Top Shelf American Bars on a Budget
American bars tend to stick to extremes, with watered-down dives on one end and swanky VIP lounges with bottle service on the other. But not every night calls for suits or stilettos. Sometimes, it’s nice to drop the pomp and circumstance and get seriously sloshed without busting your budget. Here at Party Earth we’re happy to remind everyone – from blueblood nobility to the blue-collar crowd – that a cheap drink doesn’t have to be a weak one. So take a look at some of our favorite U.S. drinking dens from down and dirty bars in NYC to cheap and easy dives in San Francisco that more than make up in liquor for what they may lack in luxury.
Mehanata Bulgarian Bar
113 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002
Hipsters, hookahs, and beat-heavy polka unite at Mehanata Bulgarian Bar, a Lower East Side hotspot that effortlessly puts the “rad” back into comrade. It’s as unapologetically raucous as you might expect a proud Soviet-themed bar to be: naked mannequins, mouth-shaped urinals, and the “Get naked, get a free shot” sign that somehow hasn’t put them out of business (yet). But the real draw at Mehanata is the infamous Ice Cage, which is basically a giant walk-in fridge lined with over fifty bottles of premium vodka. It costs around $20 to enter the Cage, but the price includes free use of authentic Soviet military uniforms, which patrons don before pounding a half-dozen shots of whichever vodkas they choose in under two minutes.
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Basque Hotel, 15 Romolo Place, San Francisco, CA 94133
Hidden inside the tourist-heavy North Beach area of San Francisco, 15 Romolo is surrounded by strip clubs – some classy, some not – but this subterranean drinking den has little in common with its naked neighbors. The stylish saloon boasts an assortment of expertly crafted cocktails at a bargain, including a ridiculously fresh Pimm’s Cup that only runs around $7 during the daily happy hour. This cheap combination of ginger, bitters, cucumber, and mint might even tempt you to order seconds. The same can be said of the $4 punch on weekends, as well as the savory brunch menu that comes with a free amuse-bouche waffle shot.
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The California Clipper
1002 North California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622
Although it’s well-removed from the city’s bigger bar scene, The California Clipper is still one of the best bars in Chicago and has been going strong since the 1930s. The consensus on its welcoming vibe has no doubt aided its success, along with the free board games that fill the void between the free live jazz on weekends. Sure, there are rumors the venue is haunted, but its popular Purple Martin cocktail is sure to bring back even the most phantasm-phobic, time and time again. Of course, if a mixture of fake grapes, rum, and lemon reminds you more of a desperate last call at a frat party, this cozy neighborhood lounge offers a host of budget-friendly classics, from champagne cocktails and Rusty Nails to a California egg cream so good you won’t even remember to ask how they got cream out of a chicken’s egg in the first place.
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The Bigfoot Lodge
3172 Los Feliz Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039
Long considered one of the best gritty bars in Los Angeles, The Bigfoot Lodge is the kind of place that would be the perfect setting for a horror movie. If the hunting cabin theme doesn’t convince you – we’re talking trophies, gaudy taxidermy, log walls, and a looming diorama of Smokey the Bear – then its ridiculously good Girl Scout Cookie cocktail should, seeing as it’s reportedly made from thin mints and … “real Girl Scouts.” Now if that still doesn’t sway your inner horror director to break out the cameras, the Animatronic cub with its monstrous evil eye and the painting of a giant killer raccoon snatching up an unsuspecting hiker will soon have you screaming “Action!” Or just screaming. Still, we always seem to end up here, tucked along the creaky vinyl booths for trivia and bingo nights, cheap beer, and shot specials. And if drinking a Girl Scout grosses you out too much, try the Beary Mules, S’mores, or the signature Sasquatch that melds Wild Turkey and ginger for a powerful and tasty kick.
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