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Feb 2, 2008 11:20 AM

Favorite Beer Bar Ever?

Mine personally is the Raleigh Times Bar in North Carolina. I visited on business for six days and spent almost all of my times at that bar. I travel 200 days a year and try to find my place where ever I go. Many places either have great beer, great food, great staff or great atmosphere. Rarely does a place have it all. The Times, as locals call it, has all of it and more.
They only have six taps however I have never had fresher and more interesting selections. No Guinness, no macros except 20 ounce PBR for $2. You will get a Blanche or an amazing Belgian amber, how about a Frambozen that doesn't taste like it has been in the line for a week. Bottle selections are extensive however no beers are on there just to be. Management explained no matter the brand or honor the beer has to be great to make it. What an idea?
The food is all scratch bar food and possibly the best burger I have ever had. The meat is ground everyday and I saw it with my own eyes when I peeked in the kitchen.
The staff are simple, fun and no fluff. They don't where any uniforms and it feels like your neighbor is hanging out with you. When that place gets busy it's amazing to watch them move with composure and purpose. And it gets so busy. I got in early on a Friday and managed a bar seat. At eight o'clock it was packed. I mentioned that and Bobby the bartender laughed and shrugged it off. At ten o'clock there was this sea of people inside and out. I have never seen so much draft beer poured anywhere of the 94 cities I have been to.
If you ever get into Raleigh make a trip happen downtown. I wish I lived in Raleigh.

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  1. Since you travel so much could you run down some other Beer Bars that come close to the Raleigh Times Bar? We'd love to know.

    1. I travel mostly east of the Mississippi and I have been to most of the top-rated places in Boston, NYC (Manhattan only), Philly, Baltimore, DC, Atlanta, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago.

      For me, the top place is the Capital Ale House chain in Richmond. They have a very large tap selection, a nice bottled selection, a "secret" list of vintage bottles and a nice menu.

      There are some places that have a small, but excellent selection and others that area specialty (brew pubs or Belgian bars) but Capital Ale house has the best combination of all key elements without making unsatisfactory compromises.

      3 Replies
      1. re: brentk

        Hands down... the Map Room in Chicago.

        Greatest selection of great microbrews of all styles, European ales, etc. etc. Here's an example of their current beerlist:

        If it's not fresh on tap, then 99% they have it in the bottle...

        The place is real short on amenities... one pool table, a dump really, but the beer selection is the best.

        1. re: Chicago Mike

          Love the Map Room in Chicago. Also love Blue Bird in Chicago.

          1. re: JFarah

            map room is awesome!
            unsure the validity but we were told before going in to not to act like a tourist and whip out a of course once we were carded (at the door) they knew we were all from nj but hey they were super friendly and the bartender was nice enough to give us samples of stuff we were unsure of.

      2. The Brickskeller and RFD in Washington, DC.

        5 Replies
        1. re: CDouglas

          I hope Brickskeller has improved over the years. I lived in DC for about 12 years, moved away 9 years ago. Back then, Brickskeller was famous more because it was there. Yes, they had an amazing collection of beers, but overpriced, often skunky, and bad food to go with it. We preferred the Ram's Head in Annapolis.

          1. re: Loren3

            the "beer bible" was nice but overall the brickskeller wasn't my favorite either (maybe all the pre-hype skewed my expectations)...honestly, i like "kramerbooks" just across the circle, the selection isn't as extensive but what they do have is great including the food!

            1. re: cellar_door77

              Was at the Brickskeller about a month ago, impressive collection but the place was pretty dumpy otherwise. I much preferred The Saloon, next to Ben's Chili Bowl. Not as large of a selection, but no loud music and not much of a scene, which is just how I like it.

          2. re: CDouglas

            The Brick would definitely win the "most overhyped good beer bar" category. I can't remember them, or RFD's for that matter, ever having half of the beers that I've actually asked for. The food is marginal, the waitstaff subpar, etc. etc.

            1. re: thecheeseisblue

              ha, when i order there, i give the waitress a list of 7 beers and i usually find one to be available.....

          3. spuytenduyvil in brooklyn has one of the best bottle selections i've ever seen. akkurat in stockholm is also outstanding (everything from rare belgians to loads of u.s. micros and oddball english stuff). in toronto, beerbistro has A: an outstanding bottle selection and some well-chosen taps, and a damned good beer-focussed kitchen. they also do their own charcuterie, have their own smoker, and the chef/owner has competed in the bocuse d'or., if you're ever in town.

              1. re: shellshock24

                I agree, the Toronado. The best beer bar EVER. Hands down. Not that some of the other places mentioned are not great. Not only is the sausage next door good....but go on Hamburger day on Tues...I think of this place often with envy for the locals

                1. re: lyn

                  I am curious have you been to O'Briens in San Diego?

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    Does O'Briens have the belgian selection or the casks that Toronado does? I've never been and am curious.

                    1. re: PaulB

                      Read 'em and weep:

                      Actually... I am sure Josh & the other locals are hating me right now for promoting this place... the three times I have been there its been no problem to get seated during prime time.

                      1. re: PaulB

                        I've been to Toronado a few times now, nowhere near as many times I've been to O'Brien's, but I will say that their selections are pretty similar in spirit, if not specifics. IIRC, Toronado has more handles than O'Brien's, and seems to always have casks available. The bottle selection is a little harder to gauge, as the times I've been to Toronado there were a good number of beers on the bottle list that were out of stock. One night, I think I went through 4 different orders before hitting one that was in stock.

                        O'Brien's has cask beer at least one night per week, sometimes more often. Their draft selection typically includes at least two Belgian offerings, with the rest made up of craft brews, many local.

                        O'Brien's bottle selection is really impressive. Probably 2/3 of the list is Belgian, some very obscure.

                        Another thing that O'Brien's does that's pretty cool is special event nights, where they hook up with a brewer or something along those lines. Recently, during their anniversary week, they had a sour ale night with a huge lineup of sour and barrel aged beer from all over the US, plus a couple of Belgians.

                        All that said, I would much rather hang out at O'Briens. a) They take plastic, b) there is plenty of room to sit, c) there isn't music played at deafening volume, d) they have food.

                      2. re: Eat_Nopal

                        O'Briens in SD: it that the one near the NBC studio? If so, yes

                          1. re: lyn

                            NBC studio is downtown at Horton Plaza. So I guess that's a no.

                            1. re: Josh

                              Oh no she is thinking that crappy Irish pub in the Gas Lamp.... no THIS Obriens is a completely different animal.

                        1. re: lyn

                          Sorry, didn't see the original post. One of my pet peeves is "[fill in the blank] is the best ever." That would imply that you've been to every beer bar in existence, throughout history. Pedantic, I know, but it still bugs me.

                          I couldn't pick such a thing, from the ones I've been to, including Toronado. As much as I love O'Brien's, they don't see as many of the Russian River beers as Toronado does because of proximity. But does that make Toronado better? There are beers I've had at O'Brien's that I didn't see at Toronado, plus I don't have to battle my way to the bar to order and shout to be heard.

                          I have yet to check out Spuyten Duyvil, Map Room, or Brickskellar, but they're all supposed to be awesome. I've been to Ginger Man in Austin, TX, and they had some great beers that I'd never seen anywhere else. Heck I even went to a little place in Waco, TX that had stuff on draft from England I'd never seen elsewhere.

                          Blind Tiger in NYC rivaled O'Brien's and Toronado in terms of selection, and kills both on atmosphere. If I lived in NYC, I'd probably be there every night.

                          1. re: Josh

                            One of the the things I love about Toronado is that they offer so many different Russian River beers. Their beer list is ever changing and many of the RR beers they offer are unique sour belgians in style. I cant find those beers outside of Northen Cal. I was there a few weeks ago and they had six different Belgian Noells on tap!!! You can eat brats from next door, Plantain burritos from across the road and food from good Indian restaurants on the same block in the Toronado. Plus the Tamale lady makes regular appearances there. The great location & beer combined with an awesome staff makes the Toronado my favorite beer bar in California.

                            1. re: Josh

                              Blind Tiger is nowhere near as awesome as Toronado or O'Briens!!!

                              My Top 6-
                              3)Liar's Club
                              4)Pizza Port(Carlsbad)
                              5)The Publick House
                              6)Blind Tiger or Spuyten Duvil
                              7)Monks(in Philly)

                              1. re: Trumpetguy

                                For me, what raises Blind Tiger up is really the ambience. It's dark, dimly lit, and wood paneling, wood floors, etc. It feels like being in a really old pub with a lot of history to it, plus they have great beers from both the East and West coast. For example, when I was there they had bottles from Weyerbacher *and* Lost Abbey.

                                Plus their food is really top notch.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  Yes, Josh--nice vibe there! Love that they serve food late-- until 2am?

                                  Keep in mind beers are $6-$7 easily--I can drink Pliny for $3 at Toronado happy hour; as cheap at O'Briens and Liars Club...As much as you wanna try east coast IPA's very few compare to what is available in SF & SD.So a $7 Weyerbacher or a $3 Pliny? Easy! Heck, I'd easily pay $7 for a Pliny out here:)

                            1. re: shellshock24

                              Yes, love this place! Great selection, particularly if you're coming from the East Coast