Bars where Pete has had a Drink (5,837 bars; 1,754 bars in Seattle) - Click titles below for Lists:

Bars where Pete has had a drink

Friday, May 03, 2024

#5750 - Speak of the Devil, Lorain, OH - 5/1/2024

Speak of the Devil, Lorain, OH

First, in full disclosure, I could hardly be more in love with this bar, these people, and this town. It didn't hurt that as I turned off Highway 6 along Lake Erie, just after crossing the Black River, and onto Lorain, Ohio's historic main drag Broadway, the weather was beautiful and the skies filled with clouds that appeared to be painted by Maxfield Parrish.

Were this part of town anywhere on the west coast, it would be packed with antique stores, gift shops, and coffee shops, and people would be contesting for available paid parking. But this old steel and shipping town hasn't reached anything much like that, although the potential is obvious from the beautiful old buildings, and the renaissance has clearly begun. Many people say the revitalization was sparked by my destination today -- the "Speak of the Devil" craft cocktail bar.

It was audacious indeed for Kurt and Page Hernon to found such a bar here, in what was commonly considered pretty much a ghost town. But Kurt had become deeply interested in the history and construction of fine cocktails -- apparently taking the typical career path of air traffic controller, to punk rock reporter, to owning an upscale bar in a town where no one would expect one. He'd created and hosted various cocktail related events over the last several years, before the couple sold their house, purchased a 1902 building just off the main drag, remodeled the upper portion into their living quarters, and the bottom into a just lovely bar.

You feel welcome the instant you enter the place -- I was first greeted by Kurt's son Hiatt, who explained that I was welcome to sit anywhere, including the back patio. As I spoke to Hiatt, bartenders Jack and Noah, and eventually Kurt and Page themselves, I quickly came to appreciate all their devotion to the craft of cocktailing, the history, and practicing their craft in a friendly, neighborhood setting.

Among the various spirits they discussed, they noted their emphases on Old Overholt, established in 1810 and commonly considered the longest running whiskey brand in America. American whiskey really started with Pennsylvania rye, and while Old Overholt languished with some relatively unexciting mash bills -- under the ownership of Jim Beam for the last few decades -- over the last several years new releases have revitalized the brand. And Speak of the Devil sells tons of it.

Kurt Hernon and Paulius Nasvytis

Yet another pleasant surprise for me was their stolid antique back bar -- different from any I have seen before, and obtained by Kurt after residing in an Akron, Ohio Knights of Columbus Hall. The bar and the town both have the sort of community that when Kurt posted a request for help unloading and setting it up in Feb 2017, more than a dozen people showed up and got the thing in place. It's hard for me to describe -- it looks like it could be mid-century, or art deco, or just the whims of a local wordworker. So you'll have to rely on the photos.

As luck would have it this evening, Paulius Nasvytis, the founder of seminal Cleveland cocktail lounge "The Velvet Tango Room," dropped by this evening as well. This was much appreciated by Kurt and crew, who were largely inspired by the bar.

Noah, Page, Hiatt, and Jack
Great people!
Lorain, Ohio is 150 miles from us, so unfortunately we can't make this bar a regular hangout. But it is most definitely going onto my favorites list, and I can't wait to come back, especially with Trista and other friends and relatives.

201 W 5th St, Lorain, OH 44052 - (440) 434-4286
Est. Dec 16, 2017 - Building constructed: 1902
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: - facebook - instagram
Articles ranked: imbibemagazine - ohlq - voyageohio - chroniclet - pulselorain - - voyageohio - clevelandmagazine - new day cleveland - clevelandmagazine - wkyc - wkyc - yelp - tripadvisor 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

#4213 - The Bat Bar, Ridgedale, MO - 5/16/2021

This bar is one of my favorites not for the drinks, nor the bar itself, but for it's enchanting setting. The Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail were carved out of the rocky hills of the Missouri Ozarks by Johnnie Morris, the billionaire founder of Bass Pro Shops, which also acquired Cabela's in 2017. This site hosts a golf course which wraps around a large sink hole, a resort and restaurants. To get to the Bat Cave, you sign up for the self-guided tour, either walking or via golf carts. There are plenty of places to stop and look at rock formations and water falls at your own leisure. You pull up to the bar window in your cart, order your drinks, and continue on through the caves, around natural waterfalls, a bat colony, and skeletons of ancient creatures like a saber-toothed tiger and short-faced bear. It's a fun, beautiful, and utterly unique bar visit and tour.

The Bat Bar, Lost Canyon Cave, Ridgedale, MO

150 Top of the Rock Rd, Ridgedale, MO 65739 - (417) 339-5306
Previous bars in this location: None known 
Web site: - instagram 
Articles ranked: atlasobscura - visitmo417magyelp - tripadvisor - roadtrippers - explorebranson 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

#5730 - Crazy Fox Saloon, Bucyrus, OH - 4/19/2024

Crazy Fox Saloon, Bucyrus, OH

Through some great serendipity I happened upon the Crazy Fox Saloon in Bucyrus, Ohio while stopping in town for a coffee. This is located in a hotel constructed in 1916 and now used as apartments. More importantly to me, there was not only a nice bar on the main floor, but a genuine speakeasy on the floor below, frequented by no less than Al Capone, on his railway trips from New York to Chicago.

Building manager Tina and bar manager Annette generously showed me the speakeasy and other antique features, including glass bricks in a portion of the ceiling which could be used to keep an eye on who's coming in the front door, and the oldest operating elevator in Ohio (107 years old as I write this). They also showed me the previous entrances to old tunnels, which once could be used as an alternative/emergency exit, but which were bricked in off several years ago now.

Original brick from 1920s speakeasy
below the Crazy Fox Saloon, Bucyrus, OH

The speakeasy area, which started use in 1920 and is currently reserved for tours and special events, features the original brick, with a corner space that is said to be the one preferred by Capone (who may have also been persuaded to spend some time in the area by the adjacent brothels along the railway here).

I do not know the age of the bar on the main floor, but it features a back bar that appears to be from the art deco or mid century era, three pool tables, and four taps split between old school corporate brews and craft pours.

Inside 107-year-old elevator,
said to be the oldest in Ohio

The Crazy Fox is located in the small historic core of Bucyrus ("byoo-sigh-russ"), where bright murals vie for attention with every cornice and corbel of the many fine old buildings. It's the sort of town where shops feature photographs of the Bratwurst Festival queens, and the coffee shop shares space with an Amish furniture store. The bar and rest of the building are currently owned by Brian Rockwell, who is also executive director of the Crawford County Solid Waste District. Rockwell bought the property from Larry Williams in 2017. It was Williams who named the bar the Crazy Fox, after taking control of the building April 1, 1981, and what was previously called "The Plaza" bar. In addition to liquor and a large selection of canned beers, the bar serves breakfast and contemporary tavern fair (e.g. wings, burgers, sandwiches).

It's a nice top for anyone, but an especially happy discovery for someone interested in historical bars.

Glass ceiling/floor allowed speakeasy
staff to keep an eye on who was
approaching the front door.

114 W Mansfield St, Bucyrus, OH 44820 - (419) 562-1256
Est. April 1, 1981 - Building constructed: 1916
Previous bars in this location: The Plaza 
Web site: - facebook - instagram 
Reviews: richlandsource - crawfordcountynow - crawfordcountynow  

Monday, April 22, 2024

#5731 - Alpha Cafe, Wapakoneta, OH - 4/19/2024

Alpha Cafe, Wapakoneta, OH
Wapakoneta, Ohio may be best known for being the hometown of Neil Armstrong, but what drew me here was the historic Alpha Cafe and its beautiful Brunswick back bar, one of the most detailed and striking I've ever seen. The white oak bar is said to have been hand carved (?) explicitly for the Alpha Cafe in the Cincinnati factory of Brunswick-Balke-Collender in 1892, and to have been part of the bar ever since it opened in 1893.

But it's not just the back bar; there is a matching front bar, a partition, a liquor cabinet stored elsewhere, and a mirrored wall section all produced together. The Alpha was originally across the street, and moved to its current location in 1962.  
When the bar was moved from across the street, many of the men from town helped in moving the large pieces of the back bar. On occasion a patron will stop in and begin telling personal narratives of how he was one of those volunteers. Bill and the mover will sit and brag how they moved the back bar on a Sunday, and with all the help of movers, plumbers, and electricians, "Never missed a day of business"   (
The site describes ownership over the years:
The original owners of Alpha Cafe were Jake Wentz and Peck Heisler, who owned the bar for a few years before selling it to Joe Miller in 1912. [William] Gutmann started working there in 1938, and soon became a part owner. He became the sole owner in 1969, and ran the cafe for several decades before selling it to [Tony] Steinke [in 2004]. The current owner said it is also rumored that the infamous Dillinger Gang tried to buy the bar when it was in its old location.
In the same article, Steinke notes:
“It’s been in continuous operation for the last 124 years. It didn’t even shut down during Prohibition. During that time it became a ‘food establishment,’ and before that it was a men’s only place."
Just past the bar is a classic diner counter serving American comfort food. The neon sign out front is also vintage, dating back to circa 1935.

And finally, to locals a highlight of the year in Wapanoketa arrives each November-December, when the Alpha serves its special Tom and Jerrys. Steinke explained:
“The recipe is a secret, so before I bought the bar I had no idea what was in it. When I bought the bar, my grandpa held the recipe for a couple weeks to make sure the check cleared.”  (ibid)

Wapakoneta is a town of just under 10,000 people, 60 miles north of Dayton and 30 miles east of the Indiana border. The tributes to hometown hero Neil Armstrong are peppered throughout the downtown core, which features several great old buildings, with some interesting shops and restaurants. For anyone who is interested in history, space travel, antique bars, or just charming small towns, it's a very nice stop in central Ohio.

address - phone

Est. 1893, 1962 current location
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: - facebook 
Articles: limaohio - tripadvisor - yelp 

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

#5655 - Tiki Bar Behind Low Key Hideaway, Cedar Key, FL - 3/25/2024

Low-Key Hideaway and Tiki Bar
Cedar Key, FL

People who are seriously into tiki generally have exacting standards for what constitutes a "tiki bar," and the state of Florida in particular is full of thatch topped "tiki bars" that don't meet the criteria. The "Tiki Bar Behind Low Key Hideaway" is one of those, but whatever you want to call it, it is a wonderful bar -- one of my very favorites in the country.

The bar is part of a small, eccentric complex that also includes 5 motel rooms, nine RV spaces, a food truck, and a "tiki taxi," sitting on the waters edge in Cedar Key off the Gulf of Mexico, and with the entire space restricted to adults only. The bar is set in an old fish house, and looks exactly like one would want a beach bar to look, appearing to have been constructed of various flotsam collected from the beach.

Tiki Bar Behind Low-Key Hideway
Cedar Key, FL

A place like this would have been one of my favorites whatever its history, but one thing that makes it even more remarkable is that it was severely damaged by Hurricane Idalia just nine months ago. Video (Facebook) of the place after the storm waters crested at 8.9 feet shows the bar filled up to the windows with several feet of water, with extensive damage throughout the business. But with the owner, staff, and a small army of volunteers on the job, they were almost miraculously reopened within about a week, including rebuilding walls made of old bottles, and the deck being rebuilt just one week after that. The place got power and water restored in a day or two and immediately offered the hotel rooms to displaced locals, and free meals from the food truck.

Just looking at the place on this visit one would have trouble finding any clue that anything like that intense damage and immense recovery effort had every happened. The bar cat looks out over the marsh from a perch above the glass bottle wall, as the bartender serves frozen cocktails and elaborate Bloody Marys in front of a bar formed from an inverted piano. The various nautical knick-knacks and eclectic pieces of folk art look like they could have been sitting undisturbed for decades. Were it a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday Night, the bar would probably feature live music as well.

I can only put so much into words, but if the pictures don't make you long to spend some time relaxing here, well, we're just made of different stuff. The Low-Key Hideaway, the entire "arts community" of Cedar Key, and the surrounding small towns of this region are now very high on my list of places I'd like to return to and spend more time exploring.

12050 FL-24, Cedar Key, FL 32625
Web site: - instagram 
Reviews: link - yelp - wandering florida 

Monday, April 01, 2024

#5670 - The Blue Front Cafe, Bentonia, MS - 3/27/2024

Blues Front Cafe, Bentonia, MS

On this sunny, early weekday afternoon, in the midst of a 4,400 mile road trip, I crossed some railroad tracks and pulled up to a windowless, cinder block building in Bentonia, Mississippi, population 318. Here, in the shadow of the large, corrugated steel Blue Front Cotton Gin building, was is said to be the oldest juke joint in Mississippi -- and probably in the world, looking like it probably barely changed since opening in 1948. The tiny community of Bentonia has become of genre, "Bentonia Blues," developed by Henry Stuckey and Skip James, and inherited by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, the owner of the Blue Front Cafe since his father died in 1970, and currently making his way inside the joint. On my road trip I would see several great historical bars across the south, a number of beautiful antique back bars, tiki bars, beach bars, and some of the most enjoyable craft cocktails I've ever had. But it was this place, utterly authentic and wearing its history as if preserved in amber, that was my favorite stop of the trip, and one of my very favorite bar stops ever.

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes
Bluesman and owner of the Blue Front Cafe
I felt immense good fortune to find Jimmy there during my visit, and to have the opportunity to chat with the legendary bluesman and bar owner. Jimmy's parents Carey and Mary Holmes founded the Blue Front in 1948, serving "buffalo fish" and moonshine to Yazoo County cotton workers, along with blues played by locals and itinerant bluesmen traveling up Highway 49. The place is old enough that Jimmy's parents weren't allowed to serve Coca-Cola. "... nor could black customers purchase it or other items reserved for whites anywhere in Bentonia; African Americans were allowed only brands such as Nehi and Double Cola." (  Perhaps ironically or perhaps not, the sign now out front is framed by Coca-Cola logos.

The particular brand of haunting blues music that arose in these parts is largely defined by it's tuning.

"It’s where Henry Stuckey and Skip James traded licks, and where both men indoctrinated Jimmy in the style known as Bentonia blues. That genre is the result of Stuckey learning open-minor-key tunings from Bahamian servicemen during World War I, and incorporating them into the sounds of home—then teaching his music to Skip James, who remains the style’s most famous exponent. (Check out James’ “Devil Got My Woman” for a case of the Bentonia willies.) Rarely can we point to a single town, let alone a single place, where a distinctive musical style ignited and was nurtured, to eventually reach the world. Bentonia and the Blue Front are such a place."  (

"Bentonia is a strange, more ominous idiom. Its unsettling sound hinges partly on a guitar player’s spidery fingerpicking, which frequently requires the use of all ten fingers. Perhaps most important, the Bentonia style is played in a minor-key tuning, making it sound tense and dark, with repeating motifs and ringing open strings plucked without a hand on the fretboard. The result is a droning, hypnotic character. And unlike the comfortingly predictable 12-bar blues most people are familiar with—think of “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley or “The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King—Bentonia blues has a loose structure. There is no chorus, no set number of times to repeat a musical pattern. The overall effect is “spooky in a way, but really beautiful,” says Dan Auerbach, frontman for the blues-rock group the Black Keys, whose Nashville-based recording label Easy Eye Sound produced Holmes’ 2019 album Cypress Grove, which was nominated for a Grammy Award."  (Smithsonian Magazine

Jimmy Duck was born in 1947, just one year before his parents started the place, and one of ten children and four cousins that grew up in his parents’ home. He's now 76, I believe, but still on top of local music enough to recommend a place that night a few blocks to my hotel in downtown Jackson. Since 1972 he has hosted the "Bentonia Blues Festival on the third Saturday of June, attracting blues fans from around the world. Fans also come to the bar from around the world, although on this day it was a smattering of locals hanging out. And increasingly blues artists and other performers have come to jam and sometimes record (e.g. the Black Keys). 

On this lazy afternoon, Jimmy chatted about the place and, upon learning where I was from, about places he'd played in Pennsylvania, with me often straining to hear him over the news blaring from the television above. I loved that I had this time to chat with him, but I also feel like I won't really know the place before I've come on some evening when the music is playing and the joint is hopping. That's going to go high on my list of priorities for future trips.

107 W Railroad Ave, Bentonia, MS 39040 - (662) 528-1900
Est. 1948
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook 
Articles Ranked: msbluestrailpremierguitar - smithsonianmagyoutube - clarionledger - atlasobscura - countryroadsmagazine -- deltamagazine - jeffmores - gardenandgun - thesouthlandmusicline - visityazoo - wheresthedrama - sheindiewikipedia - tripadvisor - yelp - 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

#5579 - The Adams Hotel, Greenville, PA - 2/21/2024

Adams Hotel Bar
Greenville, PA 
The Adams Hotel Bar has been sitting just off the Shenango River since current owner Richie Williams' father bought it in 1951. Richie bought it when his dad retired at 88 years-old. It's a comfortable old neighborhood dive here in Greenville, some 80 miles north of Pittsburgh and 80 miles east of Cleveland, and home to the Werner Company, the world's largest manufacturer of step and extension ladders.

Unlike most bartenders in similar joints, Richie wears a tie every day, hanging from below his white beard, lending him a sort of professorial look.

The sign out front is a bit confusing, giving no reference to a bar, and containing the tag line "Where Your Family." I forgot to ask exactly what was meant by this (Where you're family? We're your family?).

Out back there's a small patio overlooking the river, and to the left of that is a much larger porch that Richie is going to add to the current bar, along with the building beside it.

I had just eaten a chili dog at the Majestic Bar and Grille -- which is said to have been famous for them since it was established in 1920. But both Richie and patrons like Chris assured me that the Adams now has the superior chili dogs, so a return visit is absolutely necessary so that I might judge for myself.

106 Main St, Greenville, PA 16125 - (724) 885-1111
Est. 1951 
Previous bars in this location: None known 
Web site: None
Reviews: yelp