondly recall going to a state fair.

Photo courtesy of Interurban

Go to: Interurban

Matador Bar (Miami)

The menu at Matador Bar is in the hands of recent Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford, who also serves as the executive chef de cuisine at Matador Room next door. To further the pedigree, this one-two punch of bar and restaurant is a creation of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, so you know the bar bites will go way beyond average. Instead, plates pop with Floridian appeal. The raw shaved Florida red snapper comes with a zesty green-chile dressing and crunchy rice, and the peekytoe crab and corn fritter is golden-brown enough to go with a cold beer. If you’re looking for a dish worthy of snapping a pic, there’s the avocado pizza, whose namesake vegetable fans out like a rose.

Photo courtesy of The Miami Beach EDITION

Go to: Matador Bar

Bar Goto (New York City)

Bar Goto channels Tokyo with the vibes of both an izakaya and a Japanese-style whiskey bar. You know the drinks sing, since they come from Pegu Club alum Kenta Goto, but nothing is lost in translation when it comes to the food, either. The okonomiyaki — a savory pancake that comes in four flavors — is a work of art, and the miso wings bring waves of umami. It helps that Goto’s mother had an okonomiyaki shop in Chiba, Japan, where he chopped the cabbage and made the dough when he was growing up. For an outside-the-box pairing, try gobo fries made out of burdock root with a plum Sazerac.

Photo courtesy of Paul Wagtouicz

Go to: Bar Goto

Holeman and Finch Public House (Atlanta)

The Holeman and Finch burger is as beloved in Atlanta as the Braves, and it pops up on national best burger lists on the regular. But there’s much more to Linton Hopkins’ menu: The chef is committed to using the whole animal, with dishes like Buffalo chicken skins, veal brains with black butter and toast, and clay-pot onions with kale and lamb testicles acting as proof. Even the cocktails feel chef-driven. The Chrysanthemum goes down smooth, with housemade chamomile liqueur, bittersweet vermouth, blanc vermouth, absinthe and thyme.

Photo courtesy of Bart Sasso

Go to: Holeman and Finch Public House

Portland Hunt + Alpine Club (Portland, Maine)

Portland was a city best known for beer until the Portland Hunt + Alpine opened in 2013 with cocktails that drew national attention. Riffs on classic cocktails — plus some originals — continue to attract imbibers, as does the Scandinavian comfort food worthy of an evening at The Beard House. Try the Norseman cocktail — an aquavit old fashioned that's been fat-washed with brown butter and garnished with apple slices — alongside the bar’s signature Smorgasbord, which overflows with meat, fish, local cheese, steamed clams and breads. Other must-try items from the small but mighty kitchen include gravlax sandwiches, popcorn spiked with green-chile powder and a butterscotch budino with whipped creme fraiche.

Photo courtesy of Meredith Perdue

Go to: Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

The NoMad Bar (New York City)

This Super Bowl of hotel bars has all the finesse and flavor of its sister restaurant, the acclaimed NoMad, but the bar setting enables guests to kick back a bit. Cocktails may have been the intended main draw, but the food gets equal buzz. Bring a small team to take down the chicken pot pie made NoMad-worthy with black truffle and foie gras (using the restaurant’s renowned chicken), or try the burger that yields return visits because of its Pat LaFreida patty that incorporates dry-aged beef, bone marrow and suet (delectable fat). There are also three types of tartare, a refreshing lobster roll and even a hot dog wrapped in bacon with black truffle and celery.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Michael Chin

Go to: The NoMad Bar

Latitude 29 (New Orleans)

The godfather of tiki drinks, Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, is behind Latitude 29, so bendy straws and other Instagram-worthy garnishes are the lei of the land. Asian eats have always been the natural pairing for fresh and fruity tiki drinks, but this French Quarter bar serves food inspired by the islands of Hawaii instead of Cantonese flavors more typical of mid-century tiki bars. The best example is a take on loco moco featuring a hamburger patty, coconut rice and savory mushroom gravy. Other stunners include cross-cut pork ribs, a mahi mahi banh mi sandwich and a reimagined take on bacon-wrapped rumaki. Latitude 29 cuts no corners in the kitchen: Almost all bread is baked in-house, and microgreens are sourced from a nearby farm in Tremé.

Photo courtesy of Latitude 29

Go to: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29

Libertine (Indianapolis)

Libertine takes the humble deviled eggs and elevates them into something for foodies. Order them and marvel when three varieties arrive: classic; smoked trout with Kentucky spoonfish caviar and beet pickled with horseradish. That’s just a nibble of Libertine’s bar bites, designed to complement a sophisticated slate of cocktails named for personalities such as Andy Warhol and David Bowie. One cocktail comes in a teacup, forming a juxtaposition with the far less dainty food, including chicken wings that are cooked sous vide in bacon fat for four hours before they hit the fryer. There’s also a cornmeal waffle with fried chicken livers and barbecued mushrooms, for those with an appetite.

Photo courtesy of Libertine

Go to: Libertine

The Partisan (Washington, D.C.)

The drink menus are dizzying at The Partisan. It’s hard to know where to begin: with a daring wine program that showcases Lambrusco and other eccentric sips; a beer menu full of sours; or a spirits selection that’s hard to rival. Pick your poison, then grab a sushi-menu-like checklist to order housemade charcuterie that’s serious about using the whole animal. There are absinthe-lime pork rillettes, Thai basil bresaola and a pickled half smoke, to name a few choices. Follow the meat board up with a seared pork trotter with bacon kraut, bacon-wrapped partridge or a gaucho-style lamb shoulder sure to satisfy caveman cravings.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Bialecki

Go to: The Partisan

Canon Whiskey & Bitters Emporium (Seattle)

Bring your spectacles if you plan to peruse Canon’s award-winning, 160-page list of spirits, dubbed the Captain’s List. Chances are that if you’ve heard of a spirit, the bar has it available. But there are more attractions at Canon beyond the library of spirits and 40 well-crafted cocktails. The food menu, which changes every two months with the seasons, is full of whimsical selections like the angostura-bourbon nuts and the signature bone-marrow luge that can be a vehicle for sherry, mezcal or whiskey. Other options include the pork belly bun with apple slaw and the pork loin with carrot romesco.

Photo courtesy of Canon

Go to: Canon

Band of Bohemia (Chicago)

With much of the ownership’s lineage hailing from famed, Michelin-starred Chicago icon Alinea, expectations are high at Band of Bohemia. The culinary brewhouse is renowned for slightly bonkers brews like guava-pink peppercorn and cocoa nib-fig-bay rum black ale. The food menu complements the draft list by recommending small plates to pair with each quirky pour. A spunky banana curry with roasted cauliflower, goat-milk caramel, peanuts and eggplant goes with the lime-leaf-lemongrass-jasmine beer, for example. Meat lovers will be especially satisfied with grilled steaks from humane purveyor Jefferson Township.

Photo courtesy of Ruby Rubio

Go to: Band of Bohemia

Employees Only (New York City)

Try to find a bucket list of Big Apple bars that doesn’t include Employees Only. The West Village titan shares responsibility for birthing the craft cocktail movement that’s cresting today, but by no means should you go there for drinks only. The carefully sourced menu was designed with cocktail pairings in mind, such as the Provencal, a take on a gin martini using herbes-de-Provence-infused vermouth; it begs for a dozen fresh East Coast oysters. Want something cooked? Try bone marrow poppers, bacon-wrapped New Zealand lamb chops or elk loin with Yukon potatoes, oyster mushrooms, Tuscan kale and charred onion.

Photo courtesy of Emilie Baltz

Go to: Employees Only

American Sardine Bar (Philadelphia)

Most swim to American Sardine Bar for the small but well-curated craft beer list that touches on almost every style of suds. But the name of the bar is a clue that there’s some food as well, namely sardines prepared four ways: sauteed, grilled, a la plancha or fried. (If you count sardines on a sandwich, the number rounds up to five.) The small but flavorful fish go great with a cold saison. Additional dishes include the spaghetti sandwich and the occasional "Pittsburgh cheesesteak" that pays homage to the Steel City’s beloved Primanti Bros.

Photo courtesy of American Sardine Bar

Go to: American Sardine Bar

Butcher and the Rye (Pittsburgh)

Yes, there are wacky murals, antler light fixtures and taxidermy, but this bar that nods at lodge culture is big-city refined when it comes to food and libations. Known for cocktails, an 800-bottle whiskey list and an attractive beer selection, this Cultural District saloon is also the first Pittsburgh bar to be nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for outstanding bar program since the category was created. Richard DeShantz’s food menu is designed to pair with whiskey, including dishes like Dirty Pasta, with ground duck, strozzapreti, sage, brandy and Pecorino Romano. The Sunday Gravy, with tomatoes, ricotta and lamb neck, is just as savory.

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Florentine

Go to: Butcher and the Rye

Lion’s Share (San Diego)

In a craft-beer-soaked city fueled by fish tacos, it’s a nice change of pace to visit a bar that serves broody cocktails with game meat, like the bar’s beloved antelope sliders. They’re adorned with red-onion marmalade, smoked Gouda cheese and grain-mustard aioli, and make a great first act. Another popular dish that goes great with the cocktails at Lion’s Share is the rabbit hand pie held together by a duck fat pie crust. Chef Mark Bolton recommends trying a rye-based cocktail called De la Louisianne to pair with his elk loin steak served with caramelized Brussels sprouts, Honeycrisp apples, smoked onion puree, grits and a Cabernet reduction.

Photo courtesy of Lion’s Share

Go to: Lion’s Share

Julep (Houston)

Julep serves everything you’d want at your dream Derby Day party: pimento cheese, johnnycakes, oysters, hushpuppies and drinks that define the South. Alba Huerta stirs a mean mint julep, Sazerac and Ramos gin fizz, for example. Those with deep pockets and discerning palates can even order a Pappy Van Winkle bourbon tasting. When it comes to food, the seafood tower is the top pick, arriving with lobster, crab, oysters, scallops, shrimp and fino sherry to sip on. Smoked-fish deviled eggs make a nice start to a meal in the gray-and-white-hued cocktail bar.

Photo courtesy of Julep

Go to: Julep

The Rabbit Hole (Minneapolis)

This husband-and-wife-owned bar — modeled after a Korean pojangmacha — has a sense of humor. Just look at Kat and Thomas Kim’s best-selling Harold & Kumar Poutine, with house-cut fries, pork curry gravy, kimchi, caramelized onion, Parmesan, cheddar, soft-poached egg and chipotle aioli. That monster dish, plus the Rice Rice Baby (kimchi-fried rice with bacon and pickled jalapenos), preps stomachs for the bar’s inventive, stiff drinks. The honey pig saam, double-fried chicken wings and go go noodles are also worth the calories.

Photo courtesy of Julia Merle-Smith

Go to: The Rabbit Hole

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (Phoenix)

No stranger to "best bars" lists, Bitter & Twisted boasts a serious setting (its 1920s-era Luhrs City Center address) and has an even more serious cocktail program. More than a few minutes are required to flip through the drink menu. The food, on the other hand, can only be described as fun. They’re in on the ramen burger craze, for starters: Crispy ramen noodles form the bun. Traditionalists can try the dumpling burger, whose pork and beef patty is made even better by the addition of dumpling sauce. Be sure to start every meal with Hurricane Popcorn blitzed with Asian spices, then end with booze-infused "high spirited" cupcakes.

Photo courtesy of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

Go to: Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

Tørst (New York City)

The spunky beer list at Tørst is biblical in size, with rare finds that practically emit a bat signal for beer geeks to come hither. Though suds are the main attraction at the sister bar to the Michelin-starred restaurant Luksus, Chef Daniel Burns’ bar snacks span a fine take on Welsh rarebit, kedgeree (smoked whitefish, curry and soft-boiled egg) and a duck confit sandwich with spicy cabbage and pickled cucumber. It’s imperative that guests order a dish that comes with the bar’s housemade, traditional Danish rye bread, such as the charcuterie plate. Those who visit on Sundays will get a traditional United Kingdom-inspired Sunday roast.

Photo courtesy of Signe Birck

Go to: Tørst

The Rum Line, Open Seasonally (Miami)

The Rum Line stocks 165 varieties of its namesake sugarcane spirit, which skilled bartenders stir into punches, daiquiris, jungle birds and even Inca Kola. To match the tropical vibe, the South Beach bar’s kitchen prepares beachy bites like oyster ceviche, salmon tacos and jerked chicken lollipops. It’s not uncommon to see groups sharing both a volcano bowl cocktail and a raw-bar seafood tower during an afternoon that easily stretches into evening because you’re on island time at The Rum Line.

Photo courtesy of The Rum Line

Go to: The Rum Line (Open Seasonally)

Black Market Liquor Bar (Los Angeles)

If a speakeasy and a gastropub swirled their DNA together, the offspring would be Black Market Liquor Bar. The Studio City spot’s list of high-proof "fancy drinks" includes the notorious "Fade to Black" with 103-proof bourbon, Clément Sirop de Canne and walnut bitters. That much liquor requires a cushion of comfort food like barbecued short rib, ricotta gnudi, oxtail tagliatelle and spicy Korean chicken wings. Before you call it a night, cash in on the deep-fried Fluffernutter that screams after-school snack.

Photo courtesy of Black Market Liquor Bar

Go to: Black Market Liquor Bar

The Townsend (Austin)

Despite its cavernous setting inside the historic Townsend-Thompson Building, this Austin cocktail authority is laid-back. As proof, two of their signature dishes are a no-muss burger and a clever North African-spiced take on hot chicken served with semolina flatbread and red sauce. Both are from from Chef Justin Huffman, whose resume includes local greats like Uchi and Contigo. The cocktail menu is long enough that you could try a different drink every day for two weeks straight, but come for the food, too.

Photo courtesy of Ruben Morales

Go to: The Townsend

Taste (St. Louis)

The bar team at Taste knows all the tricks trending today. They’re barrel-aging, stirring in sherry, incorporating vegetables and herbs, and reaching for the spice drawer. The shareable small and large plates that make up the food menu are seasonal and slightly simpler. The best-seller, after all, is the bacon-fat-fried cornbread, an indulgence that goes with any cocktail on the menu. The pork burger and brick chicken are equally popular with regulars. They also serve mussels in a fragrant coconut-milk bath, jagerwurst with all the trimmings typical of Germany, and churros accompanied by velvety almond panna cotta.

Photo courtesy of Tuan Lee

Go to: Taste

The Gin Joint (Charleston, S.C.)

Pick your potent potable at Charleston’s jewel box of a cocktail bar and then don’t pass Go without collecting the house popcorn, which smacks of pad Thai. It’s one of several housemade salty snacks that act like an accelerant for bitter elixirs like the Tweed Ring, with amaro, Fernet, Aperol, grapefruit liqueur, lime and bitters. Another is beef jerky so good that Edmund’s Oast now uses the recipe. More-substantial eats from MariElena Raya include clams and chorizo served with grilled ciabatta for dipping, and pork buns piquant with hoisin sauce. Find that second stomach for dessert, because the Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar is an experience, thanks to the inclusion of popping candy.

Photo courtesy of The Gin Joint

Go to: The Gin Joint

ABV (San Francisco)

With a name that stands for alcohol by volume — the measurement of how boozy a drink is — cocktails are the clear emphasis at this Mission District bar. Trendy spirits like Japanese whiskey and mezcal lure the masses, but most patrons also come hungry. The kitchen stuffs olives with Hudson Valley foie gras mousse, for starters. That isn’t to say that there are frills: All of ABV’s food is meant to be eaten with your hands, including their best-selling beef tongue Reuben, Mapo sloppy joe and falafel lamb dog.

Photo courtesy of ABV

Go to: ABV

Lobo Fell’s Point (Baltimore)

Hang out in Lobo for a few hours and you’ll start to understand why Baltimore’s nickname is Charm City. The drinks incorporate iconic local ingredients, most notably so the Spring Shandy with cult classic Natty Boh beer, fresh-squeezed grapefruit and cantaloupe. While most patrons visit for the original and classic cocktails, the food encourages customers to make a meal out of small plates. There’s a cheeky cheeseburger tartare that tops rare filet with micro celery, shaved cheddar, pickled tomatoes and sesame seeds, for example. There’s also the smoked pork loin sandwich, which lures those in the know with Binkert’s smoked pork loin, provolone, roasted garlic spread and broccoli rabe. A full charcuterie program and raw bar are also available.

Photo courtesy of Lobo Fell’s Point

Go to: Lobo Fell’s Point

Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar (Boston)

Boston’s brown-liquor aficionados make their way to Citizen for 220 whiskeys, including rare finds like a dozen proprietary single-cask bottles created just for the bar. Oyster options rotate daily, but the kitchen also embraces pork in a big way. Guests can order a whole-roasted pig dinner that feeds 10 or more people. "You learn a lot about the guests who choose to eat the eyeballs," says the bar’s owner, David DuBois. If that’s too primal, another top pick is the house-smoked linguica with cheddar grits, rainbow chard and bacon jam.

Photo courtesy of Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar

Go to: Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar

Expatriate (Portland, Ore.)

This small, candlelit bar has a swoon-y date-night vibe that’s anything but boring, thanks to the combination of expert cocktails and predominantly Asian drinking snacks. In fact, the bartenders and cooks seem to be competing to see who can produce more flavor. Regulars would gasp if the Cantonese-inspired shrimp toast disappeared from the menu created by James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Naomi Pomeroy, who is also responsible for Beast. A visit to Expatriate is not complete without the Laotian tacos with toasted coconut and tuna belly or the rice waffle and hot fried chicken strips boosted by chile butter and local honey. Pros know to visit after 10 p.m. for nachos made out of fried wonton chips.

Photo courtesy of Expatriate

Go to: Expatriate

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