Travis: CBGB (St. Louis, MO)
No, not the seminal NYC punk rock club; I never made it there before it was replaced by a T-shirt shop and moved to Vegas. This CBGB is a staple of South Grand in St. Louis, the diviest of all dive bars, a place that seems like the building is only held up by years of cigarette smoke stuck to the walls and ceiling. It’s a punk rock hangout, to be sure, and occasionally bands will play (always free of charge), but what really sets it apart is the fact that no matter what the law ever becomes in St. Louis, it’ll always be a smoking establishment, and it’s got shuffleboard, pinball tables, and a video arcade classic featuring everything from Street Fighter II to Joust and Ghosts & Goblins, which a friend of mine and I could never remember the name of, so we always called it Catholic Quest. Cheap drinks, friendly bartenders, smoking and the most disgusting bathrooms you could imagine all add up to a great fucking bar.
Tyler: Booches (Columbia, MO)
There are bar burgers, and then there’s Booches.
Sidled against the bar, abutting a front window, the Booches grill looks for all its glory like something out of White Castle. Tiny patties, tiny buns, available paired for what’s actually not the cheapest stipend in the world. The latter doesn’t matter, though. Plattered on wax paper, rich with ketchup, mustard, onion and pickle (should you be the wise type who enjoys such toppings), there are few tavern pleasures greater. The beer, like the sliders, ain’t cheap, and they accept cash only. No matter. Order two, cheese or none (is there really a question?), admire the ancient pool-hall atmosphere, and let your life be changed. Mmm. I’d kill for a pair right now.
Travis: The Pour House (Boston, MA)
I was never a big wrestling fan, but Monday nights at the Pour House in Boston became a big part of my life over a semi-wasted year and a half at Emerson College, one of those schools where mostly what you learn to do there is hold your liquor. I may or may not have been of legal drinking age, but it didn’t matter; no carding if you got there before Raw (WWF, not WWE, to show my age), cheap burgers, and bartenders that only charged you for your first drink and your food if you’d tipped well in the past. Even better: whenever Kurt Angle came on screen and the Angle chant began in whatever arena Raw aired from that week, so came our chant of “Ja-ger. JA-ger!” and shots to follow.
Tyler: Tiki Ti (Los Angeles, CA)
Travis introduced me to Tiki Ti over a weekend of mild-mannered debauchery in honor of friend of FR Dylan’s bachelor party. You can’t pay with a card at Ti, nor can you order a damn thing other than frozen drinks, each immortalized in PowerPoint-slideshow ingredient slides on a television that shows nothing but. No beer. No shots. No booze, lest it be frothed into a shake and slid into the mouth through a straw. You think that sounds strict? Well, then, I don’t wanna know you.
Plus, you can smoke. In a bar. In Los Angeles. California.
Travis: The Rocket Bar (St. Louis, MO)
For a while, the Rocket Bar was not only one of St. Louis’s coolest bars, but it was by far its best music venue, a cheap, affordable, uniquely laid-out space that hosted plenty of great shows, not least of which was the New Year’s Eve blast that closed the bar down, featuring local favorites Riddle of Steel when they were at their best. That night was the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had, seeing one of my favorite bands close down one of my favorite bars, and for other more personal reasons. Now, though, I just choose to remember the bar, and the many great shows there and games of pool I lost. Luckily in St. Louis, the spirit of the Rocket Bar lives on in St. Louis’s new best indie rock venue, the Firebird, with some of the same personnel.
Tyler: Billy Goat Tavern (Chicago, IL)
I raved about the burgers of Booches, and I’ll rave about another burger before this Five is out. (Clearly, I have priorities.) But the burgers of the Billy Goat are as one-of-a-kind, indelible, as advertised, asinine Cubs “curse” be damned. Aside from cheese (your standard low-budg’ American), there are exactly two additional toppings at your beckon in the Goat: dill pickle, and raw onion. Granted, you can indulge these garnishes in both diced and sliced varieties, but that’s it. The house brew, dark or light, ain’t worth a damn, you’re buried beneath Michigan Avenue, and the burgers are eighty-percent bun. It don’t matter.
Plus, those buns are fucking delicious. No pun intended, at all.
Travis: Tiki-Ti (Los Angeles, CA)
If my first choice weren’t based on its impact upon my life and instead upon the quality of the bar, Tiki-Ti would come in number one. The last of L.A.’s original run of Tiki bars, Tiki-Ti has been open and family-owned-and-operated for more than fifty years. You won’t find any beer on the menu, just ninety Tiki drinks with recipes only slightly less guarded than Tim Tebow’s virginity. If you’re ever in Los Angeles, stop by this little shack in the no-man’s land between Los Feliz and Silver Lake and get a Ray’s Mistake, or if you’re surely not driving anywhere anytime soon, a Blood and Sand. Toro, toro, ole!
Tyler: Anderson Township Pub (Cincinnati, OH)
My first legal drink was served at the ATP, just after the stroke of midnight, but I and my boys had been regulars for years. Charmed by the casual ambience–your standard pub fare, localized, all Cincy artifacts and sports memorabilia–and forever enchanted by their incredible burgers, our adolescent evening planning began and ended with regularity: “ATP?” We knew the waitresses (most notably, Mary, beautiful ol’ sassy girl she was), we pounded carafes of Coke, we tore into those hefty patties with their indelible sides of hand-cut fries. I’m starting to make myself hungry again.
Travis: The Hi-Pointe (St. Louis, MO)
I will never love a bar more than I loved the Hi-Pointe. A two-floor rock and roll dive with a music venue above and the world’s best punk rock bar below, the Hi-Pointe was situated near where I went to college, Washington University in St. Louis, but had the added benefit of its intimidating clientele scaring most of the college kids away. I saw dozens of shows there as a teenager, punk rock bands whose names don’t matter as much as the atmosphere of the upstairs. I think the first time I set foot in there I was fifteen, and the last, I was almost twenty-five, the night the bar closed for the last time in September of 2006. Over that time, for a few years straight, I doubt I went three or four days without stopping in for a pitcher of first Old Style and then PBR, with a second often comped by Homey or Brain or Bonnie (but never by Phil). It was the first bar I ever went where as soon as I walked in my drink was ready for me. When the Hi-Pointe closed, to make way for some sort of bullshit establishment serving craft drafts and buffalo wings to sportsbarbros with Blackberry belt holsters, I’d just been dumped by the girl I thought was the love of my life. I don’t know which took me longer to get over, the breakup or the fact that I had nowhere to go to drown my sorrows. And don’t get me started on Cactus Canyon.
Tyler: The Hi-Pointe (St. Louis, MO)
College-paper section editor Travis: “So, you just turned 21?”
College-paper section columnist Tyler: “Yeah.”
College-paper section editor Travis: “Well, I gotta buy you a beer at the Hi-Pointe.”
Thus did begin a pair of love affairs. Travis already knew the Hi-Pointe well, but I was new to it, and him. For those of you, dear readers, who like what we do here at FR (or, y’know, like, the alternative), you have the ‘Pointe to thank. Cheap pitchers of Old Style, then PBR. VHS videos of hockey fights. Games of silly pinball, and of pool. Smokes granted by STL pitch-girls (along with the occasional, inexplicable test-tube shot of Jagermeister). Long talks, busted booths, good people. I still expect nights at this bar whenever I visit my beloved second city. That it no longer exists will never not break my heart.