Bars mean drinking (unless the words “tapas” or “sushi” are appended), but the majority of such establishments also serve food. The cynical view is that bars offer things to eat — sometimes free (though peanuts on the bar and such have pretty much disappeared in these coronavirus times) — not out of any gastronomic pretensions or concern for their customers’ nutrition, but because bar food, which is usually salty, encourages patrons to imbibe more freely.
Increasingly, though, bars take pride in their food. That doesn’t mean that it’s fancy stuff. By definition, bar food is accessible, unpretentious, and not very expensive. Finger foods, often fried, are typical fare. Potatoes are frequently involved (primarily fries or tots, generously garnished), and nachos and dips are common. The definitive American bar food, though, might be Buffalo wings, said to have been invented at the 86-year-old Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. though perhaps a little better today at a few other local places. (Click here to see the oldest bar in every state we can visit when this is over.)
24/7 Tempo has put together a list of bars around the country serving excellent food, calling out one specialty for each place — quite possibly the best bar food in every state.
Whether or not such standard menu items as burgers or pizza should be considered bar food is up for debate — but the burger at Father’s Office in Culver City, California, and the hot oil pizza at the Colony Grill in Stamford, Connecticut, to take two examples, are so iconic and such an essential part of the bar-going experience in those places that they’ve been included here. So have regional specialties like fried crab claws in Mobile, Alabama; tempura alligator in Mandeville, Louisiana; and toasted ravioli in St. Louis, Missouri.
You’ll find meat, seafood, fowl, and vegetables in various forms on this list, but remember that this is food meant to be consumed while you’re knocking back a beer, a shot, a glass of wine, or a cocktail or three, so don’t look here for healthier things like soups or salads. (Anyway, we’ve identified 48 salads that are worse than a slice of cheese pizza.)
To assemble this list, 24/7 Tempo reviewed listings of best bar-food venues appearing on Yelp, The Daily Meal, Thrillist, and Eat This, Not That, as well as numerous state, regional, and local review sites. Most of the bars on this list were ranked by multiple sources as having the best bar food in their respective states.