27 bars we love (excerpt)
By Joe Sweeney; photos by kc kratt

Sportsmen’s Tavern: a haven for country music fans
This Sportsmen’s life
Sportsmen’s Tavern
326 Amherst Street

Anybody who thinks that country music’s soul is trapped underneath Toby Keith’s smelly plaid cut-offs will be glad to know that the Sportsmen’s Tavern exists. The decidedly unpolished, what-you-see-is-what-you-get West Side bar has become one of the premier live music spots in town, thanks to a crammed slate of rock and country shows that put the stress on guts and twang instead of a glistening sheen. Its website instructs concertgoers to get their tickets at the tavern itself, because there’s “no Ticketbastard here.” Buffalo, look for your appletinis elsewhere.

The will to drink
248 Allen Street

Whether you’re a live music junkie or a professional barfly, this Allentown institution will have you believing that God isn’t dead. For the sonically inclined, there’s the constant, eclectic stream of local and touring artists performing on the intimate, lived-in stage (as well as up front on the floor, across from the bar). And for wannabe Bukowskis, there’s the ridiculously long happy hours—on Wednesdays and Fridays, for example, you can drink $2.50 Blues from noon to 9 p.m. As a result, this inviting, unpretentious bar is as easy to love as it is impossible to spell.

Fathers knows best
Founding Fathers
75 Edward Street

Ever wanted to get leisurely plastered while gazing into Millard Fillmore’s cold, erotic eyes? Then get yourself to Founding Fathers, park yourself at a table, and explore the placemats. The glorious, Oval Office kitsch of this Allentown tavern would be enough to land it in this issue, but there’s so much more—free nachos every afternoon, a monthly trivia competition, and pub fare of commendable quality. And with owner Mike Driscoll serving up good charm and historical factoids with your drinks, you’re in for a uniquely comforting bar experience. At the Fathers, the only thing you have to beer is beer itself.

Bank of Buffalo
Left Bank
511 Rhode Island Street

So it’s your Uncle Oswald’s birthday, and you promised you’d take him out. And of course, you forgot to make reservations. (You dope!) Never fear, thoughtless one. Just bring him to Left Bank, one of the most consistently dynamic restaurants in town. You probably won’t get a table, but Ozzie can sit at the bar and order whatever he wants off the menu. This way, the atmosphere will be as hearty and satisfying as the food. For such a renowned fine-dining establishment, Left Bank’s bar is an unexpectedly warm neighborhood meeting place that injects some West Side noise into the building, evaporating any potential snootiness and making it a destination in and of itself.

Mini food, maxi martinis
242 Allen Street

Thanks to this fascinating Allentown restaurant, miniatures aren’t just for lonely people’s curio cabinets anymore. Sample’s concept—very small portions of robust haute cuisine and comfort food dishes—results in some eccentric, unforgettable dining. But thankfully, the snazzy bar area is where the tiny things end. Boasting a killer martini menu, of which the honey lavender has become a signature, the Sample bar features modern design flourishes, friendly service, and a full-sized selection of spirits. What an elegant way to catch a buzz.


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