Saturday 08 August, 2015

What makes the best local bar? 5 Things

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  It’s a question I hadn’t thought about much until recently. Is it a place “where everybody knows your name” as the old Cheers theme crooned? A spot that supports the local community with little league sponsorships, blood drives and the like? Or just a good old reliable? It seems unimportant, but maybe it isn’t. […]




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It’s a question I hadn’t thought about much until recently. Is it a place “where everybody knows your name” as the old Cheers theme crooned? A spot that supports the local community with little league sponsorships, blood drives and the like? Or just a good old reliable? It seems unimportant, but maybe it isn’t.

Off-Strip Vegas is filled with local bars—they tend to call them “Nevada-Style Pubs” here—and they’re fairly uniform. The drinks are cheap (even cheaper if you’re putting money into the video poker machines), the food is usually predictable, the diversions focus on some kind of sports on TV, and the biggest draw generally is a minimum amount of driving or staggering time to your cookie cutter condo.

But when Velveteen Rabbit won Best Local Bar in the Las Vegas Weekly’s most recent annual awards issue, it made me pause (I contribute to the Weekly but wasn’t involved in the decision). Maybe the definition of local bar in the post-Millennia is worthy of reappreciation. A local vs. tourist bar is more of an extreme notion in Vegas than in less tourism-centric cities, and the thought that Velveteen Rabbit, (which just passed its two year anniversary) really is a locals bar made me pause. What Velveteen Rabbit is doing isn’t unheard of in cities like LA, Seattle, Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Diego or Portland. But perhaps it is doing it a little differently. So since the Weekly didn’t go into detail,  I made a mental list of what earns VR the Best Local Bar mantle. And then I made the mental , physical:

1) They have cool music… and it’s free

At the moment, the DJ nights are themes like Discocity, International Playground (Jamaican+), the Get Back (soul and funk) and who knows what else weird arty or indie performers will get slotted in. All free (and sometimes free food too).

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2) The owners are behind the bar

Yes, the Dylag sisters don’t show up just to count out the till. One or both of them is on the team behind the stick most nights, and they seem to run things very collaboratively. Several VR bartenders have moved on to positions at other respected spots after being nurtured and encouraged here.

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One of these three is not usually behind the stick here. And that's probably a good thing.

3) They have an “ice program.”

And it looks like this.

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Yeah, that's a "grill" in the 3 Dollar Bill Y'all. Or it's your grandpa's dentures. Whatever, sissy. Drink it.

4) They don’t just have ordinary food

Sometimes it’s poke. Sometimes it’s dessert. But at least once a week it’s Celeb Chef Ben Vaughn’s Southern Kitchen truck, with respected local chef dude John Courtney behind the burners.

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Totally stole these photos from Southern Kitchen's FB page. Zuckerberg said it was cool.

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5) They change their entire cocktail menu four times a year, and every time they do, it includes something like this:
Meet the Santa Anaconda, made with tequila and mescal with genepy, an avocado wasabi cream, lime, and a sesame seed rim. At $11, it’s one of the most expensive cocktails they’ve ever served. And I would put it up against any cocktail in the country for its’ originality and balance. Every season has at least one equally inspired.

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There are a lot of places to drink in Vegas, even a decent amount of freestanding bars that are serious about cocktails. But there aren’t many at all that have carved out their own territory and are unafraid to take chances on new ideas, and have fun with it. Well I guess those a few more reasons to call it a best local bar.

Velveteen Rabbit full menu and info


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