Best Of 2013

Best Bar




Writers have written that bars in Brooklyn, New York spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to create a vibe as authentic and original as Happy Dog's, which seems to possess it with no effort at all. No longer exclusively a hipster enclave in Gordon Square, the hot dog joint with a great beer selection and lots of indie music has expanded its programming and become — according to voters — the best bar in town. The five-dollar dogs with endless toppings are legendary. This year, a portion of their sales aided the West Side Market vendors after the fire there in January. There's great local bands and out-of-town rockers who play several nights a week, not to mention regular visits by the Cleveland Orchestra, literary events coordinated by Ohio City Writers, panel discussions, and one hell of a jukebox. 5801 Detroit Ave., 216-651-9474,  

Best Rock Club



If the hearty sounds of rock 'n' roll are your thang, then the Beachland is the one place in town that consistently offers your prescription. Dig the venue's online calendar and you'll see just what kinda medicine they're pulling. Other venues cater either to overly niche crowds (witchcore house punk? pineapple upside-down ska funk?) or to LiveNation-sterilized generalities. But the fact that it can accommodate two sets of shows each night broadens the venue's horizons. Cleveland is a town of authenticity and you'll find no better representation than the Beachland's attitude. 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Best Jazz Club


For ten years in a row, Downbeat magazine has voted this Cleveland Heights restaurant and club one of the best jazz clubs in the country and it certainly lives up to the rep on a regular basis. Booked by locally based Jim Wadsworth Productions, the club regularly brings major jazz and world beat acts to town. And it hosts local talent regularly as well. On occasion, singer-songwriters such as Carrie Rodriguez and J.J. Cale will play the club, too. 12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-795-0550,


Best Blues Club

Brothers Lounge

Sidle up to the bar and order yourself a dashing Manhattan as the band starts tuning up. The music hall here at Brothers Lounge is the place to catch Cleveland's best blues. The Bad Boys of Blues, featuring Cleveland's own Michael Bay, Michael Barrick and Jim Wall, host a jam night on Thursdays that is to die for. (The fact that it's "ladies night" only sweetens the deal for blues-starved husbands and boyfriends and, of course, roving packs of Buddy Guy-lovin' chicks). In summary, however, the venue is ideal for everything from Mississippi Delta blues to contemporary electric swagger in E minor. 11609 Detroit Ave.,





Best Bar for

Hooking Up


New in town and wondering where the 20-somethings and 30-somethings go to get a little looser than normal?  Probably, Cleveland's premier night club, which this year doubles as Cleveland's best bar for dancing and hooking up. The music and the club lighting are probably just as essential as the alcohol in this department. Also, there's that psychological idea that your mind will follow the directives of your body. So, like, when you smile (even if you're unhappy), you'll begin to feel happy, just because your body is telling your mind that it is. Likewise with dancing/hooking up. If your body is moving in a really flirtatious/come-hither sort of way (and also if you've had, say, six vodkas), your mind likely won't object to whatever it is your body tells you it ought to be doing. Also, there's a sparkling view of  downtown from their rooftop patio, and it's straight-up romantic.

1280 W. 6th St., 216-664-1116,

Best Hip-hop Club


This Ohio City club has been going strong for over a decade now. While it was once an outpost for avant-garde electronic music, it has become a popular hip-hop club, especially when former Clevelander Mick Boogie returns to town on the last Saturday of the month to team up with local DJ Terry Urban and throw his popular "I Got Five on It" party. The Boogie/Urban events really pack the place and have given it a rep as a great dance club. 2710 Lorain Ave.,


Best Comedy Club


If you like to laugh, there's no place better than Hilarities on East 4th Street. In the Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant, the vibe is terrific and surrounding bars and restaurants kick your date night up a notch. Hilarities books top-level touring comedians for affordable prices. Mike Polk, Frank Caliendo and Jo Koy are all performing in the next few months. With an exploding underground stand-up and improv commmunity, Hilarities also offers opportunities for up-and-comers to perform. Great drinks. Great ambience. Great comedy club all-around. 2035 E. 4th St. 216-241-7425,

Best LGBT Bar


If you're looking for a laid-back evening with classic cocktails, tepid NPR blather, and flattering lighting, Bounce is not your jam. If, on the other hand, you a) are fixin' to get your freak on with mesh-clad boyz while nursing generous well shots and b) have a high tolerance for Top 40 dance hits and frenetic strobes, Bounce is most assuredly the foremost destination on your Friday night itinerary. Yes, the floor is sticky. Yes, you might feel like a pederast or parental chaperone at prom if you're over 25. But the weekend drag shows are a bawdy blast, and whether you're sweating and grinding on the raised dancefloor or cruising the sofa-lined lounge area for frisky after-hours fun with queens, wastey go-go boys, and the straights who love them, we defy you to not have a good time, no matter if you're L,G, Q, T, or B(ad at dancing).

2814 Detroit Ave., 216-357-2997


Best Karaoke Bar

Tina's Nite Club

You would be forgiven, after a cursory drive-by, for dismissing Tina's as a terrifying den of low-rent squalor. While the blighted location, fizzling sign, prison-yard patio, and sleazy spelling might deter the nebbish and weak-willed, karaoke stalwarts know that within Tina's imposing brick facade, seedy spoils aplenty await. Helmed by one of two DJs—jolly Little Lou or tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold Billy Wayne—Tina's karaoke selections may not boast the latest chart-toppers, but hey, "How Bizarre" beats Pitbull any day (or nite). And with $1-for-3 Jell-O shots and $2 domestics, you'll be sloshed enough to tackle 4 Non Blondes in no time (seriously, that "heyayayay" is like the Bermuda Triangle of karaoke choruses). If you play your cards right (tip well and maybe cue some Hank Williams), Billy Wayne might just treat you to his own rendition of "Johnny B. Goode" at the end of the night. Insider tip: The bathrooms are for smoking, hooking up, and peeing, in that order. Relieve yourself accordingly. Also: "Bohemian Rhapsody" is for dicks.

5400 Herman Ave., 216-651-8057

Best New Bar/Club:


Sam McNulty's fifth and newest establishment on West 25th Street has much to recommend it. Not only does this glossy corner brewpub cater to the burgeoning cyclist community with a tune-up station inside the bar; it also boasts a charming patio and sensational in-house brews. The Nano Namber Ale is a highlight. The bar was conceived to feature the dynamite craft brewery scene in Northeast Ohio and Nano has 24 distinct beers on draft. The menu's outstanding as well, with decadently caloric appetizers and killer burgers at a surprisingly low cost. Incidentally, they've been playing some outstanding classic rock music as well. Last week when we stopped by, we heard Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Neil Young, and Van Halen within a 45-minute span. 1859 W. 25th St., 216-862-6631,  

Best martini bar

Velvet Tango Room

Bringing the concept of a cocktail into the echelons of art, Velvet Tango Room offers a beverage experience like no other. But first, you've got to find the place. Take a few guesses by randomly walking into Columbus Avenue homes, and then - yes! - you've got it. Subtly flaunt your impeccable taste in classy-yet-offbeat fashion and sidle up to the bar, where you'll find yourself up against a menu the likes of which you've only chanced upon in dreams.  Order yourself a perfect Manhattan. Tell 'em Scene sent you and look endearingly like such a thing demands a deal on your tab. (Won't happen.) 2095 Columbus Rd., 216-241-8869,

Best Dive Bar

Now That's Class

The closest you'll get to approximating a barf-stained, fist-flying GG Allin gig this side of 1993 is Cleveland's storied degenerate punk venue, where the brews come even cheaper than the thrills and going to the bathroom is an exercise in torqueing your body just so to hold the door shut while balancing a beer and wiping with salvaged toilet paper shreds. The bartenders are surprisingly competent and accommodating; the sound equipment isn't, but scrappy garage punk and high-octane hardcore don't exactly demand a state-of-the-art P.A. system. While you may have to eventually dodge an errant fist or dislodged tooth or three if you frequent the place, NTC's hoarse, Pall Mall-ravaged bark is usually fiercer than its (vegan slop) bite. 11213 Detroit Ave., 216-221-8576,

Best gentlemen's club


The Flats has certainly earned it's reputation for all things seedy, but Christie's Cabaret remains an important testament to how far a glob of glitter can go in this town. Far and away the classiest club in Cleveland, Christie's highlights a tidy swath of the area's beautiful ladies. And if the glitz and glamor ain't really your thang, stick around for the chicken fingers with a side o' ketchup. Tasty shit. Any and all (yes, any) of your adult entertainment needs are good to go at Christie's. 1180 Main Ave., 216-574-6222,

Best Industry Night


Monday nights are the time to go to Liquid, if you weren't already there all weekend. But the weekday post-sundown gathering spot is for people "in the biz" on Mondays, so they probably served your annoying drunk ass all weekend and now it's their turn to relax. Steep discounts and the usual Liquid festivities – music, conversation, booze, music and more music – will keep your weekend rolling right into the work week, no matter what your profession. 1212 W. 6th St, 216-479-7717,

Best Place to be Seen

on a Saturday Night

West 25th STREET

The best part about West 25th Street is that, because of its diverse bar and culinary offerings, it resists stereotypes. Even if you're at ABC, you're not necessarily a hipster. Even if you're at Market Garden, you're not a douchey 30-something. Even if you're at Bar Cento, you're not necessarily a snooty foodie. Maybe you're all three of those things but on West 25th it's impossible to tell! It's one of the hottest places to go for the concentration of local craft brews—Great Lakes Brewing Company, Nano Brew, Market Garden—and for the diverse food offerings. But you also can dance club-style in the Speakeasy below Bier Markt or Touch Supper club just around the corner on Lorain. It's ideal to be seen there because you'll instantly be thought of as a social omnivore, one who enjoys fine food and local craft beer, but who also (under the right circumstances and appropriate influences) knows exactly how to party.  

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