Nightlife and Taverns

your Best of the Chippewa Valley 2010 winners for nightime fun

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BEST KARAOKE SPOT

1st Place: 5 O’Clock Club
2nd Place: Wigwam Tavern
3rd Place: Seahorse Inn

This marks the first year the 5 O’Clock Club has cracked the top three for karaoke, and they did so in style by snagging top honors. And it’s obvious why. They provide the classic sing-along activity six days a week (all but Thursday), have a really awesome selection, and two extremely personable, cool dudes (Drew Liss and Nick Arnold) run the show. Nick also officiates over at The Wigwam (with Todd Anger), a Friday night favorite with a great mix of crowds (country bumpkins and indie hipsters are equally welcome). “Everyone gets the clap” over at The Seahorse, where you better keep it clean and keep drinks off the stage. The selection is slim, but the atmosphere is classic in this ironically embraced gem straight out of the 60s. – TK

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR

1st Place: The Joynt
2nd Place: Ray’s Place
3rd Place: Moke’s Grill & Bar

It’s important to have a neighborhood bar. I mean, it’s really important. These are the kinds of places where friends get together after long days at work, relax on the weekends, and come up with half-drunken ideas that, though seemingly brilliant at the time, never come to fruition. Standing the test of time, and coming in at first place, The Joynt is tucked away in that part of Eau Claire that hopefully never goes away. Packed with history, friendly to dogs, and affordable, The Joynt has been a favorite local watering hole for decades. Although not as smoky as it used to be, it still has the look of a trusty movie pub. Next on the list is Ray’s Place, with a comfortable, working class atmosphere that personifies the Midwest, it’s no wonder that so many people come in to eat some hot beefs with a glass of beer. Moke’s in Chippewa rounds it out with great food, a fun atmosphere, and tons to do on a daily basis. – AW

BEST BAR FOR OUTDOOR/LEAGUE SPORTS

1st Place: Loopy’s
2nd Place: Wigwam Tavern
3rd Place: Whiskey Dicks

Situated on the Chippewa River, first place finisher Loopy’s Grill & Saloon is in prime position for outdoor shenanigans. Though well known for their tube, kayak, and canoe rentals, their volleyball league runs five nights out of the week and doesn’t quit when it gets cold, it just moves into the dome. Pool and dart leagues commence in cooler weather, too. The Wigwam’s sidekick bar, The Depot, is open four nights a week during the summer for organized sand volleyball leagues. They grabbed second place. (The only downside is having to climb through the hole in the fence to get the ball …) And thirdly, Altoona’s Whiskey Dick’s offers volleyball five nights a week, April through September (a long season for amateur bumpers, setters, and spikers), plus pool, dart, and bean bag leagues. Yes, bean bag leagues. – KJ

BEST BAR FOR INDOOR GAMES

1st Place: Happy Hollow
2nd Place: The Livery
3rd Place: Bonnie’s Labor Temple

When it comes to indoor gaming while drinking at local watering holes, voters this year chose to represent three iconic pastimes with the three places that do them best. Altoona’s Happy Hollow is a haven for all things billiards, with no less than seven pool tables, plus a bunch of dartboards and some foosball. The Livery, meanwhile, has its own “Game Room,” providing the standard pool and darts, but most notably a mini-arcade of video games. There’s no secret as to why Bonnie’s Labor Temple finished third, what with it being the beacon of shuffleboard. But don’t forget, they’ve also got some good pinball machines. – TK

BEST BAR FOR TALKIN’

1st Place: The Joynt
2nd Place: The Livery
3rd Place: Dooley’s Pub

Ever get annoyed when bars blast their music to the point where waking up the next morning with ringing ears and a raspy voice becomes inevitable? Yeah, us too. Thankfully, the following bars are masters of atmospheres where talking is actually possible. The Joynt, with its eerily cool environment and window-side tables, makes it easy to chat up a storm without screaming. The Livery offers wide-open space and an outdoor patio (complete with a bonfire), perfect for conversing under the starry night sky with a cold brew. Lastly, the multiple floors, wide booths, and chill tunes of Dooley’s Pub make it an ideal spot for a good conversation. – EL

BEST BAR FOR DRINKIN’

1st Place: The Joynt
2nd Place: Moke’s Grill & Bar
3rd Place: The Mousetrap

I think Frank Sinatra said it best: “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” With Old Blue Eyes’ wisdom in mind, let’s take a look at the results for Best Bar For Drinkin.’ Coming in first place this year is The Joynt. A landmark in Eau Claire for as long as anyone can remember, this bar is known for its iconic atmosphere, no-light-beer rule and cheap drinks. Whether you want to shoot the bull with some friends or cozy up with a beer and magazine, this place has got it all. In second place is Moke’s Grill & Bar, where you’ll find a full-blown tiki bar and outdoor games. Coming in third is The Mousetrap – its always-free live music and dynamite downtown location make it a hot spot to knock a few back. – EL

BEST HAPPY HOUR SPOT

1st Place: The Joynt
2nd Place: FRiDAY’s
3rd Place: Shanghai Bistro (tied)
3rd Place: Brothers (tied)

“It’s five o’clock somewhere,” and here are the best places to go when it actually is. A favorite among co-workers, students and professors, and anyone just wanting to unwind, The Joynt is one of the chillest place on Earth. From 5-7, relax at this Water Street tavern and catch up with friends or try to name all of the classic blues artists whose photos line the walls. FRiDAY’S, with half-price appetizers and other happy hour discounts, slides into a comfortable second. Bring some friends between 4 and 7, Monday through Friday, and get your grub on. This year, two bars tied for third: Shanghai Bistro and Brothers. It’s a battle between upscale dining with saketinis or taps galore, free darts, and popcorn, so it really depends on what mood you’re in, but both are well worthy of the placement. – RT

BEST PLACE TO HOOK UP

1st Place: Scooters
2nd Place: She-Nannigans
3rd Place: Whiskey Dicks

You’ve seen the cast of Jersey Shore do it – shots at the bar, fist pumping on the dance floor, and meeting that special someone to “smoosh” (or, in more recent terms, “hook up”) with. Scooters stands at the top of the list for the best place to have a drink, do a little dance, and see where it leads. Next up is She-Nannigans, a place notorious for a dancing environment that could very well lead to an awkward morning. In third place is Whiskey Dicks – its multiple events and party atmosphere make it easy to meet someone out and have a good time. (Let’s hope no one gets punched in the face like Snooki, though.) – EL

BEST PLACE FOR DANCING

1st Place: Scooters
2nd Place: Any Place the Mood Strikes Ya
3rd Place: She Nannigan’s

Liven your weekend up with a little booty-scooting at Scooters, which raked in the most votes this year. While you can expect some of the latest pop numbers (think Lady Gaga), their DJ-spun repertoire has been described as “eclectic” and the crowd enthusiastic. Second in the Valley this year is “Any Place the Mood Strikes Ya.”  You know … a business luncheon, airport security area, the YMCA locker room. Evidently more people would like to break it down on a street corner than on the raised dance floor of our next finisher: She Nannigans, whose smashed-together environment I personally think can be rather … liberating. – KJ

BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE BIG GAME

1st Place: Buffalo Wild Wings
2nd Place: Dooley’s Pub
3rd Place: Ray’s Place

One of the most important parts of watching our favorite sporting event is having big, big TVs. As it happens, Buffalo Wild Wings has a whole mess of ‘em, many of which are big screen projectors. Coupled with their multitude of specials, all-the-time trivia, and roughly 800 wing sauces, it’s no surprise that B-Dubs ran away with the best sports bar category. If Water Street is more your style, Dooley’s Pub is our second place finisher with an Irishy atmosphere and two stories of good food and good drinks. Third place falls to local favorite Ray’s Place, known far and wide for their fantastic hot beef sandwiches and hometown atmosphere. Football season is here folks, and Eau Claire has a whole bunch of great places to watch your favorite Packer fans yell at your favorite Vikings fans. – AW

BEST BARTENDER

1st Place: Manas (The Joynt)
2nd Place: Jesse (Moke’s)
3rd Place: Dez (House of Rock)

The Joynt’s Manas, a two-time winner, is someone everyone who has frequented Water Street knows. Hell, the same could be said for Dez over at House of Rock. And both are really chill dudes, who have no problem keeping your glasses full or striking up conversations (especially as it pertains to music – an area in which both have excellent tastes). The kicker is that both represent bars with atmospheres that perfectly match their personalities. The area up-and-comer of sorts is Jesse Wilson over at Moke’s in Lake Hallie, who I’m told knows how to serve up a stiff drink like nobody’s business. – TK

BEST SPECIALITY DRINK

1st Place: The Grand Illusion’s Delusion
2nd Place: Haymarket Grill’s Cucumber Martini
3rd Place: Shanghai Bistro’s Sake-tini

Some people think it “too sweet,” while others say it’s “asking for heartburn,” but I’ll go ahead and admit it: I like The G.I.’s Delusion, and I have the t-shirt to prove it. The swampwater-resembling beverage is a little watermelon-y, a little cherry-y, and a lot sneaky-y. Three or four of those may go down smooth, but they’ll sneak up on you right quick. And the same goes for the other top placers. Haymarket is famous for its martini list, and the cucumber concoction is especially tasty and refreshing. The magic behind Shanghai’s sake-tinis is the real fruit juice (mango, pomegranate, etc.), which hides any semblance of booze, making them delightfully sweet and dangerous. – TK

BEST BAR DJ

1st Place: DJ Marcus (Scooters)
2nd Place: DJ Don Diego (Poo’s, O’Leary’s)
3rd Place: Karaoke Nick Arnold (Wigwam, 5 O’Clock)

Riddle me this: how do you have a killer dance party without good music? The answer, of course, is that it’s impossible. The fella or gal spinning the tunes is the cornerstone of any happening scene. They are the pilot; they are the ringmaster. In all of Eau Claire nobody could top DJ Marcus at Scooters in a poll of popular demand. Scooters consistently has a raucous atmosphere, a hoppin’ dance floor, and suitably energetic dance tunes. In second place we have alliterative DJ Don Diego who rocks the house at both Poo’s on the Pond and O’Leary’s. Third place is filled by Karaoke Nick Arnold, whose blend of tunes, karaoke, and trivia can be seen in bars all over town including the 5 O’Clock Club and the Wigwam. – AW

BEST BEVERAGE SELECTION

1st Place: Stella Blues
2nd Place: Northwoods Brew Pub & Grill
3rd Place: Haymarket Grill

With more than 20 beers on tap (mostly specialty and local brews), plus snazzily named cocktails, margaritas, and martinis, Stella Blues excels in the drink-making category, and aptly won first place. Coming in at second place this year is Northwoods Brew Pub & Grill, which crafts 13 beers on the premises and carries 12 domestics. Try the best-selling Lil’ Bandit Brown, which won a silver medal at the Great American Brewfest in Denver. Haymarket Grill earned third place this year, reflective of their fine tap beer selection ($3) and their innovative martinis.  Our online reviewers recommend you try the cucumber martini, the caramel apple martini, or the peach one (it has mint!) – KJ

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