“It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday,” Billy Joel sang in his paean to a piano bar and its “regular crowd.” It was a nod to a specific place, at a specific time, when very specific characters were bending an elbow at a neighborhood watering hole.
In recent years, City Weekly explored local bars by taking the temperature of their beers. For the 2013 Bar Guide, our contributors instead took the temperature of the rooms—from the hottest dance floors to the coolest neighborhood hangouts—for prose snapshots capturing a week in the life of the Utah bar, tavern and club scene.
Maybe it was 9 o’clock on a Saturday; maybe it was happy hour on a Friday; maybe it was a business lunch on a Wednesday. Visiting spots from Park City to Magna and Ogden to Provo, we sought to capture their essence in a single moment: the celebratory belting of a karaoke tune; a shared joke with the bartender; the communal cheers of sports fans; a drag on the hookah pipe.
So, stroll with us through the lively, unique establishments, nodding along at the recognition of your own favorite spot, or getting inspired to try someplace new. Share a drink with us; it’s better than drinking alone. —Scott Renshaw
Kate Ayer, Joe Beatty, Niki Chan, Stephen Dark, Dom Darling, Austen Diamond, Jessica Dunn, Bill Frost, Trevor Hale, Randy Harward, Nicole McDonald, Jeff Miesbauer, Dan Nailen, Aimee Cook O’Brien, Eric S. Peterson, Katherine Pioli, Rachel Piper, Scott Renshaw, Brian Staker, Kolbie Stonehocker, Jacob Stringer, Colin Wolf
Monday 7 p.m.
Chalk Up & Break
The activities are scrawled on a board: karaoke on Thursdays, bands throughout the weekend nights. Monday is $8 steak, but while some customers pile their plates with salad and a piece of grilled meat, most are there for a pool tournament. Regulars drift in with their long, narrow leather cases, and couples gather around the oblong bar in the large, airy hall to sip on a beer and discuss the upcoming tourney. Players of all ages—including one middle-age man sporting a fabulous blond mullet—work their cue tips, screw together their cues and chalk up. As balls are racked and calls are issued to “go find your team,” Magna’s community of pool players gets down to business.
8987 W. 2700 South, Magna, 801-250-1970
Monday 7:30 p.m.
It’s not too full tonight at The Spot, but there’s an ebb and flow of people visiting their favorite neighborhood bar on a work night. The strings of holiday lights and the red-vinyl fabric on the bar stools and booths give the place a retro glow. A couple plays a round of pool; a group of friends find seats at a corner table. An old guy walks in and greets his friend at the end of the bar: “What’s up, Jerry? Watch the game?” Everything feels easy and classic here, just like the beers on tap: Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
870 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-355-7768
Monday 7:35 p.m.
Everybody in the Pool
The Blackhawks have just won the Stanley Cup, but aside from a spare hoot or two, you wouldn’t know anything just happened. Dead night here? No, we’re just not sitting where the action is. Batters is a big place, and feels even bigger with the mural of faces staring down at the crowd in the main room. But the hot spot is in The Dugout, where the pool tables host nightly tournaments and the majority of the patrons congregate.
1717 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-463-4996, BattersUpSportsBar.com
Monday 8 p.m.
It’s been a mellow experience from the first step inside Maggie’s, a bar most definitely comfortable in its own skin. By combining a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall mentality with some serious acreage, the end result is a cozy vibe where a person doesn’t have to crane their neck to hear a friend’s story, and there’s no risk of bumping into 10 people while turning in place with your beer. An hour from now, things will get a little more boisterous, with the nightly karaoke kicking off in the cavernous back of the joint.
6253 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-273-9899, MaggieMcGees.com
Monday 8:45 p.m.
A Bit of Badass
One might be a little skeptical of a place claiming to be a biker bar in this part of town, but once I step inside, seeing is believing. There are long, high wooden tables, bawdy street signs and plenty of laughter, often laced with whatever profanity one cares to use when they don’t feel it necessary to protect a nearby delicate ear. Our bartender is no-nonsense, but somehow gives off the vibe that he’d gladly break a pool cue over the head of someone giving us trouble.
3943 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-272-1903, Facebook.com/CruzrsSaloon
Monday 9:30 p.m.
Karaoke Rehearsal in the Isolation Booth
Most bars have karaoke, but Highlander is karaoke. There are maybe two stools that don’t face the stage here, and even though there aren’t a lot of patrons on a weeknight, the wait list to perform is still sizeable. We asked our bartender about the mythical isolation booth, only to be proudly informed that there are two. Yes, if you don’t feel you can match Minnie Riperton’s high notes cold, you can warm up in a soundproof room complete with screen, mic and headphones. Did we mention there is karaoke?
6194 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-277-8251, HighlanderUtah.com
Monday 10:30 p.m.
Just Like Old Faithful
There are regulars at bars, and then there are regulars at bars. X-Wife’s Place—even on a Monday night, and maybe especially because it is a Monday—has regulars seated at the bar who’ve been chatting it up since long before I arrived. The pool tables are mostly occupied, and the back patio is empty and peaceful—until a girls’ night out/birthday party shows up to take over. But with extra room behind the bar and near the front, it’s easy for the regulars to find a quiet place and leave the youngsters to have their fun.
465 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City, 801-532-1954
Tuesday 7 p.m.
One-Stop Pub Crawl
This may be a great big complex, but we’re quite cozy out here on the patio listening to some live jazz, thank you. When the weather is nice, there isn’t a more diverse bar experience in town. The second-story outdoor porch is hopping; a dozen teams are playing trivia in the main dining room; and a sizeable throng of soccer fans is huddled by the interior bar island to yell at the refs botching the U.S. national team’s match. And don’t forget the shuffleboarders in the game room and the whole second bar and dining room upstairs. This is a one-street-corner pub crawl.
326 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-819-7565, GraciesSLC.com
Tuesday 7:40 p.m.
O’Shucks Bar & Grill, Park City
Schoo-ner (noun): a large bowl-shaped glass that takes two hands to hold up when it’s filled to the brim with ridiculously cheap beer; also known as a “fishbowl.” A schooner is what you get for the ridiculous price of $3.25 (Blue Moon, Killian’s and Dead Horse brews only) on Tuesdays at O’Shucks. The locals and out-of-towners in the know are filling up the patio. At this hour, it’s a mix of after-work lingerers and post-bike/golf hydrators, who are munching on the also-ridiculously-priced burgers ($3.25). Tuesday, from now on, should be proclaimed Schoonerday. Maybe it will stick.
427 Main, Park City, 435-645-3999, OShucks-AhhSushi.com