National reporters are swarming South Carolina until the Jan. 21st Republican presidential primary. This is one veteran’s guide to where to find the Palmetto State’s finest watering holes.
The state capital and my former home of seven years. Columbia has an adequate selection of nightlife for the 10 days or so most reporters will spend in South Carolina.
Liberty Tap Room: You’ll usually find lawmakers and lobbyists here during the legislative session. Big bar with plenty of places to sit and work sources. Recommended if you like: Shop talk with a decent beer selection.The scene.
Bar None: Open WAAAAAY late and a gathering place for campaign grunts and college volunteers. This place is a barfly’s bar and was our go-to after we put the paper to bed on election night. Also home of the best late-night meal in town — the Five Points Special. One downside is the bartenders favor the awful jam bands that the USC students love. RIYL: Miller Lite in large quantities; shuffleboard.
Art Bar: You’ll find tattoos, piercings and questionable intentions at Art Bar. Usually gets crowded late. Art Bar has a different type of crowd each night. Cheap drinks and live music many nights. Home to Columbia’s best bathroom graffiti. Don’t miss Mr. B’s Goodtime Karaoke Explosion on Wednesdays. RIYL: A place that makes many social conservative Republicans uncomfortable.
The Whig: Across the street from the State House, but miles away in mentality. You’ll find pretty good food and a nice beer selection. It’s small and gets crowded, especially on Taco Tuesdays. Great jukebox. RIYL: North American Indie Rock; irony; #Occupy; skinny jeans.
Group Therapy: Columbia’s best dive, you can stretch an expense account dollar here. You may recognize Group Therapy from its starring role in the 2007 Kevin Bacon classic “Death Sentence.” Crowd turns college late, but this is the place to come if you want to get away from the people you cover. Bartender will take music requests. Where the pros drink. RIYL: Cheap drinks, great bartenders and colorful regulars.
Goatfeathers: A really great place for a good conversation. Dark, cozy and intimate. Great selection of wine and liquor. The food is worth a shout too. RIYL: A place to get away from the rest of Five Points.
I’m not recommending any place in particular because there’s too many to choose from. Follow the crowd and you’ll have a tough time going wrong. It’s Charleston, blow up the expense account.
My wife lived in Greenville when we first met. It’s a really fun town despite its Bob Jones reputation and they have a great downtown. Eat at Soby’s.
Connolly’s: Greenville’s attempt at an Irish pub. This place is usually rowdy, has live music and plenty of Irish whiskey choices. RIYL: A wicked pissah.
The Cazbah: Great selection of affordable wines in a more sophisticated setting. Probably the most entertaining tasting notes you’ll read. RIYL: A more refined night on the town.
Barley’s Taproom — This small chain reflects the granola side of Greenville’s population. Really good pizza and a big selection of craft beers on tap. There’s pool tables upstairs and sometimes bluegrass downstairs. RIYL: Lots of choices and high-end micros.
UPDATE: I was reminded that I forgot Trappe Door, which carries lots of rare imports. I haven’t been to Nose Dive, but I’m told that’s where the political crowd goes in Greenville.
Different strokes for different folks, but I don’t think I’m in Myrtle Beach’s target demo.
Bumstead’s Pub — Myrtle Beach hosted two debates during the 2008 cycle, and both times we went to this place after the debate with national and local media. They had a bunch of food left over from, I think, Rudy Giuliani’s pre-debate party that they turned over to a pack of hungry journalists. That earned a repeat trip. RIYL: The low-key neighborhood joint around the corner; very drunk townies.
The trick to Spartanburg is that the good places are not located on Daniel Morgan square.
Nu-Way Lounge: A hole in the wall, but easily the best place in Spartanburg. Every college town has a place like this. Old school with a crowd of regulars that turns to ironic college frat boys late. Find the place by the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign. RIYL: Tall boys, pickled eggs and other bar classics.
Gerhard’s: This place is run by an authentic German. Quality beer selection and the restaurant looks like a stable, in a good way. RIYL: Euro beers in a place that feels Euro.