DBB Special Report: My 100 Favorite Bars – Open or Closed – in the World (Post-Covid Addendum)

| May 24th, 2024

In July of 2019, I published a listing of my 100 favorite bars – open or closed – in the world. Since that time, a pandemic happened, and my passport expired, so I have not traveled much. Nevertheless, today I present an addendum to that list, a collection of bars that have emerged in my life over the last five years; the five toughest years the bar business has faced.

#10. McGovern’s Tavern, Newark NJ.

After receiving some good and relieving news during a meeting at Rutgers-Newark, the future home of my academic studies, I retreated back to this bar I’d spent many days in as a younger lad. My intention was to have a beer or two and take the 3:00 PM train home. I ended up on the 8:05. In that one visit McGovern’s restored its place in my drinking life, even if the exterior bears no resemblance to the old stays. (See the picture directly below.)

#9. Gantry Bar and Kitchen, Long Island City NY.

During Covid, this was the first bar that allowed us to come inside and drink at the counter. For people who consider the barroom the centerpiece of their social life, this was an amazing moment. Gantry’s location – almost exactly at the halfway point along the NYC Marathon route – made it the perfect spot to experience my favorite day in the city all year. (Shoutout to Ashling O’Dwyer, the person I’m most excited to have encountered during the Covid era.)

#8. The Bar at Hollow Brook Golf Club, Cortlandt Manor NY.

There is an artistry to the golf club bar, and the great ones feel like extensions of the round you’ve just played. At Hollow Brook you can sidle up the bar for a cold pint and watch the pros on television or turn around and watch the hackers come up the 9th through a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. (There’s also a patio to enjoy, but I’ve never sat on it.) Like most great golf club bars, you start thinking about far before your final putt on 18.

#7. Pic-a-Lilli Pub, Atlantic City NJ. (Closed October 2022)

I celebrated my 40th birthday in Atlantic City and “the Pic” had the best wings I’ve ever eaten outside of Buffalo. That was January of 2022. But the end of that year, the bar was no more, and another Atlantic City landmark was gone.

#6. Emmit’s Irish Pub, Chicago IL (Closed 2022)

When DBB orchestrated our book drive in 2017, Emmit’s was the bar I wished I could spend more time in. And in the five years between the drive and the bar’s closing, I was able to do so. Emmit’s was a Chicago classic.

One of the remarkable things about Chicago during Covid was just how far behind New York the city seemed to be in terms of recovery. Rules and regulations that had come and gone in NYC were still being instituted in Chicago 6-9 months later. I can’t help but think that slow response caused a multitude of commercial casualties in the hospitality industry.

#5. Cove Castle, Greenwood Lake NY. 

The outdoor bar was a key to Covid survival, and Cove Castle, with its picturesque lakefront locale, is an outdoor bar at its finest.

#4. D’Arcy’s Tavern, Bradley Beach NJ.

I have been to the country’s great soccer pubs: Legends in NYC, The Globe in Chicago, The Rose and Crown in Palo Alto, etc. I’ve yet to find a better spot than D’Arcy’s. This past Sunday, to celebrate the Premiere League finale, all 20 clubs were represented by supporters, singing and celebrating a long and winding campaign. On that final Sunday of each season, there is nowhere I’d rather be.

#3. Sean Og’s, Woodside NY.

In a neighborhood with a bar every twenty paces, Sean Og’s is Woodside’s best. And if you’re in New York City looking for an Irish curry, or Irish breakfast, take the 7 express and enjoy the best our town has to offer.

#2. The Beaded Oak, New Orleans LA.

My first time in this bar, an old school New Orleans dive in the Lower Garden District, there was a man waving a machete in the by the pool table. And you know what? Nobody in the bar seemed to mind. I always say, “Never get worried about turbulence on a flight unless the flight attendants look worried.” Well, the same applies to machete-wielders in Louisiana.

#1. The Black Duck Cafe, Westport CT.

As friends moved to Connecticut, I moved back to a barstool at the Duck. And it’s quite simply one of the best bars in the world. I mean…look at it.

But remember, just because you’re close to the water, and even if it’s on the specials board, don’t order the tilapia sandwich.

The river side of the Black Duck Cafe, which is a converted 1840s barge, in Westport, CT.

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