Here's my pick for my six favorite Gainesville bars. I know there are plenty of choices in town, but these are the six that I frequent and enjoy the most. Notably absent from this list are restaurants as I only included establishments that do not serve food. So with apologies to The Top, Loosey's, Mojo BBQ, and Dragonfly (best restaurant bar in town), here are my six favorite in reverse alphabetical order...because why not?
60 SW 2nd Street - Website
With over 300+ bottles of whiskey along with a selection of cocktails, draft beer, and cigars, this bar took a forgotten location downtown (the old Brophy’s Pub) and turned it into a great spot. With ample space for large parties, a big bar, and a lounge area, it’s a great place to enjoy one of the many great FREE live music acts they bring in. Its patio area is probably one of the best people-watching spots in the downtown area, and is one of the few bars where it seems acceptable to hold a company happy hour. If you’re looking for a clean bar where the crowds are less unruly and where the bartenders really know their whiskeys, this is the place. Not to mention the only other establishment in town with an equally formidable whiskey selection is Mojo Hogtown BBQ, which isn’t bad company!
Recommended for: Whiskey lovers, large parties, Tinder dates and regular dates too.
House of Beer
19 W University Avenue - Website
Home to what is probably the best selection of beers of any bar in town, it’s an unpretentious place for lovers of fine brews. There are 40 taps of ever-rotating goodness, free WiFi, and plenty of TVs for your sportsball enjoyment. The rotating selection allows them to occasionally get their hands on rare releases like the Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Opening at 2 PM on weekdays and at noon on weekends, you can get an early start to your drinking as well. This is a spot with plenty of character that seems to be lost at places like Brass Tap and World of Beer. Oh, and did I mention service industry employees also get 50% off select beers every Sunday?
Recommended for: Beer lovers, large parties, sports fans, casual downtown-goers.
4 E University Avenue - Website
The Dime (it’s the official name) is also known as No Name Bar, Little Bar, The Paint House, and Tiny Bar. Whatever you want to call it, this diminutive bar serves up some really good cocktails if you’re lucky enough to find a seat. It was opened by the same folks that brought us The Top, Pop-A-Top, The Atlantic, and (also appearing on this list) the Barcade. At the helm is Bill McFadden (lead man for the punk band, The Beltones), who honed his bartending skills in Austin, Texas and brings plenty of influence from the Lone Star State Capital. From the hand-painted wall murals, art deco accents, and pastel colors, to drinks named “Chicago Typewriter” and “Aunt Sharon”, the only thing this place is missing are a few fine suits and cigarettes.
Recommended for: Cocktail lovers, retro-style lovers, small parties.
18 SW 1st Avenue - Website
A favorite haunt by some of Gainesville’s best musicians and artists, you’ll find a selection of reasonably priced beers both on tap and in bottles, along with wine and teas. Local talent the likes of Ricky Kendall and Michael Claytor perform here often, there’s live jazz every Tuesday starting at 10 PM, and there’s never a cover. It’s the perfect place to grab a quick beer or a glass of wine while enjoying some live music in a really relaxed atmosphere. Make sure to visit on Wednesdays when they find inspiration from whatever fresh ingredients are available at the downtown farmer’s market for a “Market Day Special.” If that’s not enough incentive, Happy Hour lasts from 4 PM to 9 PM from Monday through Saturday and is $1 off all drafts and wines.
Recommended for: Music lovers, after-work drinks, first dates (when there’s no music), small parties.
6 E University Avenue - No Website
Though it’s without an official name like its little brother next door lacked for a long time, the Arcade Bar has been packed since it opened in early May, and for good reason. Fans of old school arcade games are treated to favorites like pinball, Mortal Kombat, House of the Dead, skeeball, Paper Boy, and more. The first floor contains a small bar along with plenty of games squeezed into a relatively small area, the second floor mezzanine contains booth seating along with several more games, and the third floor has a larger bar, a small space for live music, and even more games. What could be better than a combo of arcade games and liquor? It’s like reliving your childhood in the most fun way possible. Bring plenty of quarters.
Recommended for: Video game fans, nostalgia, date night.
2nd Street Speakeasy *Now closed*
21 SW 2nd Street - Website
Often imitated, never duplicated. This is the longest tenured bar on the list, and it has only gotten better with time. Over the years, it went from serving fruity martinis to some really great cocktails, resulting in being named one of the Top 100 Bars in the South by Southern Living Magazine, and my pick for best cocktails in town. The man responsible for this is TJ Palmieri, who along with his entire team of great bartenders, has been at the forefront of Gainesville’s cocktail bars for some time now. If you’re looking for a Crown and Coke or a Screwdriver, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a bar where you can trust your bartender to treat their glass like a work of art, you’re at the right place. House-made ingredients, an inventive ever-changing menu, and a bona-fide cocktail genius in Palmieri sets this place apart.
Recommended for: Cocktail lovers, date night.