The 10 Most Storied Bars in America

Storied Bars
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Old Absinthe House
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Old Absinthe House

Where it’s at: New Orleans, LA
When it opened: 1807
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• Pirate badass Jean Lafitte and eventual president badass Andrew Jackson reputedly planned the Battle of New Orleans just upstairs.
• Back in its 1800's “Absinthe Room” days, it served as the wormwood center of America, with dudes from Aaron Burr, to Mark Twain, to Teddy Roosevelt (more on him later) dropping in to dance with the green fairy.
• Before Super Bowl IV, KC Chief safety Johnny Robinson took QB Len Dawson there so he could de-stress -- by getting a massage from some dude who operated out of a corner of the bar. A few years later, Raiders great John Matuszak showed up at 3am the day before the big game to “loosen up.” There was dancing.

Barney's Beanery
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Barney’s Beanery West Hollywod

Where it’s at: Los Angeles, CA
When it opened: 1920
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• In 1950, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis held a spoof Oscars ceremony dubbed “The Mickies.”
• Tarantino penned Pulp Fiction in one of the duct-taped, derelict booths.
• Busboy Ricardo Reyes got so good at the Pop-a-Shot machine, Jimmy Kimmel recruited him for shootouts with Kobe, LeBron, Melo, and Barkley. He beat every one of them. Also Lamar Odom.

21 Club

21 Club

Where it’s at: New York, NY
When it opened: 1930
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• Ernest Hemingway was caught schmoozing with a legit gangster’s girlfriend -- some reports even claim he was busted tolling her bell in the kitchen.
• It’s probably the birthplace of the power lunch; beyond Wall Streeters, almost every president since JFK has posted up there, and Nixon even kept his own bottle of 1961 Dom Perignon at the bar until the early 90s.
• In 2000 Tom Brokaw hosted a 21-person press dinner with a still somewhat lovable Vladimir Putin, who declined to open up until finally won over by Katie Couric, whose indefatigable charms worked even through Putin’s interpreter (the only English words he said all night were “good evening”, 20 times).

Old Town Ale House
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Old Town Ale House

Where it’s at: Chicago, IL
When it opened: 1958
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• During a 1970 fire, 20 burly patrons actually carried the wooden bar out of the building and into a nearby butcher shop, which would become the Ale House’s current home.
• The bar’s most beloved denizen, Bruce Elliot, is the artist behind the sassy nude portrait of Sarah Palin, a viral smash that prompted a slew of other paintings still hanging on the walls.
• Elliot chronicleseverything in writing, preserving hundreds of character-filled anecdotes. Some highlights (titles ours): “D-Train and the Mystery Fedora” and “The Crazy Dog Lady Boycott”.

Tosca Café

Tosca Café

Where it’s at: San Francisco, CA
When it opened: 1920
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• The mecca of celeb hangs. Nic Cage used to keep a personal pool cue in back, and, as chronicled by Telegraph writer Neil McKormick, Bono once climbed atop the bar at 4am to sing "O Sole Mio" to Liam and Noel Gallagher.
• Hunter S. Thompson allegedly broke his ankle jumping off said bar.
• Again allegedly, one night Kid Rock started strumming his guitar, and Sean Penn voiced his 1st Amendment right to criticism by exercising his 2nd Amendment right on the back wall.

Clermont Lounge
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Clermont Lounge

Where it’s at: Atlanta, GA
When it opened: 1965
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• Emmy-winning journalist and former CNN producer Dana Hazels Seith spent three years there researching a coffee table-style exploration of this iconic home of unorthodox exotic dancers, a project that started off rough when Clermont’s queen, Blondie, kicked her out of the dressing room for sitting in her chair.
• Now retired, the most unorthodox of those dancers had an act that... you know how some dancers have sparklers attached to... things? Instead, she used straight fire on her... things.
• Celebrities don’t hang here, but they do visit. In 2013, both Mumford and Sons were thrown out for misinterpreting the “no pictures” rule as “many, many pictures”.

Menger Bar
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Menger Bar

Where it’s at: San Antonio, TX
When it opened: 1887
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• There are no fewer than 42 ghosts haunting the bar and hotel, the most dashing being riverboat captain Richard King, who died in the late 1800s, but is still seen strolling from the bar back to the King Suite.
• Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders here! And apparently still hangs here, also in ghost form, offering free beers to potential recruits.
• Even before he built the bar, founder William Menger’s beer was apparently so good, he used it to poach guests from nearby lodgings, allowing him to expand from one-story boarding house to fancy hotel.

PJ Clarke's

PJ Clarke’s

Where it’s at: New York, NY
When it opened: 1884
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• Johnny Mercer jotted “One for My Baby” on a cocktail napkin.
• In the backroom, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle hatched the plan to bring Martin back as Yankees manager. All three wore cowboy hats and boots.
• During a dinner hang upstairs, Johnny Depp gave a guitar to Keith Richards as a gift and the two serenaded the whole restaurant.

Central Saloon Seattle
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Central Saloon

Where it’s at: Seattle, WA
When it opened: 1892
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• In 1901 the then “Seattle Bar” was owned by gambling legend Peter Gessner. While he hosted card rooms around town, his most notorious games were held here, until the police shut down the operation with help from a reporter at the Post-Intelligencer.
• The place was purchased in 1970 by Boeing engineers, later serving as a boozy base for not one but two congressional campaigns (who wouldn’t vote for those guys?). On April 7th 1992, the mayor honored 100 years by declaring the 7th “Central Day”.
• This joint pretty much birthed the grunge movement, hosting early, rowdy shows from Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and Soundgarden. Plus, Nirvana played what most consider their first live set on April 10th 1988 right on the Central’s stage.

Madame's Organ

Madame’s Organ

Where it’s at: Washington, D.C.
When it opened: 1992
Among the Many Things That’ve Happened There:
• While Old Ebbit has the years, Madame’s has a few more recent D.C. stories worth slinging. For starters, after founder Bill Duggan scored the bar in a real estate trade, the dissatisfied other party hired a hitman to burn the place down and kill Duggan. Thankfully he (and the bar) came out of the ordeal unscathed.
• The opening was christened with a performance by famed bluesman Bobby Parker, who stoically riffed late into the night despite the still serious concern about a hitman bent on arson.
• A legal battle to remove the iconic pinup girl mural on the side of the building is underway right now, as D.C. apparently doesn’t want 9ft x 13ft bosoms just hanging out in public. Instagram it while you still can -- it’ll make for a nice story for you to tell.