Best Bars: Be Seen

Where the cool kids go to play
Hot-Spot All-Stars
Blind Pig // A triple play: clublike on weekend nights, chill during happy hour and sporty on Sundays. 1228 W. Sixth St., Cleveland, 216-621-0001,

Velvet Tango Room //
Egg white froth in the sours, roses for ladies: It’s ultimate cocktail-lounge elegance. 2095 Columbus Road, Cleveland, 216-241-8869,

Around the Corner //
Fine in winter, fabulous in summer with a roomy (and expanded) patio that never feels pretentious and is always, always packed. 18616-20 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-4413,

Treehouse // Stumplike stools attract a young crowd (20s to 30s) looking for easygoing fun without the hubbub of the Warehouse District. 820 College Ave., Cleveland, 216-696-2505,

Johnny’s Downtown // If this bar could talk, it would say, “I’m kind of a big deal.” It’s the watering hole for Cleveland’s movers and shakers. 1406 W. Sixth St., Cleveland, 216-623-0055,
The South Side
The South Side perches alone on a corner, as if one day the Earth just opened up and spit out the hulking brick building. It stands out. It stakes its claim. It’s anchored by a killer patio, which remains open almost year-round courtesy of outdoor space heaters and a four-season room with a fireplace. Most nights, chattering voices and glimpses of the crowd slip enticingly through evergreens buffering the gated patio. Inside, indie musicians provide background music to lively conversations. These communal touches have made The South Side a hub of the Tremont nightlife scene, which is exactly how owner Sherman DeLozier likes it. “It’s accessible,” he says. “It’s not intimidating. You can go in the way you are, in a suit, in jeans.” He wanted to give the neighborhood a bar that wasn’t high-end or low-end, but right in the middle. And he wanted to give the bar a drink that would feel right at home. His creation, the American Dream, combines Tito’s Vodka with Blatz beer, topped with a deep-fried pickle. Tito’s liked it so much it will be the first recipe on their upcoming iPhone app. It’s quintessential South Side: off-kilter, great for groups, trendy and totally at home in Cleveland. 2207 W. 11th St., Cleveland, 216-937-2288,
   = $5  = $9

The Bier Markt & Speakeasy
A politely boisterous crowd barters for space on a Friday night at The Bier Markt, but we figured as much. A full bar is a common occurrence at this Belgian-flavored mixer because nobody ever seems in much of a hurry to leave. Lingering is easy: An expansive, appealingly simple layout encourages people watching while warm mood lights cast a complimentary glow on faces. Owner Sam McNulty backpacked through Belgium gathering ideas for both his beer list and his bar design. “Belgium has a very strong pub culture,” he explains, and he tries to incorporate that at the Bier Markt. “We have books to read, magazines, newspapers; people come in with their dogs. … It becomes kind of a third place: You’ve got home, work and then the pub.” Downstairs, he’s provided a more intimate atmosphere in the Speakeasy. It’s darker, secretive, more seductive, and the music and menu follow suit. You won’t find the deep bourbon list upstairs or the Manhattan Pig mixed with bourbon soaked in house-cured bacon for two weeks by Dean, Speakeasy bar chef (“Dangerously good,” says McNulty). It’s just one more reason we end up lingering longer than intended. 1948 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-274-1010,
= $5.50  = $8.50

Sunset Lounge
We’ve been watching Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights a lot lately. Don’t judge. Something about those sexy nightclubs, pulsing and steamy, thick with Cubans spinning away their partners and their problems, just transports us out of our winter stupor. So stepping into the Sunset Lounge, feeling a little déjà vu comes as no surprise. Sunset aims for a Miami-esque, New York City-ish triple threat: the restaurant/lounge/nightclub, but the feel is more Southern heat than New York street. Sleek blue tones set this bar apart from its playmates on West Sixth, evoking an elegant-yet-edgy Latin vibe complemented by a sultry international bar staff and weekly Argentine tango lessons. Snow, slush and puffy coats are a million miles away. This is where the flash and glitz and young corporate types come to preen their feathers, dance with a little class or just channel the laid-back, languid evenings of conversation that come so easy on tropical nights. 1382 W. Ninth St., Cleveland, 216-535-0001,
 = $5  = $8-10

Cadillac Ranch
People get lost in Cadillac Ranch all the time. Even manager Scotty Kash admits he’s still learning his way around. A 24,000-square-foot adult playground, Cadillac Ranch revels in its over-the-top appeal. It might seem a tough fit in our laid-back town, but for the bull-riding, booty-gyrating, bucket-of-beer swilling crowds that keep showing up, it’s exactly the boost our nightlife needed. In a first for this national chain, the Cleveland outpost combines restaurant/bar Cadillac Ranch with the BarRoom, a Vegas-style club with go-go dancers (many former Cavs girls) and a live, Saturday-night radio show on 96.5 Kiss FM. Oversized black-and-white photos serve as artwork and feature the kinds of girls and boys you wouldn’t take home to momma. It’s all a little overwhelming, but Cleveland seems ready for it. LeBron James chose it for his December birthday party. Crowds pack the eight bars on weekends. Were we really that starved for a mega-nightclub? Probably not, but when we can bar hop in one building, why go anywhere else? 200 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-685-0000,
= $3.75  = $5

Going Out Guide

 serves food; kitchen closes before midnight
 serves food; kitchen open after midnight
 singles spot
 live music regularly
  average cost of a beer
 average cost of a cocktail
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