The Hot List 2013: Nightlife
CORRECTION: In the June issue of ALIVE, the Hot List People’s Choice award for Best Bar was incorrectly listed. The correct People’s Choice winner for Best Bar is McGurk’s. ALIVE greatly regrets this error.
Best Cocktail Menu: Blood & Sand
This members-only haunt has become a local favorite since opening in 2011. As befits a place named after the classic Blood & Sand cocktail (equal parts Scotch, Cherry Heering, sweet vermouth and orange juice), the bar boasts one of the most creative and extensive cocktail listsÛÓincluding a handful of beer-based cocktails, as well as tweaks on the club’s namesake drink that replace the Scotch with spirits as diverse as mezcal and aged rum. In the kitchen, the food is just as carefully craftedÛÓthe truffled tater tots are not to be missed. Downtown, 314.241.7263.
Best Happy Hour: J. Buck’s
This downtown Clayton mainstay is the perfect combination of classy decor, warm ambience and quality, affordable food and drink. Happy hour runs from 4-7pm during the week and all day on Saturdays, so there’s plenty of opportunity to take advantage of the abundant drink specials, as well as the award-winning wine program. J. Buck’s central location makes it convenient for thirsty workers from the surrounding high risesÛÓas well as revelers from across the metro areaÛÓto stop by and unwind at the end of the day. Clayton, 314.725.4700.
Best Lounge: Mandarin
From its chic and stylish Asia-meets-NYC decor to the rooftop bar overlooking Maryland Plaza, Mandarin is the lounge experience in STL. Its extensive drink selection is available in Cocktail Trees for those who want to sample around the menu and try, say, the Gold Standard cosmo (garnished with real gold). Bottle service is available for those who want to make a VIP night of it. Plus, some of the best DJs in the area hold court at Mandarin. Case in point: DJ Big D can be found dropping beats on the jam-packed dance floor every Friday, and DJ Kostik rocks the house on Saturdays. Central West End, 314.367.4447.
Best Live Music: Plush St. Louis
This one-of-a-kind concert hall, diner and event space offers four levels of unparalleled exploration, with eclectic decor (mannequin lamps and Stag can sculptures, anyone?) and live music that spans all genres, from rock to blues to dance and beyond. Size-wise, Plush falls somewhere in between a club and a theater, so it’s a great place to see local and national touring acts up close and personal before they start filling the stadiums. Recent shows have featured local faves like Letter To Memphis and renowned songwriting virtuoso Josh Ritter, among others. Hit the top floor for a killer bird’s-eye view of the stage. Midtown, 314.535.2686.
Best Wine Bar: Sasha’s on Shaw
When servers have to use a step ladder in order to access the bottles upon bottles of vino lining the walls, you know you’re in a serious wine bar. The spacious pub-like vibe and roomy patio have made Sasha’s on Shaw a favorite of folks who want a friendly place to have a drink or grab a bite. But it’s really all about the vino at this charming neighborhood establishment. The wine list features around 250 wines by the bottle and 50 or so by the glass at a variety of price points, ensuring amateurs and oenophiles alike will find something to suit their palette and pocketbook. Shaw, 314.771.7274.
Best Sports Bar: Circle 7 Ranch
The latest brainchildÛÓand a bit of a departure for Mandarin and Pepper Lounge owners Pete Ferretti and Buddy CoyÛÓCircle 7 Ranch is a modern, sophisticated take on the classic sports bar. It’s the first place in the state to offer guests their own personal beer taps at the table, so you don’t have to miss a minute of the games playing on the abundant flat screen TVs for a trip to the bar. The food is elevated bar and grill fare, featuring upscale versions of classic game-day foods like smoked brisket nachos, barbecue quesadillas and jumbo t-ravs. Ballwin, 636.220.9707.
Best Craft Brewery: Perennial Artisan Ales
Since it started brewing in 2011, Perennial has carved out a reputation as one of the premier breweries in the city, if not the country. Hops fanatics have been known to come in from out of town and wait in line outside Perennial’s doors to get a first crack at its new releases. Taking a culinary approach, the brewery has turned out beers with ingredients ranging from chilies to chamomile flowers, and has already garnered a slew of awards for its brews. Rest assured its adjoining tasting room has plenty of space, inside and out, to enjoy them. Carondelet, 314.631.7300.
Best Late-Night Menu: Sanctuaria Wild Tapas
Although well known for its extensive cocktail list and Latin goth decor, Sanctuaria also boasts some of the best small-plate dining in town. The kitchen closes at 1am on Fridays and Saturdays (10pm on Sundays and 11pm Tuesday-Thursday), making it the perfect place to wrap up an evening out or satisfy those late-night cravings that set in once the sun goes down. The menu is full of tasty riffs on the overarching theme of Cuban tapas, with specialties like bacon-wrapped dates, frita and Cuban chicken sliders and black bean stuffed piquillos, to name a few. The Grove, 314.535.9700.
Best Late-Night Hangout: Lucas Park Grille
Since its renovation in 2004, Lucas Park has become one of the cornerstones of the Washington Avenue after-dark sceneÛÓnight owls can take advantage of Lucas Park’s hospitality till 3am Thursday-Saturday, and 1:30am the rest of the week. The sprawling space, about 8,000 square feet with lofty ceilings, houses a variety of dining experiences, from casual cafe to late-night lounge. The full-service bar has about every spirit needed to make a night of it, and the 300-plus-bottle wine program has garnered multiple accolades from Wine Spectator. Downtown, 314.241.7770.
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg