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Choose Your Own (Bar) Adventure

SFR's 2011 guide to navigating Santa Fe's nightlife

January 19, 2011, 1:00 am

Credits: Illustration by Adrian Hashimi


221 Shelby St., 988-2355,

You stumble upon Amavi on one of its informal “ladies’ nights,” because the place is so intimate you’re bound to get some good gossip from the people sitting next to you. You find a crackling fire, a friendly bartender and the best $5 pizza slice around. Cool your jets with the ethereal Mavi cocktail and order some bar food—everything fresh, local, organic and less than $10—and you decide…

A. You’re craving more action—it’s a short walk away at Catamount Bar & Grille.
B. Fancy-ass marinated olives only make you crave real bar food. Catch a pedicab to The Bull Ring.
C. Known fact: Correcting for the inebriation quotient of the person you’re trying to impress, your sex appeal only declines as the night wears on—clothes get dirty, makeup smudges, etc. So as long as you’re still hot-’n’-fancy, saunter over to Secreto Bar.

Blue Corn Café (downtown)

133 W Water St., 984-1800,

Although you loathe the pervasive Top 40 schlock sound presumably piped in via satellite, you can’t pass up the regular bar specials, such as half-priced locally brewed pints after 4 pm on Wednesdays. Plus, the BCC is a good place to cadge some free Wi-Fi or pregame your stomach with serviceable green chile stew or 49-cent buffalo wings. You don’t want to stay long—the bad music and constant TV flicker hurt your brain—but the place closes before nightlife really even begins, so you know you won’t get trapped. You order an Atomic Blonde Ale and scan Facebook to help you decide what comes next.

A. You opt for minimal navigation—much better music and a medicinal mezcal await downstairs at The Matador.
B. You’re sick of downtown bars packed with cougars and tourists, but you want to keep your brewery buzz rolling, so you bike over to Second Street Brewery.
C. 9 pm closing time is late enough for you. You call a cab, and have one for the road.

The Bull Ring

150 Washington Ave. Ste. 108, 983-3328,

Guns slinging—wait, no—even though it’s now legit to carry guns into eating and drinking establishments, you still can’t sling ’em; they have to be out of sight. That said, you can still bust through the wooden saloon doors at The Bull Ring and feel an awful lot like a cowboy. The dimmed lights, leather seating and old-boy feel won’t do a thing to diminish your new persona, either. But just as you’re about to practice your twang on some unsuspecting young thing delicately sipping a glass of Malbec, you’re hit with the cowboy’s wanderlust.

A. Saddle up your horse: Cowboys are well and good, but you’re ready for a Cowgirl.
B. Need a more creative twist on your cocktail? Take your adventuresome self across the street to Jesse’s Lounge.
C. Need some beer for your horses? Ride into the elevator at Koi and pony up to the bar.

La Casa Sena

125 E Palace Ave., 988-9232,

Duck into the peaceful, leafy little plaza just off East Palace, and follow the soothing music to the cantina and restaurant at the back. There’s plenty of nightlife elsewhere, so you hit the cellar lounge for a dignified glass of Cotes du Rhone and listen to the sounds of the singing servers in the next room, where Texans enjoy foie gras with their rellenos. Alas, you can only stay so long in the halls of mannerly decorum, and one last glass of wine later, you’re off like a prom dress.

A. Kick back, casual-style, at El Paseo.
B. Show everyone you love the nightlife at Milagro 139.
C. Continue getting high on show tunes and classics at Vanessie.

Catamount Bar & Grille

125 E Water St., 988-7222

It’s after 10 pm, which means most bars in Santa Fe have shut their doors and sent the drunks away. Not Catamount. This place can go all night, at least on weekends, and its clientele is like trail mix, except with people—an unlikely combination of frat boys, Texas kids whose parents have gone to bed, cougars, locals and hot girls. You push your way blithely to the bar, but before you can order, the hottie next to you licks a finger and touches your shirt. “Let’s get you out of these wet clothes,” he/she says.

A. Um…not really your style. Screw the drink; make your escape to Secreto Bar down the street.
B. This could be interesting, but you’d rather flirt in a darker, classier corner. Grab your new friend and walk to The Bull Ring.
C. Awesome, you totally needed a place to stay tonight! Hop into his/her limo and head “home.”


2841 Cerrillos Road, 473-5259

There are few better collusions between the universe and fate than naming a strip club Cheeks. You’ve had a hard day and it’s time for a sexy night, so spring for a lap dance and the “coldest beer in town.” Though Cheeks has many dancers, one in particular catches your eye. She has a heart-shaped face, dyed-red hair and tiny hands. Her real name is Jane. You return every day, immediately after work, to see her. No one else seems to understand, but you’ve come to love Jane with a completeness you’ve never known. Finally, after weeks of torturing yourself, you actually converse with her beyond the few words you’ve smuggled from brief—but intimate—intersections. You ask her if she’ll go out to dinner with you.

A. She says yes. Impress her by heading over the Santa Fe Capitol Grill.
B. She will not date someone whose priority it is to spend every day and countless dollars watching her dance. Go home.
C. You’re hallucinating the whole thing rather than listening to your boring friends chat over a plate of ribs at Blue Corn Café.


401 S Guadalupe St., 983-4559,

Congratulations, you’ve had a wonderful night and you decide to end it on a high note at the bar where everybody knows your name, where it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere and where at 1:45 am you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay there. At this point, you realize you’re effusively quoting sappy popular music your grandma is ashamed of, so it’s time to hear what the Best of Santa Fe winner for live music and dancing is made of. Depending on the night of the week, there are tunes by local and national bands and DJs, or your own music at Leahi’s Napkin Party (its own kind of choose-your-own adventure) or Limelight Karaoke. Wiggle your hips on the crowded dance floor, move swiftly and cautiously through the bar’s infamous bottleneck and trade one-liners with the lovely ladies at the top bar (the line is shorter there, we swear).

A. You’ve danced your last dance. Take a walk to Tiny’s.
B. Change your plans and take the bus to Coyote Café and Cantina.
C. When security kicks you out at 1:45 am bar time, bundle up and head out into the freezing February air, then use one of your many options to travel safely home (or to Denny’s, if you’re that kind of gross).


319 S Guadalupe St., 982-2565,

Enjoy the Santa Fe sunset from Cowgirl’s extensive porch. Halfway through your frozen strawberry margarita, you notice that both it and the sunset are a melancholy shade of pink and, for some reason, this realization makes you get all mopey about your ex. This sad-sackiness is interspersed with brief escapades into calling him a worthless, baby-eating piece of shit and making not-so-veiled threats involving a cow brander. Whoops, it looks like you’ve had enough. Your cowboy-hat-clad bartenders cut you off and put you on the water diet. Get your senses back by ordering yourself a heaping plate of barbecue and listening to the Americana/bluegrass/country stylings of the live band. Man, those Americana/bluegrass/country bands just really understand what you’re going through.

A. Eat away your sorrows some more with tapas at El Farol.
B. Take a walk to La Fiesta Lounge.
C. Sober up, reconsider your behavior in public and catch a cab home.

Coyote Café and Cantina

132 W Water St., 983-1615,

Dust off your best cowboy boots, because you’ll need them to climb the stairs up to Coyote Café. Above, a sinuous bar overlooks the aromatic kitchen, and an expansive list of adventurous cocktails awaits. You opt for the sampler—four tiny martinis with flavors ranging from Christmasy cranberry to apricot and plum—which goes down easily, but soon the scent of sumptuously modernized Southwestern cuisine is simply too much. You must move on. (In the winter, Coyote Café isn’t much of a happy hour destination but, from April to October, the rooftop cantina provides sunshine, music, fun drinks and inimitable people-watching.)

A. A mere block or two away is Amavi, where $5 will get you a slice of high-end, gourmet pizza.
B. Possibly the only cocktails more creative than Coyote’s can be found at Jesse’s Lounge, where everything is made to order. Walk (or, if you’re lazy, snag a pedicab) to Hotel Plaza Real.
C. You’re ready to tone it down a bit. Head over to La Casa Sena.

Del Charro Saloon

101 W Alameda St., 954-0320,

Anyone who has ever lamented aloud about the high cost of eating out in downtown Santa Fe has surely been pointed to Del Charro. The entire menu’s prices seem to come from a time capsule, with most items in the $6-$7 range. Additionally, since the servers give you the shaker, the house margaritas are practically a two-for-one deal. You go here not just because it’s cheap, but also because it’s for some reason the only place that all of your temperamental friends can agree on. While sitting in one of the best seats, right by the fire, a man slips you an envelope. Inside you find a lock of hair—likely his—tied with a neat, fuchsia bow. By the time you look up, the man has disappeared into the crowded din of Del Charro, and you no longer want your nachos.

A. Just kidding. Order some more nachos wo blocks over at El Paseo.
B. Take the hair as a sign to get the hell out of downtown. Take a cab south to the Santa Fe Capitol Grill.
C. You’re ready for some real intrigue, or at least a place that looks liable to have that. Head upriver
to the Staab House Lounge.

Dragon Room Lounge at The Pink Adobe

406 Old Santa Fe Trail, 983-7712,

This very well could be a long night, so enjoy a nice meal at the newly reopened Dragon Room. Because you are too poor for rich-people food, forgo the dinner menu in exchange for the hearty and delicious bar menu. Soak in the charm of fresh-popped popcorn, a healthy fire and rooster paintings by The Pink’s founder. A jovial Texan couple offers to buy you a drink because, with a few drinks in you and an awesome night ahead, you, too, are jovial. Over the most expensive drink you can think of—the famed Pink Dragon or the Black Dragon margaritas will do the trick—learn about the inner workings of the Fort Worth resale auto market. Just then, one of your Texan benefactors becomes hollow-eyed and uncharacteristically lucid. She chants, “When the writing is on the wall, bad things befall. There’s a far better feeling when the
writing is on the ceiling.”

A. Get far, far away from her. Try Cheeks.
B. Amble over the Santa Fe River to meet some friends at La Fiesta Lounge.
C. Zealous about your unexpected free-drink windfall, call a cab and head on under to The Underground.

El Farol

808 Canyon Road, 983-9912,

You can’t help but love the history packed into Santa Fe’s oldest cantina—even if you suspect the bullet hole in the bar of being a fake. And even if you’re not looking for an onslaught of flamenco, salsa, blues or soul, you appreciate the regular live entertainment and the enthusiastic crowd that dances hard enough to make the ancient floorboards groan in protest. The tapas menu puts the notion of “pub grub” to shame (see Eating Wrong, page 40) and the cocktail collection is quirky enough to be cool: the mojitos are mean, the “big sexy” is weird and the damiana margarita is a kind of legal, polite roofie. But you settle for a top-shelf bourbon, make eyes at a warren of snow bunnies and
plan your next move.

A. Stick with the flavor of old Santa Fe and see what’s cooking at La Casa Sena.
B. Jump to the future of tapas and cocktails by hoofing it downtown and hitting Koi.
C. Offer the visiting bunnies a ride to your house so they can get their hands on some real adobe.

La Fiesta Lounge at La Fonda

100 E San Fransisco St., 982-5511,

Imagine a quintessential hotel bar in Santa Fe: It is dark, sparse and features the musical stylings of the Bill Hearne Trio (or Duo, depending on the day). Even though this is a hotel, the clientele are equal parts locals and out-of-towners. Bartenders here are willing and able to make whatever drink you happen to fancy (we suggest a combination of coffee, Baileys, whiskey and whipped cream to warm your bones). If it’s that wonderful, warm time of year, be sure to head up to the Bell Tower Bar because, even though the drinks there are overpriced and tourists abound, it offers the most amazing view of the sun setting somewhere in Arizona. Find some adventurous compatriots and sneak off around the hotel (we hear it’s haunted, but we also hear that about every hotel) for a game whose main trajectory involves finding ghosts and evading security guards.

A. Fight ghosts with dragons—at the Dragon Room Lounge.
B. All your friends hate you because the ghost wasn’t even real. Go home.
C. Have you lost your marbles? Get them back at Marble Brewery Taproom. 

Jesse’s Lounge at Hotel Plaza Real

125 Washington Ave., 988-4900,

Mixologist Alex Velez loves to talk, and if you catch him when the bar is empty, he’ll wax poetic about his homemade bitters, syrups and sour mix. Then he’ll ask you how you feel. It’s best to answer with a type of alcohol. “Bourbon,” you say, and Velez springs into action, talking all the while about his ideas—for late-night pizza, citywide liquor festivals, putting a whole bunch of this cocktail (the Man-groni, a manhattan plus a Negroni) into a barrel and letting it age. Then, voila! Your masterpiece is ready: a holiday in a glass. Unfortunately, it’s too delicious to drink slowly and, before you know it, you’re out the door, promising to come by for pizza after midnight.

A. You find $20 on the sidewalk. Walk over to the Secreto Bar, where you can finally afford a drink.
B. You lose $20. Walk to El Paseo, where maybe a nice man will buy you a drink.
C. Pizza after midnight?! That would necessitate staying up until midnight. Hail a cab outside the hotel and go home like the party pooper you are.


135 W Palace Ave., 955-0400,

If you like cocktails, you like Koi and, yes, you do like cocktails. The ginger snap is a luscious killer that can be made sweet or sour (you prefer sour), the martinis are classic, the “smoky, salty Chihuahua” sounds like something you usually buy at Cheeks and you can’t beat Koi’s manhattan. Plus the tap beers are chosen with kung fu wisdom. The food is among the best and most innovative in town and, even though you’re practically skint, you never miss the weekday happy hour menu or the Monday night Eats & Beats temple to down-tempo delicacies. But as the restaurant fills with earnest diners, you decide you’re in the mood for something wilder.

A. You mosey on over to Cowgirl to get your bronco busted.
B. You decide to practice your quick draw with a Hamm’s and a shot at Tin Star Saloon.
C. You hail a pedicab to take you home so you can drink alone with the wildest person you know.

Marble Brewery Taproom

60 E San Francisco St., 989-3565,

Take a test drive of Marble’s many brews by creating your own flight of 5-ounce tasters ($1.75 each). We suggest the seasonal Double White and Reserve, which is stored in old whiskey barrels and certainly tastes like it, and the perennial staple, Marble Red. Make friends with the college kids hanging out at Santa Fe’s only shuffleboard table. Whoop them with your old-person skills, then invite them over to comfy chairs by the fire for a game of “I Never.” Whoop them again. As if to compensate for not being allowed to smoke on it, Marble’s patio is a great vantage point from which to throw snowballs at unsuspecting Plaza rats. Mid-throw, you notice a handsome 21-year-old cherub lurking nearby. He meekly hands you an origami fortune-teller note, then quickly disappears behind his hair. The note reads: “Go where the rooster crows and everyone’s around, but where it doesn’t make a sound.”

A. Keep up the brewery tour with a trip to Second Street Brewery.
B. The beer has made you brave. Show everyone your new dance steps at Rouge Cat.
C. It’s time for some grown-up talk. Head to the Dragon Room Lounge.

The Matador

116 W San Francisco St., Ste. 113

Descend the steep stairs carefully. The bar is dark, smelly and crowded; the drinks are strong but priced accordingly so you don’t go overboard. The Matador—referred to interchangeably as a punk rock or dive bar—could either be an excellent heroine den or the appropriate bunker to stave off sobriety and zombies during the apocalypse. If you want protectors for life (apocalypse included), make friends with the pompadoured bartenders Franky and Cesar. Do so by ordering either simple alcohol (Jameson, rocks) or a beer (PBR, $3!) and tipping well. Contrarily, ordering a tequila sunrise or asking stupid questions such as which is the boys’ bathroom will likely get you thrown back up the stairs and banned for life. Have a seat next to someone tall, dark and brooding. Tell him you hate his suffering and you understand, and you’ll take care of him. Just then, you find someone has slipped a note into your pocket: “The____wants what the_____ wants. Find that where the____haunts.”

A. Leave tall, dark and brooding to drink away his sorrows. Walk home and contemplate how much easier you just made your life.
B. By now, your feet are aching to dance; take a pedicab over to Corazón.
C. You’re getting kind of hungry. Some friends pick you up and take you to Maria’s.


555 W Cordova Road, 983-7929,

Catch up with friends over some specialty margaritas. Be adventurous and choose your own adventure (again) by picking a tequila at random—Maria’s has approximately 10 billion tequilas from which to choose—for a rare lemon juice margarita. Just be sure to use this rule of thumb: Mix gold tequilas with Grand Marnier, silver with Cointreau. You see your neighbors seated by the bar; call them over for some more margaritas and get to know them better. Order up some of Maria’s heaping and hearty New Mexican fare. You eat copious amounts as stories pass back and forth and, before you know it, it’s late.

A. Lay into your Four Loko stash and take a crazy walk through the Railyard Park.
B. Find out the skinny at Tiny’s.
C. You are full and sleepy. A coworker who doesn’t drink takes you all home. Pay for gas.

Milagro 139/Ore House

139 W San Francisco St, 995-0139,

Milagro 139 is the Gemini of Santa Fe bars. From 4-6 pm on any given weekday, the bar hops, the house margaritas and highballs flow cheap, and the giant cow skull hanging behind the mirrored bar looks downright festive. But once that alcoholics’ witching hour evaporates and the $1 tacos and sliders disappear, you’re left wondering what hit you as the bar slowly fills with the well-heeled, somewhat wizened sort of Santa Fean (which is also the same sort known to don overpriced, geometrically patterned ponchos). Alas, your happy-hour love affair with Milagro—into which the venerable Plaza eatery Ore House is currently being absorbed—must end.

A. Hard to believe, but you’re actually overdressed. Hail a pedicab and take your snakeskin stilettos across the Plaza to La Posada.
B. Time for some real drinking. Tackle a hipster, steal his bike, and book it to Second Street Brewery.
C. The bar’s your speed, but the house margaritas didn’t quite cut it. Head over to Coyote Café and Cantina for some even choicer cocktails.

El Paseo

208 Galisteo St., 992-2848,

We’ve all been there: You’re stuck on the Plaza, nearly out of money, slightly shitfaced, and not even close to being ready to go home. (You’re in no condition to drive, for one, and you also have yet to find the man/woman of your dreams with a conveniently located bedroom.) You think to yourself, “Self, no way in hell I’m gonna find a dive bar around here.” But wait! Just seconds away is El Paseo, a delightfully cheap-’n’-seedy foil to the Plaza’s snootiest boutique. You duck in through the small, wooden door. A gust of cold air precedes you, but nobody turns around. This is a drinker’s bar where a surprisingly diverse clientele partakes of $2 beers and cheap tacos. It’s a no-frills, no-drama kind of place, and there’s no happy hour, the bartender tells you, because when people come here, “they usually just stay all day.” After talking for 20 minutes to the guy who fixed your carburetor last month, you tire of the cozy grime and decide to move on.

A. To finally make your official attempt at getting laid, you head to Catamount Bar & Grille.
B. You’ll need a miracle to turn this night around. Head to Milagro 139, even though it’s way past happy hour.
C. You’ve had it for tonight. Snag a cab outside Del Charro and go home to watch AbFab reruns on your laptop.

Rouge Cat

101 W Marcy St., 983-6603,

Dancing is the name of the game at Rouge Cat. Say hello to a roster of rotating disco, delicious dance tracks and the occasionall foray into Thai pop. When you enter, the joint is, as usual, a blend of swank and sweat, and the downstairs dance floor downstairs is packed. You shake it until you’re sea sick and then head upstairs for air and spot-on cocktails. On the leopard-print staircase, you run into a beautiful someone you used to know. You catch up and rest your feet in the plush furnishings, while the floor beneath your feet thumps with the writhings of a thousand restless bodies.

A. It’s time to rest your achy dogs. Lean back and relax at Cowgirl.
B. You’ve danced enough for one night. Let’s end it on a high note. Hitch a ride home.
C. Stop over at the Dragon Room Lounge to meet some friends who were too cool to be seen on a dance floor.

Santa Fe Brewing Company

35 Fire Place, 424-3333,

You’re feeling like an adventure, so you take the car out to where Cerrillos Road hits the highway and keep on going…to the little taproom attached to the Santa Fe Brewing Company. The brewery, which bills itself as the state’s oldest microbrewery, abuts a spacious patio that once served as one of Santa Fe’s premier outdoor music venues—but no more, since the Pub & Grill closed indefinitely in December [, Dec. 14: “Brewing Woes”]. Though the taproom has its own cozy appeal, improved by foosball, Ping-Pong and horseshoes (in summer), there’s a two-pint limit on the BrewCo’s powerful Barleywine, so after handily beating your companion in a heated game of Ping-Pong, it’s time to go.

A. Have some Chex Mix, wait until you’re sober, and drive to Marble Brewery Taproom to compare the beer.
B. The BrewCo’s no longer the live music magnet it once was. Get sober and head to Corazón.
C. Enough with the locals scene; you’re sufficiently barleywined to chat up some tourists! Catch a cab to the Cowgirl.

Santa Fe Capitol Grill

3462 Zafarano Drive, 471-6800,

If you’re looking for upscale on the south side, Capitol Grill has it covered. Sure, it’s upscale of an anonymous, anywhere kind of brand but, sometimes, that’s just what you’re looking for. Easy noshing, margaritas and big-screen sports are the specialities here. Confused about which margarita to order—Rasarita? Mangorita? What-the-hell-is-that-arita?—you settle on a flight: three mini-margaritas served like a triple-decker tree house for just $12. But after wiping the salt and sugar from your lips, you’re ready to switch gears.

A. Continue to discover the world of ’Ritas by hitting Maria’s.
B. Trade the sound of televisions for The Underground’s gritty action below Evangelo’s.
C. Catch a movie across the street and find a ride home.

Second Street Brewery

1814 Second St. and 1607 Paseo de Peralta, Ste. 10, 982-3030,

A year ago, Santa Fe’s ground zero for burgers and beer opened a second location in what looked a little like a blatant attempt to bring to the Railyard the nightlife and neighborhood camaraderie the venue foisted on the once-crumbling Triangle District. In other words, grabbing a seasonal brew and a Hamburdog (hamburger meat shaped like a weenie!) just got twice as easy. You sashay in, greet the surly bartender, with whom you carry on a decidedly un-surly flirtation, and immediately run into three exes—because, let’s face it, you like men in Carhartts, and men in Carhartts pretty much only come here. Exit!

A. Try the other men in Carhartts—at Santa Fe Brewing Company.
B. Beer’s lovely, but liquor’s quicker. Bike to the bus; bus to the Plaza and hit up Del Charro.
C. Enough already. Pick up a growler of the famous IPA and walk your tired ass home. Unless you live on the Plaza, in which case you shouldn’t be slumming it in a brewery and can figure out your own damn way home.

Secreto Bar at Hotel St. Francis

210 Don Gaspar Ave., 983-5700,

Though it’s small and cozy, the Secreto Bar—a leather-chaired, wood-paneled affair where the drink list contains an entire page of “vintage cocktails” ranging from mint juleps and Kentucky Coolers in summer, to hot buttered rum and the Fall-ernum (bourbon, Falernum, orange bitters and a plenty of spice) in winter—is no secret. As you sit down to nurse your Aviation cocktail, you notice an old college professor canoodling in the corner with…well, let’s just say that while the bar’s no secret, what happens there might be. You finish your cider and, warmed from within, decide to bear the cold again.

A. You’ve seen all the hookups and attempts you can handle tonight. Hail a cab and go home to make collages and listen to The Velvet Underground.
B. All that cider just made you hungry. If it’s getting close to midnight, head to Jesse’s Lounge. If it’s still early, relax over wine and goat cheese at La Casa Sena.
C. Enough with the upscale; you’re ready for a real bar. Walk to El Paseo.

Staab House Lounge (La Posada)

330 E Palace Ave., 986-0000,

If you start off your night at the elegant, possibly haunted old lounge of this elegant, possibly haunted old hotel, there’s a mystery to be solved. You go here for solemn conspiracies, clandestine trysts and fine scotch. Tuck into one of the many comfortable chairs by the multiple fireplaces (every nook seems somehow private) and whisper in hushed tones to your conspirator, lover, scotch or any combination of the above. Pretend that, as any number of romanticized revolutions smolder on outside, you are somehow safe, warm and happy. The lounge has a reasonably sized bar menu, with small plates, tapas and deserts, but there’s also classy bar mix—spicy crackers and nuts, wasabi peas, dried cranberries—for the poor/fiscally savvy among us. You feel so calm here that, when a specter suddenly materializes out of the fireplace and says, “More than one of these should fit; that is, unless you’ve already lost it,” you don’t even lose it.

A. It’s time for some cheap eats. Off to Del Charro you go.
B. That ghost really freaked you out. Stay high and dry at Marble Brewery Taproom.
C. A close friend, like the ghoul, materializes out of the corner. Go with him to Rouge Cat.

Tin Star Saloon

411 W Water St., 984-5050,

The Tin Star—probably the only bar in Santa Fe with what looks like an operable lever-action long gun above the bar—is the kind of place where you should be able to order a Tom Waits, ie, a bourbon in a dirty glass. But the glassware is surprisingly clean, so you resign yourself to filthless whiskey, a hearty beer selection (including Hamm’s!) and a regularly rotating roster of live music. When the sweat level gets too high and the beer goggles get too blurry, you head for some fresh air.

A. Switch scenes entirely by moseying down the street to the well-ventilated piano bar at Vanessie.
B. Trade sweat and beer goggles for sweat and sophistication at Amavi.
C. Take a new friend for fresh air and bump beer goggles on the way home with that newly attractive person who’s been staring you down.


1015 Pen Road, 983-9817

Tiny’s used to be your respite from the scene, back before the art dorks from SITE Santa Fe adopted its “ironic” interior and the venerable bar’s karaoke night became a hipster haven. The sad result is that a Tecate in a can costs $5, but a Bud is cheap enough. Still, you can’t resist the allure of the old girl, her bizarre décor, her surprisingly zesty live music scene and the ever-present possibility of a chile-slathered steak, should emergency protein needs strike. You love the dark interior, the classic booths and the obsessive collection of liquor vessels, but you feel like kind of a loser closing the place down, so you split before last call.

A. You head for the bar everyone loves to close, the Dragon Room Lounge.
B. Quiet sophistication calls, and you opt to polish off the evening at the Secreto Bar.
C. When your sober friend finishes a rousing bender of Hall & Oates on the karaoke stage, you beg a safe ride home.

The Underground/Evangelo’s

200 W San Fransisco St., 557-5853/982-9014

Leave your mom upstairs at Evangelo’s with Soul Man Sam and the Soul Explosion Jam (she’ll have a great time) and head downstairs into The Underworld—er Underground. Here you’ll find Chris Q and his immaculately gelled hair, a foosball table and some of the shortest ceilings this side of The Shire. You shouldn’t ask for some hoity-toity drink, even though we’re pretty sure The Undi has the fixings to make it. Just don’t. Simply order a Stella or vodka cran or what have you, and enjoy the regular rotation of live bands and DJs (or, if the bartenders have control of the stereo, early-aught neo-metal). Amid the catchy refrains, you catch the following message, written backward on the ceiling, reflected into your drink: “She, she, she, she’s a bombshell. This, this, this is a bomb shelter.”

A. Fuck it—you’re gonna end up there anyway. Have a confidant driver take you to Cheeks.
B. Sssshhhh. It’s a secret. Go to Secreto Bar.
C. It’s right across the street. Pretend you’re hard and land yourself in The Matador.


434 W San Francisco St., 982-9966,

There’s a reason you’ve memorized the words to the Marty Robbins classic “El Paso,” and that reason is the existence of piano bars. Sure, it’s probably a bit below the talents of the three world-class pianists who man the grand at Vanessie, but you know it’s a crowd pleaser when you belt it out proper. A steak runs 36 bucks in this atmosphere, but a $4 onion loaf is enough to feed three people, and a martini will soothe your worn vocal cords. “But wait,” you think, looking around, “who are these people?” You realize you need to be among your own species and split immediately.

A. You trade the predictable scene at Vanessie for the predictable scene at Catamount Bar & Grille.
B. You run to Tiny’s to blow off some steam in the seedy karaoke steam.
C. Being around old people has made you feel old. It’s time for bed, but how do you get home without falling asleep at the wheel?

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