Summerville, 1204 N. Main St.
This pool shark’s haven puts the balls in the hole.
A members-only club ($5, 21 and up) located just off the east edge of downtown Summerville in Parks Plaza, Fastbreak offers a full bar experience and a very big room full of well-maintained pool tables for the older and younger crowd. Also a great place to chew the fat with some of the town’s most prominent barflies. The long L-shaped bar with the red awning to the left side features cans of Old Milwaukee for cheap along with pistachios, pickled eggs, and down-to-earth service.
PLUSES: 13 regular pool tables and one 9-foot table ($3/hour per player), free pool for members from noon-6 p.m., happy hour from 4-7 p.m. features discounted domestics and well drinks, two video trivia machines, two video slot machines, antique pinball games (Miss America and Malibu Beach), and weekly APA tournaments. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Downtown, 232 Meeting St.
A relaxed bistro environment with real people (and great food).
PLUSES: Great people-watching through the corner windows along Meeting Street, plus four champagnes, nine whites, and nine reds by the glass for $5-$10. (—Patrick Sharbaugh)
Firehouse Bar & Grill
West Ashley, 3025 Ashley Towne Center 225-4347
A large, imposing facility for the serious drinkers, pool hustlers, goodtimers, and carnivorous music lovers.
One of two local “Firehouse” venues, this massive steakhouse in West Ashley sprawls from a dining area across a big music hall and bar area toward a spacious pool area with four tables. Music-wise, the joint is still finding its own personality. A mix of local bands doing standard and Top-40 covers and originals share the stage with DJs (spinning real vinyl!) and trivia hosts.
PLUSES: Air hockey, 12 draft beers, 12 plasma TVs around the bar, karaoke, PGA Championship Golf, plenty of plush seating, the spicy “Firehouse Shot” (Cuervo Gold and Tabasco), late-night menu available. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Firehouse Bar & Grill
Summerville, 1761 N. Main St.
Roomy and ruffled roadhouse bar and game room with fiery flair.
Standing proudly on the east side of town, Summerville’s big and bold Firehouse features numerous games, live music, naughty-minded events, a friendly happy hour, and tons of sports on the small screens. Fire-engine red is the color theme, and firefighter gear and artifacts are the decor.
PLUSES: Four beers on tap and tons of iced domestics, happy hour from 4-7 features 30¢ wings and $2 domestics, occasional “lingerie pillow fights” and wet T-shirt contests, karaoke on Thursdays, live rock cover bands on weekends, four pool tables (75¢ a game), three wide-screen plasma TVs, video games, foosball, rockin’ jukebox, and a framed autographed photo of Ed McMahon. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
West Ashley, 817 Savannah Hwy.
Charleston’s oldest bar is still
After years of being a members-only club, the new owners of Gene’s (who also own Vickery’s) opened their doors to the public just a few years back, but we still have our tattered lifelong membership cards tucked away in our wallets just in case. There’s lots of space to move around here, until the crowds pour in.
PLUSES: Darts, shuffleboard, $1 beers during happy hour (4-8 p.m.), $4 burgers “any way you want them” on Sundays, approximately 170 different beers available — if you ask for it, they got it. (—Jason A. Zwiker)
Bar & Grill
West Ashley, 1300 Savannah Hwy.
Your neighborhood bar for total satellite sports.
With 17 satellite dishes on the roof, the locals feel comfortable saying “if it’s not on at George’s, it’s not on TV.” As for the screens, the place is swimming in them: 60-plus. Gyros, hot or cold subs, wings, burgers, and sandwiches are available to fill your belly.
PLUSES: Sam, the good-looking blonde bartender, keeps the crowd coming back and manager Big Kev keeps them jolly. And, of course, Georgie the Greek is an attraction all by himself. (—Jason A. Zwiker)
& Raw Bar
Johns Island, 160 Main Road
The island place without the island price.
The bar at Gilligan’s is the place to have a drink while you’re waiting for that buzzer to signal that your table is ready in the restaurant. Others stop by just for the bar. Located on Main Road just off Savannah Highway, Gilligan’s is convenient to Johns Island, West Ashley, Hollywood, Kiawah, and Seabrook. Chuck’s got 12 years behind this bar but still just enough New Jersey to keep patrons smiling.
PLUSES: Only local, wild-caught seafood. Seasonal all-you-can-eat oysters as well as fried shrimp. Shellfish pot, fish-in-the-bag, and them hush puppies. (—Jason A. Zwiker)
Downtown, 18 Vendue Range
As laid-back a pub environment as you’re likely to find.
Wooden floors covered with peanut shells, lots of draft beers, walls plastered with autographed dollar bills, and a half dozen square wooden tables that tilt precisely when you don’t want them to — the Griffon has “pub” written all over it. The crowd’s a varied one, but don’t go in a tie or you’ll likely get something spilled on you.
PLUSES: Located within stumbling distance of Waterfront Park. The food’s not bad either, unless you’re looking for something with actual nutritional value. (—Patrick Sharbaugh)
Downtown, 225 East Bay St.
Choice spot for the visiting chic and older locals wanting to be seen.
While Market Pavilion hotel President Nick Palassis is often seen strolling past the lobby bar insuring the boutique hotel’s signature service is up to par, his charming sister’s favorite champagne is the cocktail of choice at this moneyed spot. An uptight façade with an “enjoy the slow life” undercurrent makes this one of the best locations to splurge on a choice cocktail and then linger over a glass while enjoying the streetscape view.
PLUSES: Great food, good wine selection, and one beautiful setting. (—Ida Becker)
Downtown, 10 Hayne St.
A melting pot for people looking to have a good time.
This old-fashioned saloon-style bar has a way of collecting an eclectic group of patrons, thanks to its popular community table, and the noise factor can run high when the enthusiastic crowd is chatting away. With the kitchen serving till 11:30 on the weekends, the late-night crowd really comes out in force.
PLUSES: Raw bar selections, fabulous ceviche, friendly bartenders, and big crowds. (—Ida Becker)
Hatchell’s AmericaN Tapas Tavern
Mt. Pleasant, 1324 Theatre Dr.,
Former Bull and Finch gets a chic makeover.
Boasting a martini menu fit for the gods and an eclectic tapas menu, Hatchell’s is the perfect place for an after-work snack or an after-dinner drink and dessert. The contemporary décor sets a classy mood while two (count ’em) two Golden Tees keep golf buffs occupied.
PLUSES: Sports fans will drool over the 123-inch high definition TV, supposedly the largest in Charleston. (—Kristen George)
Downtown, 54 N. Market St.
A place for young professionals to unwind and scope out the scenery.
Henry’s is always packed, and that is a testament to its strength as a more upscale heterosexual mating ground. The vast downstairs bar is usually fairly man-heavy, with a well-selected group of women clutching their martinis (or Michelob Light) and eyeing up the potential. Upstairs, it’s “Girls on Top” as the women work the bar (look for Kate) and the scene is more intimate — small tables and open windows create a more relaxing space. There is occasional live music both upstairs and down, but the real entertainment is watching the pickup lines fly.
PLUSES: Less smoky upstairs, light food served until 10 p.m. downstairs, distinct lack of baseball caps. (—Shawnté Salabert)
Mt. Pleasant, 816 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. 971-1777
Sophistication and panache set Henry’s apart.
Exotic liquors and a sexy menu appeal to a refined palate while live music and karaoke are available for those just looking for a good time. The bar’s posh interior evokes an air of elegance not often found in your average souse station.
PLUSES: A cozy lounge area complete with comfy couches provides an atmosphere for intimate conversations. (—Kristen George)
High Spirits Lounge
West Ashley, 301 Savannah Hwy.
A comfy, get-away-from-the-crowds kind of place with the very best view of downtown Charleston.
Situated 14 floors above the marsh, just across the bridge from the peninsula in the Holiday Inn Riverview (adjacent to the Harborview Restaurant), this green carpet-and-curtains and white-painted bar might seem a bit frumpy, but the wide-open windows facing the Ashley River allow for a stunning view of the city and beyond to the Cooper River. A funny mix of locals and tourists — from the recently graduated to the long retired — sit at the long bar and the tidy little tables.
PLUSES: Bud and Bass on tap, happy hour deals on wine, oysters on the half-shell on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7 p.m., free snacks at the hot table, light rock and oldies on the stereo, regulars may apply for a free “Diamond Club Membership” for special happy hour deals, and what a view! (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
N. Charleston, 2171 Northwoods Blvd. 824-8661
Male-female ratio of 25:1, general boorish merrymaking.
At first glance, the place doesn’t have a lot to offer — no happy hour, no liquor, no bands… But somehow Hooters manages a … um … bustling business next to Northwoods Mall. Here, you’ll find everyone, patrons and employees alike, living up to the motto, “Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.” The service is fast and ultra-friendly, even if the beer prices (no liquor, remember?) are a bit steep. There aren’t too many specials here, although from 3-6 p.m. on Fridays, there are half-price burgers. It’s not the most popular place with the ladies, but if you’re bacheloring it up for an evening, you’ll probably have a great time.
PLUSES: Wings, burgers, oysters, and Hooters girls. (—Scott Goodwin)
Summerville, 104 E. Doty Ave.
A friendly, local, upstairs tavern where the regulars rage and the tourists watch.
This antique-filled, historic watering hole (a.k.a. “The Crystal Icehouse”) sits above a busy restaurant just off the main drag and boasts one of the loudest happy hours in Summerville. As one of the most popular and personable in town, the motto “The club that’s a step above the rest” certainly holds up.
PLUSES: A 1951 Webster dictionary by the vintage cig machine, the Icehouse Party Wheel (win a T-shirt, a free drink, or the opportunity to buy someone else a beer), cool old jukebox, veteran bartenders in Hawaiian shirts who know that “on this site in 1892 … nothing happened.” (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Mt. Pleasant, 1528 Ben Sawyer Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant’s greatest little unknown bar.
If the Classic Golf mini-golf course out front makes you stop by the Island Clubhouse, friendly service, superb bar fare (huge portions for cheap prices), a koozie around each cold beer, and a sense of belonging to something special will keep you coming back. It’s something dozens of regulars have known for years, but occasionally a new face will discover the Island Clubhouse’s appeal. Calvin Taylor provides beach music on the deck during summer evenings.
PLUSES: Spend some quality time at the Monkey Land video games and earn tickets for free mini-golf and food. (—Kristen George)
James Island, 815 Folly Road
It’s like hanging out in your parents’ basement, but a lot more fun.
This unassuming bar and grill on Folly Road is a mixture of random kitsch, an even more random crowd, and constant entertainment — planned or otherwise. The oldies- and country-heavy weekend karaoke is a huge draw, but so is the horseshoe pit, outdoor ping-pong table, large board game selection, and $1 PBRs. The Island Grill is certainly a bit dive-y, but the regulars are a friendly bunch and the bartenders are quick on the draw.
PLUSES: Beat the owner at Scrabble and get a $20 bar tab, the eclectic (and usually drunk) karaoke crowd, $1.75 domestic beers during happy hour. (—Shawnté Salabert)
West Ashley, 1662 Savannah Hwy.
Serious dancers flood the wooden floor in a family-friendly atmosphere.
At this large bar, the focus is on what you’re doing with your feet, not necessarily what you’re pouring down your throat. They have live music every night (DJs or bands) and provide qualified dance instructors several times a week to teach the finer points of shagging, swing dancing, and salsa. The décor is one-third diner, one-third garage sale living room, and one-third dance studio, but the atmosphere is really about the couples and groups showing off (or at least attempting to) on the large and well-kept dance floor.
PLUSES: Non-smoking, 18 and over, the nicest dance floor in town outside of a professional studio, eclectic bar food (pan pizzas, chicken pot pie) until 9 p.m. (—Shawnté Salabert)
Downtown, 5 Cumberland St.
The kind of place that’s only as good as the friends you bring.
Jimmy Dengate’s is practically a Charleston institution, (though its new home on Cumberland Street isn’t as long on character as its old digs across from the baseball stadium on Rutledge Avenue). Roomy, noisy, bustling, and very well lit, Dengate’s is a favorite of the college set, who surely like the comfort food served here as much as the beer.
PLUSES: Live acoustic music from the guys of Exactus. Happy hour deals include $2 domestic beers and $3 well drinks. (—Nick Smith)
Downtown, 12 Cumberland St.
The beer’s cold and the
Occupying the old Manny’s Greek Restaurant home on Cumberland Street, Johnson’s Pub retains some of the old Manny’s feel, but an array of layout changes have turned the cozy downtown watering hole into more of an English-style pub. These include a new, full-length bar out back, leather seats, and low lights.
PLUSES: Good service, and a small patio out back. (—Nick Smith)
Mt. Pleasant, Food Lion Shopping Center, Long Point Road
Mt. Pleasant’s finest jock joint.
Sports fans of all shapes and sizes are welcome to sidle up alongside one of J.R.’z 13 televisions. While owners John and Rolf are die-hard for their fave teams, you can bet they’ll change the channel to please their patrons. Great drink prices and a menu that eclipses average bar fare make J.R.’z a prime location to watch any game.
PLUSES: While J.R.’z doesn’t cater to any specific team, Big 10 fans and alumni (particularly Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan) will find themselves in good company. (—Kristen George)
N. Charleston, 8410 Rivers Ave.
Laid-back pool room with lots of live tunes and shots aplenty.
KC’s is a music-centric neighborhood bar with a little bit of an edge. Not really reaching critical mass until 9 or 10 p.m., this place caters to a mostly younger crowd with a huge shot menu. The mostly bar-food menu looks good, and you’re going to need it after a couple of “Ass Whuppin’s” (Jäger, Crown, Peach Schnapps, and Red Bull).
PLUSES: Golden Tee 2005, free pool all day Saturday and Sunday, karaoke on Tuesday and Saturday with a “Mulligan’s Idol” competition featuring a $300 grand prize. Happy hour deals include $2 house liquors. (—Scott Goodwin)
Kelly’s South of
the City Bar & Grill
West Ashley, 1660 Savannah Hwy.
The best-looking people south of the city.
A smaller, high-quality bar and grill worth the extra drive along the Auto Mile. Check out the daily lunch specials and look for the patio to fill up in the summertime. Nice picnic-table style casual groove here with the friendliest faces west of the mighty Ashley River.
PLUSES: Kelly, because she’s “someone you’d like to sit next to” and Amy, because “she’s got a nice ass.” Prime rib on Fridays, outstanding burgers, and live music Wednesday through Saturday. (—Jason A. Zwiker)
Mt. Pleasant, 1119 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.
With plenty to do every night, the Kickin’ Chicken is much more than a sandwich joint.
Known for its plethora of poultry provisions, the Kickin’ Chicken is fast becoming a Charleston favorite. Expanding from cozy King Street and James Island locations, Mt. Pleasant is the restaurant’s latest — and largest — venture. Boasting two pool tables, Golden Tee, Elvis pinball, shuffleboard, air hockey, and Hoop Fever, the bar offers plenty in the way of entertainment.
PLUSES: Live trivia every Wednesday, live music Thursday through Saturday, and full menu served ’til 1 a.m. are among the reasons to hang out at this comfortable bar. (—Kristen George)
James Island, 1175 Folly Road
A veritable social club for hungry young drinkers.
The bar area is much larger than the dining room in this basic pub, and it’s usually full of chicken-loving 20-somethings tossing down a pint, chatting with friends, and listening to some variation of jam-rock. This notoriously popular outlet of the chain is cleaner than most bars of its kind while still retaining a sort of frat-boy charm. Did we mention that the chicken is great?
PLUSES: $8 buckets of PBR, daily chicken specials (you can take it out, eat in, or have it delivered), Wednesday night live trivia. (—Shawnté Salabert)
Downtown, 337 King St.
Always hoppin’ place to eat chicken prepared pretty much any way you want it.
The scene at the downtown Kickin’ Chicken ranges from college students to … more college students. While it had a longtime reputation as a ”hippie” establishment, Kickin’ Chicken has expanded to three Lowcountry locations and the downtown site always seems well-attended by a diverse chunk of CofC students. They have live music on Thurs., Fri., and Sat. nights to go along with their delicious sandwiches, salads, and wings. There’s also a good bottle beer selection and a laid-back, no-frills atmosphere.
PLUSES: A good variety of the harder-to-find Rogue and Sammy Smiths’ bottle brews, and one of the cheapest house shelves on King Street — $3 well drinks (only $2 with the $1 off happy hour prices). (—Sara Miller)
Kick’n Horse Saloon
Awendaw, 5105 N. Hwy 17
Multi-level roadhouse and biker headquarters.
Set just off the highway between Mt. Pleasant and McClellanville, this vast facility offers a mixed atmosphere with old-timey biker saloon types, young travelers and college kids, and local good ol’ boys and ladies.
PLUSES: Small grocery shop and restaurant, six acres of free camping, tackle shop, outside decks, monthly live musical events, a “scenic loop” from home to Georgetown and back through the Francis Marion forest. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
King Street Grille
Downtown, 304 King St.
Where you go to cruise and booze.
King Street Grille has managed to succeed in a location that has shut down more than a few places. They found the perfect niche as a sports bar with filling food and an upstairs area for overflow, plus regular drink specials that are easy on the pocket. Serving as a restaurant during the day, at night this place is taken over by the collegiate frat-type crowd and girls in miniskirts.
PLUSES: Tons of TVs, $2 Yuengling, $4 Gran Ma, $2 vodka and food served until 1 a.m. (—Sara Miller)
Summerville, 1909 N. Main St.
A well-established juke joint for serious beer drinkers and fun-loving troublemakers.
Lurking behind the tinted glass and rickety front door, this east-end beer joint and private club offers ice-cold beer (all bottle, no draft), standard liquor drinks, games, and hearty laughs. Decorated with Budweiser racing banners and blue Pabst Blue Ribbon lamps, the low-key hangout avoids the frilliness of the modern tavern and embraces the rougher, old-school roadhouse vibe completely.
PLUSES: Three pool tables (75¢ a game), video trivia, PGA Championship video golf, jukebox, Jägerbomb and Crownbomb specials, happy hour from 4-7 p.m., karaoke on Friday and Saturday, cheap Ribeyes and appetizers on Friday nights. (—T. Ballard Lesemann)
Summerville, 1525 Old Trolley Road
The perfect watering hole for the dedicated motorhead.
Enthusiastic about car and bike races, fancy motorcycles, fine automobiles, and ice-cold brew, the folks at this sports bar on the southside of Summerville offer serious drink specials and comprehensive coverage of the NASCAR lifestyle.
PLUSES: Weekly “Best Bike” and Best Car” contests with $50 prizes, beer bucket specials, seven TVs tuned in to the races and “customer’s choice,” live music on the weekends. “Wild Wild Wednesdays” feature a coed “tightie whitie” contest! (—T. Ballard Lesemann)