Sure, you can check out the bars that all the tourists know about — in fact, you should, because many of these nightspots are rich with St. Louis history. But if you really want to feel like a local, spend an evening visiting the city’s more under-the-radar watering holes. Here, you’re likely to meet interesting people and hear some great stories.
Start off at The Royale (3132 South Kingshighway). Local impresario Steven Fitzpatrick Smith has quickly turned this shotgun space into a favorite local hang, thanks to excellent DJ nights, way-above-average food, and tasty drinks. The libation menu itself is a crash-course in St. Louis neighborhoods and landmarks; try the River Des Peres, a martini turned deliciously dirty by kalamata olives.
If you can’t find a seat at the super-popular Royale, check out the equally beloved but far less crowded CBGB (3163 South Grand Blvd.), a true dive bar (so dive-y, in fact, that it does not have a phone). The drinks are cheap and the folks are friendly — just be aware that the place gets seriously smoky as the night goes on.
Soulard is the Holy Grail for many a bar-hopping St. Louisan. Cheap drinks and an impressive bars-to-block ratio make it easy and fun to check out plenty of spots. Don’t-miss destinations include The Great Grizzly Bear (1027 Geyer Ave.), which has an excellent patio; Nadine’s Gin Joint and Café (1931 South 12th St.), which almost always feels like a rockin’ neighborhood block party (thanks to inexpensive booze, shuffleboard, and darts); and Hammerstone’s (2028 South Ninth St.), which frequently hosts great jazz and R&B acts.
Looking to catch a game? Blues, Cards, and Rams fans eschew the corporate-feeling sports bars and head instead to Tom’s Bar & Grill (20 South Euclid Ave.). This Central West End institution has lots of screens, lots of beer, and lots of deep-fried bar fare. If you’re feeling a bit fancier, head for the Lounge (4584 Laclede Ave.), a chic-but-cozy nightspot with a speakeasy vibe. This bar is above Moxy Bistro, and many St. Louisans have yet to find out about it. Shh!