Best Bars: Hang Out

Dive bars and local joints you will love
Neighborhood All-Stars
Brennan’s Colony //
The patio buzzes in summer. The cozy bar fills up in winter. It’s the Heights’ top neighborhood bar. 2299 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-371-1010

Garage Bar // Don’t be intimidated by motorcycle-lined sidewalks. Bikers, alternatives and preppies mingle nicely here. 1859 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-696-7772,

Major Hoopple’s Riverbed Café // Cheap beer, 30-cent wing Wednesday and Tribe games projected on the bridge truss. What’s not to love? 1930 Columbus Road, Cleveland, 216-575-0483,

The West End Tavern //
Tired of the party scene, West Side bar hoppers come here to retire alongside locals. It’s chill but busy. Don’t miss the Sunday bloody mary bar. 18514 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-7684

Tremont Tap House //
Off the worn path of Professor, you have to know where you’re going to get to the converted house. Incentive: 70-plus beers. 2572 Scranton Road, Cleveland, 216-298-4451,
Harbor Inn
Saddling up to the large, wooden bar at the Harbor Inn you get the sense you’re sharing a drink with the ghosts of Cleveland’s past. The neighborhood legend has been on the West Bank of the Flats since 1895 and sits on a street named for the bar’s owner of 40 years, Wally Pisorn. It draws a diverse crowd (a representation of the U.N. at its worst, one patron jokes) with gritty friendliness. The come-one-come-all tradition started in the early 1900s, when boats from Poland, Spain and France landed at the former Cleveland Port (now Shooters on the Water). To keep thirsty sailors coming back, the owners began stocking their native liquors. The practice stuck, and the extensive collection of liquor proves it. Try Kruskovac, a Croatian pear liquor that is sweet enough to sip on its own. The collection also includes oddities, such as a bottle of 1920s French whiskey — there for history’s sake only, so don’t bother asking for a taste. The beer selection, which numbers around 200, follows suit. And in case you’re into big numbers (or music), the jukebox holds 10,000 songs. “We’ve got rich guys, poor guys; we’ve got everyone,” says Pisorn. And sometimes there are surprises. Singer Meat Loaf showed up last summer during Wally World, the bar’s three-day block party.
1219 Main Ave., Cleveland, 216-241-3232 
 = $3  = $3

The Flying Monkey Pub
A true neighborhood bar requires three components: It must be hyperlocal, laid-back and simple. When I spilled a beer on my jeans at Flying Monkey, I was literally able to run home and change. Check one. On a recent visit, we shared the bar with a chocolate Lab. Check two. Ordering a Labatt draft always costs $2. There’s a TV. And that’s pretty much it. Uh, check, check and check. Owner Amy Farry-Snyder, who took the reins in January, does have some minor changes in store. She’s been in the bar biz for almost two decades (including 10 years as a bartender at the Treehouse), and she knows what she likes. After hearing complaints about the service, she cleaned house, keeping the best bartenders and bringing in new ones. A touch-screen machine in the back will offer 100 old-school games (up for a game of Centipede?). A small kitchen serving inexpensive food is in the works for 2011. But three things won’t change at this corner pub. The Flying Monkey is always going to be local and laid-back, and never fussy. 819 Jefferson Ave., Cleveland, 216-861-6659,
= $4  = $5

Gillespie’s Map Room
Just off the swarm of West Sixth Street lies an establishment that instills immediate confidence in its patrons. For starters, the Map Room is a tavern, not a nightclub. It’s slender yet solid, the bar spanning one long wall from bow to stern with just enough room in back for a clubroom-style sitting area, fireplace and jukebox. It feels settled and as lived-in as your own home. Then there’s the real airplane in the bar: That Smith Mini, one of only two in the world, flew in the Cleveland Air Show a few years ago (owner Matt Gillespie is a pilot) and now hangs from the Map Room ceiling. An Applebee’s tchotchke it ain’t, and that’s the appeal of this neighborhood hangout. “It’s really the only honest downtown tavern,” says Gillespie. Downtownies have made the Map Room their home away from home, so late weekend nights will find you crowded in with locals escaping the nightclubs and searching the room for their friends with benefits. It’s a neighborhood bar, Warehouse District-style. 1281 W. Ninth St., Cleveland, 216-621-7747,
  = $4  = $6 

Tradesman Tavern
Boots and suits. That’s how Tradesman Tavern owner Dave Martina sees the Parma pub. Near the intersection of Snow and State roads, the Tradesman gets its share of the blue-collar crowd, but it’s also a pit stop for professionals heading home. Diverse backgrounds meld comfortably at the oversize bar, an oval track of Brazilian granite that Martina (a stonemason by day) crafted himself. Bar stools are crucial at a neighborhood spot, and these don’t disappoint: Cushioned seats with curved backs welcome weary workers. There’s opulence, a story we didn’t expect when we wandered into this corner pub, and it doesn’t end with the bar. Martina and his architect sister poured their artistic know-how into the Tavern. A mirrored overmantel carved from walnut in Paris in the 1800s anchors one end of the bar, and the restored storefront is crafted from Honduran mahogany. The bar’s showpiece is a huge mural showcasing the steelworkers and machinists who built our city, the last piece of public art created by late local artist Clarence Van Duzer. So next time you belly up to the bar, raise your glass to Cleveland’s working-man history, and a really comfortable seat. 5746 State Road, Parma, 440-888-2337,
  = $3  = $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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