We like drinking, and we like going out to drink. Which isn't to say it's always ideal. Even our most favorite bars boast some tiny quirks or customs that we could do without. Likewise, even the worst bars — the places your friends drag you to that leave you sighing and eyeing the exit door almost as soon as you walk in — have some redeeming qualities.
And the landscape is always changing, ushering in new trends or rediscovering old ones or obstinately refusing to change, in pursuit of a better, more unique, more rewarding drinking experience.
We're a seasoned imbibing bunch and, as a staff, we've been to just about every watering hole, joint, cocktail lounge and back alley in Cleveland. Which is to say: We're more than qualified to help craft a better bar scene. Here are some trends and developments we love, hate or haven't decided on yet. Take note, bar owners. We know what we're talking about.
Buy: Bars with a resident dog. The trusty Ugly Broad comes to mind as a favorite with a canine companion, but in general, bars are always better with man's best friend.
Sell: Pub crawls. When we drink, we don't like schedules. If we want to go somewhere, we'll get there eventually. When we find somewhere we like, maybe we'd prefer to stick around awhile. As far as gimmicks go, this one deserves a quick exit.
Buy: Dollar shots. You can find a dollar draft just about anywhere in Cleveland — reason No. 237 of why this is the best city in America — but dollar shots are harder to find. We're an economical bunch, and plenty of us prefer liquor.
Buy: Bars without TVs. Until there's a joint that bans cell phones at the door, we'll take establishments that forgo TVs and all the accompanying distractions in favor of comfy atmospheres and... omg... actual conversation.
Buy: Air hockey (or other functional bar games, preferably of the old-school variety): We can't get enough bar bowling, or bar shuffleboard, or Ping-Pong, or pool or, ideally, some air hockey.
Sell: Mead. For years, it seems, we've been hearing assertions that predict that "mead is the next craft beer." That might be true if mead didn't taste like rotten bee drippings scraped off the hive floor and carbonated. No thanks, we'll stick to craft beer.
Buy: Free popcorn (or free munchies of any kind). Give us some salty popcorn or other stockpile of free noshes (bacon comes to mind), and we're putty in your hands and 100 percent more likely to stick around.
Hold: Trivia nights. They're fun, they're ubiquitous, and they're as good a reason as any to get some pals together. But, meh. Right?
Buy: Progressive happy hours. Why only reward those folks pulling up a seat at the bar after regular work hours? How about those that want to start early, start often and start cheaply? Reward those ambitious folks with some late-morning, early-afternoon deals.
Hold: Reverse happy hours. The late shift also deserves budget pricing, whether they're simply working through traditional happy hours or blissfully asleep while working off last night's hangover.
Hold: Mile-long whiskey lists. Self-explanatory.
Buy: Mile-long tequila lists. More self-explanatory.
Sell: Touchtunes jukeboxes. Ain't nothing more aggravating than an oversized iPad blasting out the dregs of today's pop music scene while illuminating the bar in awful shades of neon light.
Buy: Real jukeboxes. Take a cue from the standard bearers of bar music and invest in an eclectically curated playlist played from... gasp... an actual jukebox. As decoratively delightful as it is functional.
Sell: Yards of beer. A full yard of beer is great, you think. But here's the catch about that big drink, which at $13 is hardly a steal, especially when you factor in the brain freeze: It is served in one of those unbearably humiliating neon-colored plastic yard glasses with the three-foot straws
Buy: Beer gardens. Sterles already has one, and Cleveland will get two more this year. Why not a dozen more? Who doesn't love sipping German beer outdoors in the warm summer air? Tell us we're wrong.
Sell: Build your own Bloody Mary bars. There's a reason you make our Bloody Mary — it's because we're shitty at making our own. It might be fun to see two dozen ingredients and mixers splayed out in a buffet line, but we're bound to be disappointed with our concoction.
Hold: Tall boys. Ponying up a pittance for a tall slug of American lager is right up our alley, and you can't argue with the price point. But those last few lukewarm sips leave us shuddering. Maybe we should just drink faster.
Buy: Sprawling patios. Never enough is the answer to, "How many patios should we be drinking on this summer?" Give us big communal tables, sprawling umbrellas to batter away the heat and we're a happy bunch. In fact, we might just live here.
Buy: Jazz/blues nights. Eschew the Muzak or piped-in TV commentary for whatever Browns/Indians/Cavs loss is on the docket that night and invest in a tight blues or jazz outfit to serenade your guests. There are plenty of dynamite local groups that fit the bill and there's no sweeter sound to our ears.
Sell: Smokies. They sit there collecting germs that whatever preservatives entombed in the smokie will eventually kill, but nothing looks less appetizing than a pile of cased meats in a smudged container that hasn't been cleaned since the '60s.
Buy: Pickled eggs. If we're going to eat something we shouldn't, at least offer something different than the guy down the street.