We’ve all heard the “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” line. Well, we aren’t horses, this isn’t water, and we like to drink! This is a companion piece to last week’s highlight on some of our favorite “eat” spots from our first 6 months on the road (August- January). Here are a few “drink” places that we stumbled across, or maybe stumbled out of, that may quench your thirst as well!
In no particular order…
Brew of Gold
We discovered Pelican Brewery while staying in Tillamook, OR and got hooked. We liked just about every beer that we sampled, but our favorite by far was their “Prohibition Cream Ale”. Cream Ales don’t have the sexy name-recognition of an IPA, nor are they as hip to feature as a sour, and, to be honest, we hadn’t really heard much about cream ales before. Pelican became one of our favorite breweries from the road, and Oregon alone has no shortage of them! Sadly, we can’t seem to find their beer sold in other states, so definitely give it a try if in Oregon.
De-still My Heart!
In continuation of last week’s mention on how Mount Vernon emerged as a food destination, its “spirits” did not disappoint! Right in downtown Mount Vernon is a small tasting room where you can try several different spirits from the Valley Shine Distillery, such as bourbon, vodka, gin and more. We had such a hard time deciding what to buy as we genuinely loved all of them and left with a couple bottles of their Benjamin’s Bourbon and Red X Gin.
Another great local distillery that we enjoyed along our travels was the High West Distillery in Park City, Utah, which specializes in various types of whiskey. One of their most popular whiskeys is their Rendezvous Rye, which we have found in a couple stores around the States. For a nice easy sipping whiskey, and one that is lighter on the wallet, we really enjoy their American Prairie Bourbon. The distillery location in downtown Park City also offers tours and has an on-sight restaurant.
Adult Sweet Treat
While in Boise, ID we walked past an ice cream shop, The STIL, that advertised boozy ice cream. Intrigued, we popped in to order a few different flavors and couldn’t get enough. Many of the boozy flavors are seasonal and ours were Autumn themed and super yummy. A nice twist on an evening cocktail. They also serve-up non-alcohol infused ice creams for the kiddies.
Also in Boise, we discovered our first, and only, self-serve wine bar called Bodovino. Incidentally, this spot is right across the street from The STIL ice cream shop mentioned directly above. To imbibe, you purchase one of their “debit” cards ($3.00 initial fee) and load it with what you would like to spend, then insert your “debit” card into the self-serve wine vaults, which divvies out 1oz/3oz/5oz pours for different prices. There is a happy hour section, which featured several 1-ounce taster pours for $1.00 (Sundays feature an all-day “happy hour” wine case). Bondovino also serves up some tasty small bites to accompany your self-guided wine tour.
Masterminds of Adult Fun
We have frequented more than our share of watering holes along the road, and I would like to tip my hat to the McMenamins family for preserving multiple historical buildings throughout the PacNorth and converting them into some of the quirkiest bars, hotels, movie theaters, and venues we have come across. Our first introduction to the McMenamins establishments was the Kennedy School, where you can wander the halls of this former elementary school with whimsically painted murals and enjoy craft brews in “Detention”, “Honors” or in the “Boiler Room”. Another fun spot is the Grand Lodge location, which is now a boutique hotel and bar destination converted from an old Masonic Lodge. If you check out this location, make sure to go up to the third floor, which contains secret doors to hidden psychedelically painted corridors. There are numerous McMenamins locations throughout Oregon and Washington, each with its own theme and artistic flair.
Best Happy Hour
The best overall deal we found for happy hour was Vince Young Steakhouse in Austin, TX. Those sitting at the bar from 5-7pm get to enjoy an excellent selection of reduced priced wines, brews, and house drinks as well as some of their signature food dishes for a fixed price of $10, which is more than half-off the regular price for many of these items! We had a brisket burger, steak frites, and roasted bone marrow that were absolutely amazing and washed down with great wine. Normally, when we do see a bone marrow appetizer, we pay twice as much for a lot less, Young’s appetizer came with two large servings. This highlight is a combo of both great drink selection and unbeatable food deals. Definitely, the best-combined value and quality we have seen in a happy hour offering.
For a fun happy hour with something extra, we really enjoyed the Sound Bites Grill in Sedona, AZ for their “Wineaux Wednesdays” wine tasting. Start off at the bar at 4pm for happy hour cocktails and appetizers and make your way to the wine tasting area from 5-7pm (12 pours for $12- though no one was really counting!). The fun continues as live music begins at 6pm to accompany the wine tasting delights.
With so many to choose from, this was basically impossible to narrow down to just one. Since campgrounds and RV parks, particularly those in major cities, are almost never near nightlife, our “neighborhood” normally does not include a bar. However, in Houston, we were surprised to find a local watering hole just down the block from where we were staying, called the Red River Ice House. It was an unassuming little spot with touches of Texan décor, a full bar, and specializes in pub-fare pizza. It is the type of neighborhood place that feels like everyone knows everyone else’s name- well, except ours! It has a pool table and an electronic jukebox, which on our particular night, played a mixed list of top 40s, rap, oldies, and country. A nice little spot to relax with outdoor seating and a happy find within walking distance to an actual urban RV park.
Being big kids ourselves, we actively seek out game-themed bars. Here are a few that we really enjoyed along the road. Coin-Op Game Room Bar in Sacramento, CA is a large basement-level bar filled with tons of retro arcade games, an outdoor patio area where you can play life-sized games of Jenga, and serves up late night snacks for the after-hours crowd.
Another fun retro-arcade bar we found on a smaller scale, and also located in the basement-level is a spot called Spacebar Arcade, which had cheap drinks, arcade & board games, and even a couch section with old Nintendo systems to group play on overhead TV screens.
One last game bar that stood out is a newer spot in Bellingham, WA called Rook & Rogue Board Game Pub, which features one of the largest libraries of board games we have ever seen for a bar. It even has a special VIP section for members with an exclusive library of games, particularly catered to the more serious gamers.
Brew & View
The famed Alamo Drafthouse has become a staple movie theater in the Austin, TX metro area, and is starting to branch out across the country. The brew & view Alamo Drafthouses feature both first-run movies and cult classics while serving up a full menu of snack and meal items, in addition to having a full bar– of course! Our Austin campground was a 15-minute walk from the South Lamar location, which became our favorite go-to spot for evening entertainment. With an extensive list of local brews, you can order at the bar before entering your movie and continue ordering throughout the show as wait staff circulates frequently to collect order cards.
Two very eclectic, fun, fab, and weird favs emerged and both in Portland, OR.
The Pied Cow Coffeehouse occupies an old Victorian home and exists as a mishmash of café, hookah lounge, outdoor garden, and unexpected bar. Most of the seating occupies the large open garden space, which is a bold move for a city that features so much rain, but a welcome one, as it occupies such a large, lush, green inviting space. Also, if you sit outside, you may be treated with a visit by the resident cat, who clearly owns the joint, and randomly selects a lucky patron to cuddle with. There is a hodgepodge of tables and lawn furniture scattered haphazardly with love around various yard statues and artwork, much of which features eastern religions. The assorted menu serves up anything from traditional coffee drinks, café eats, to cheap decanters of wine and hookah. It is a melting pot of so many of our favorite things all situated in a big airy outdoor space.
Not too far from there is another one of our favorite spots, the aptly named Roadside Attraction. The décor looks like you walked into an old flea market with assorted oddities at every turn. This is an indoor/outdoor bar with a large outdoor fire pit and many nooks & crannies for finding a cozy corner. If it isn’t too crowded, definitely walk around the place and take it all in, as there are a lot of fun little trinkets scattered around. The outdoor section is covered with a tin roof to shield from the rain. Drinks are far below city prices and cash-only.
“Wet your Whistle” Town
We were initially trying to camp in Jerome, AZ, but the closest we could find was a state park in Cottonwood, AZ located right by Cottonwood’s historic downtown area. As cute and artsy as Jerome is, we were really happy we stayed in Cottonwood with far fewer crowds, tourists, and more nightlife in such a tightly concentrated area. With its own THAT brewery, more winery tasting rooms than I could count, local hangouts, pubs, bistros, and saloons… for such a small town, it packed a punch and left quite the impression on us! R.I.O.T (standing for Rendevous in Old Town) is an awesome bar converted out of an old drive-up gas station with a great list of local beers and plenty of games to play outside on their patio or inside by the bar.
Downtown Cottownwood also hosts a string of wine tasting rooms featuring local Arizona wines, making for an easy and impromptu “wino” tour. We had no idea an Arizona wine country exists and were delighted by the education.
Another great spot we found located just off the main drag was Three Kings Kasbar. Lured in by twinkly lights, outdoor heaters, and an incredibly inviting patio area, we enjoyed some of the best cocktails we have tried. I particularly loved their Jericho made with homemade fig vodka, which at a reasonable $7.50 price-point, is far lower than what most places charge for “craft cocktails”. The tapas style menu featured African lamb bruschetta and stuffed avocado, which were both inventive and so tasty! This bar is also affiliated with the next door location, Epiphany, where you can paint and drink wine!