BOB: Night Life
By Michael Henningsen
Gone (forever, we hope) are the days when whiners can complain that there's nothing to do in Albuquerque after dark. As you're about to discover, there's more than enough nightlife to go around in this city—from live music and dancing to fine dining and drinking, you can't swing a dead cat in Albuquerque without hitting something fun to do with your leisure time. Furthermore, Weekly Alibi's very own Arts, Naked City (live music and entertainment) and Community and Events calendars are jam-packed with great stuff to do every day of every week. If you're not satisfied with your social life, it's only because you're not willing to miss an episode of “Cops” every now and then. We hope our readers' choices in the following categories will inspire you to have fun, relax, make new friends and become part of our vibrant community.
Best Bar in the South Valley
Mike's Place dropped off the Best of Burque radar screens last year after having been a perennial winner for several years. But the joint is back as this year's Gold Cup winner. The Monte Carlo Steakhouse, which is just plain cool on a whole host of levels, made a solid showing for second place, followed closely by last year's second place winner, Phil's Liquors. And a big Alibi “Shut up you, hillbilly!” to all those respondents ignorant enough to send us your racist rhetoric regarding the South Valley.
Best Downtown Bar
After a three-year Launchpad reign, Anodyne finally knocked out the champ to take the title belt for the first time. Tears will be shed, fists will be raised in victory, and I will probably be shot in the face. Burt's Tiki Lounge finds itself in second place this year, followed by a weary ex-champion Launchpad in third. The still-fairly-new Atomic Cantina and OPM ended up in a virtual tie for fourth place. By this time next year, I predict there will be so many bars Downtown that no one will be able to predict a winner.
Best Westside Bar
Our Place II
Our Place II rested comfortably in second place for three years before rising to the top of the Westside heap in 2004. Slate Street Billiards made an impressive showing in the second slot, followed by Sidelines in third place.
Best Northeast Heights Bar
Assets Grill/Billy's Long Bar
Billy's remains our readers' favorite Heights haunt, but this year they've got a partner in first place, Assets Grill, the result of a dead-on tie. The newly opened—much to the chagrin of Albertson's and a few crybabies on our esteemed City Council—Graham Central Station took solid hold of second place, and the Stoneface Tavern grabbed third for the second consecutive year.
Best Nob Hill Bar
One thing there's no shortage of in the quaint Nob Hill district is bars. There's at least one bar for every upscale clothing store in the neighborhood, which is probably why there's also a police substation cleverly disguised as the Tic Toc Diner in the area. We were pretty much resigned to our belief that Kelly's would tie this category up year after year just like the Frontier Restaurant does in the “Best Breakfast” category. But to our surprise, it was O'Niell's Pub that came out the clear winner here. Geckos, a long-time veteran of the Nob Hill Shopping Center moved from a third place tie with O'Niell's last year to second place this year. Monte Vista Fire Station moved up to third place followed by last year's winner of this category, Kelly's.
Best College Bar
Seems that no matter the name—Fat Chance, Sprockets, etc.—the bar on Central nestled between Olympia Café and the Zone bong shop is destined to win this category in perpetuity. This year, the place is called Rebar, and though aesthetically it's a far cry from its roots as the Fat Chance, it's a great spot that hosts local DJs several nights per week, along with a steady stream of national acts. To get to the second and third place choices for the best college bar in Burque, you'll need to head west on Central a few miles into the heart of our beautiful, burgeoning new Downtown. There you'll find the Downtown Distillery (second place) right across the street from Maloney's (third place).
Best Gay Bar
It's just no use. There's no evidence to suggest that Pulse will not continue to win in this arena every year until George W. Bush single-handedly brings about the end of life as we know it. Pulse is known as a gay bar, but you should know that they are very hetero-friendly and all are welcome ... with proper ID, of course. Next on the list is a tie between the Albuquerque Mining Company and the Pulse offshoot, Blu. The Ranch moves into third position this year, up one from last year.
Best Country Bar
As usual, if we had a nickel for every moronic answer we had to wade through in this category we could afford to hire a gang of Mafia hitmen to track down and execute each and every idiot that came up with such clever answers as “No such thing,” and “Country music sux,” and “Redneck assholes (sic)” and so on. Ironically, evidence shows that most of the folks who voted in this category have a lower IQ than the first three rows at a Toby Keith concert collectively. Anyway, Cowboys managed to unseat last year's champion, Midnight Rodeo, which moved back into second place. Coming in third and making its very first showing in this category was, oddly, The Ranch. Oddly, we say, because a good percentage of the votes we received contained some kind of patently homophobic (and therefore ignorant) bent.
Best Sports Bar
Once again, Coaches is the favorite place to enjoy a pitcher of beer, a plate of hot wings, a game of some sort and a hundred or so other sports fans in NASCAR hats with various pro-team jerseys hanging over their enormous beer guts hollering like lunatics at a barrage of wall-mounted televisions. The Fox and Hound makes its first showing here in second place, and Spectators just barely nosed Skybox for third.
For six of the seven years we've included this category, Martini Grille has taken the grand prize. (Liquid Lounge won the gold two years ago.) Although unlike the rest of the winning lounges in that it doesn't use “lounge” as part of its name, Martini Grille certainly pours on that unique ambiance that would make Old Blue Eyes, Dino and Sammy proud. Coming in at fourth place last year, Burt's Tiki Lounge jumped two slots forward into second place, followed by Copper Lounge and Liquid Lounge.
Chelsea's Street Pub
Albuquerque is one crazy rabid karaoke town! We don't just mean that Burque residents are casual, hobby karaoke-ists—they're incredibly dedicated to the art of butchering other people's songs. So dedicated, in fact, that more people voted in this category than in the “Best Downtown Bar” category. So dedicated, in fact, that they voted for a winner that's been closed for no less than four friggin' months! Good for you, Albuquerque! The karaoke that doesn't take place at the non-existent Chelsea Street Pub won by a landslide. The karaoke that actually does happen at Leisure Bowl (last year's first place, you morons) took second, followed by the brand new Alley Cats inside the Graham Central Station barplex and, finally, Silva Lanes.
Best Bar in Which to Meet Your CIA Contact
What does this category mean? Most of us have no idea. Of course, most of us don't have CIA contacts, either. We got plenty of responses along the lines of, “Do you think if I had a CIA contact I'd be reckless enough to meet him [or her] in a bar?” Well, kids, simply because that very notion apparently seems ridiculous enough on its surface to inspire such responses, seems that meeting your CIA contact in a bar would be a moderately safe idea. Martini Grille is the first choice, followed by the darkened corners furnished with soft booths at Copper Lounge and the inviting confines of Geckos.
Best Place to Drown One's Sorrows
No one has forgotten that Copper Lounge was once a dive called Jack's that was littered with hipsters, old-age drunks, killer pizza and the best jukebox this town will ever know. That's why, more often than not and more than five years since the passing of Jack's, the Copper Lounge (it's the same building) wins this category every year. Which is not to say that the Copper Lounge is any less an appropriate drinking hole in which to drown one's sorrows. Second place Anodyne came out of nowhere to take second-best honors. Also making its first appearance here is Geckos, followed by Joe's Place (who should remember that any publicity is good publicity).
Best Bar to Dance In
Pulse was once the king in this category. Then came the crooks (for the record, the “crooks” designation is the personal opinion of Michael Henningsen and does not necessarily reflect the collective opinion of Weekly Alibi management or staff) behind Banana Joe's who opened an admittedly nice three-story club on Central just west of Sixth Street and then left town like thieves in the night. (For the record, the “thieves” designation is the personal opinion of Michael Henningsen and does not necessarily reflect the collective opinion of Weekly Alibi management or staff.) Now that Banana Joe's is (thankfully) gone from our part of the Earth, OPM has taken first prize in this category. Second place goes to Pulse, but third place happens to be a tie between Midnight Rodeo and Graham Central Station.
Best Happy Hour
Monte Vista Fire Station
If you do “happy hour” anywhere other than Monte Vista Fire Station, you're apparently sacrificing yourself at a “crappy hour” someplace else. The New Mexican restaurant chain calling itself Garduños gets second place, presumably for their margaritas. Seasons and Martini Grille came in a close third and fourth place, respectively.
Best Venue In Which to Hear Live Music
While Clear Channel (owner of Journal Pavilion, more than several concert venues, thousands of radio stations across the country and the beginning of the end of music as an artform) continues on its mission to homogenize the music you're allowed to listen to on radio and decide which washed-up classic rock acts you're allowed to see live for outrageously inflated ticket prices at venues that feature shitty parking, shitty lawn “seating” and troops of unrelenting narcs (the “plainclothes” personnel who walk around busting every Average Joe packing a joint at every concert at Journal Pavilion), it's nice to know that most of you continue to prefer the locally owned and operated Launchpad as the venue of choice for your live music. Journal Pavilion, which is a beautiful venue by any standards—although operated by demons who couldn't care less who's actually on stage as long as there's a huge profit to be made—managed second place here, mostly because the ticket-buying public either doesn't have a clue or doesn't give a shit. Burt's Tiki Lounge, under the guidance of the ultra-wise Erin Duddy, wound up in third place this year, followed closely by Atomic Cantina.
Best Place for a Bachelor/Bachelorette Party
These sorts of parties, while overrated, still take place. And most of the men's parties of the sort tend to either begin or end at one or more of the local “gentlemen's clubs” that dot our city's landscape. We can therefore assume that it was mostly men who voted in this category, because all of the answers involve various degrees of female nudity and dancing on and around a brass pole to the shittiest glam metal of the '80s. TD's North took top honors, followed by a tie between Downtown's Knockouts and all-nude (and all-creepy in Michael Hennignsen's personal opinion that has nothing to do with the collective or individual opinions of Alibi management or staff) Fantasy World and, rather innocuously, Pulse.
Erin Duddy at Burt's Tiki Lounge
As a nondrinker (these days, anyway), I, Michael Henningsen, cannot personally attest to Erin Duddy's finesse as a bartender. However, as a former (and damn good if I do say so my damn self) bartender at the oft and righteously lamented Dingo Bar, I can say with professional confidence that any bartender who gets more than twice the votes of all other mentioned bartenders collectively must be doing something right. Second place goes to Classy at Assets Grill, and third to a famous mobster named Joe Pesce who pours drinks at Sauce.
Best Bloody Mary
Last year's second place moves into first this year: Anodyne is the hotspot when it comes to the traditional hangover cure, the Bloody Mary. Geckos (making a kick-ass showing this year across the board) takes second along with TGIFridays (it was a tie, see), followed by the Monte Vista Fire Station, which was last year's winner in this category. Note to those in the throes of hangovers too severe to warrant leaving the house: The secret is celery salt and fresh lemon wedges.
Garduños is mediocre when it comes to Mexican food, but they undeniably make killer margs. Swapping first place yet again, Sadie's drops into second place. El Pinto makes its first showing here in third place, followed closely by corporate shit-sloppers, Chili's.
“Duh” was actually the most common answer, which of course is code for Martini Grille. Next year, we're considering either giving Martini Grille a “Lifetime Achievement” award and retiring this category altogether, or simply giving them the award and changing the category to “Best Martini Other That The Ones At Martini Grille.” Our second place winner here is the Scalo Bar, followed by OPM in third place.
Best Mixed Drinks
Apparently, the mixed drinks at Martini Grille have gotten a whole lot better since last year, when they didn't rank in the top four. Same goes for the mixology going on these days at Monte Vista Fire Station, which triumphantly came out of nowhere to win second prize. Third place similarly went to yet another bar that didn't place last year, Seasons.
Best Selection of Draft Beers
Here's a first: O'Niell's tied with itself for top honors in the draft beer selection arena. More accurately, it tied with it's most direct competitor and sister establishment. Kelly's made a not-too-distant showing in second place, followed by 2001 winner, Billy's Long Bar. The Fox and Hound made its first showing with a very respectable fourth place win.
Best Place to Admire Poor Fashion Sense
We're not sure whether voters in this category meant poor fashion sense in terms of the clothing and accessories being sold at Coronado Mall or in terms of the clothing choices worn by the people shopping there, but that's because we don't shop at malls. The Frontier Restaurant moved up a slot from last year into second place, and apparently Maloney's attracts a number of ill-advised dressers. Fourth place went to “Anywhere in Albuquerque,” which we guess is sort of true.
Best Place to Play Pool
Anodyne stands alone this year, having garnered nearly as many votes as for the two other winners combined. Doc 'n' Eddy's made a clear run for second place, while Billiard Palace found its way into third.
Best Movie Theater
2003 was the Year of the Googleplex, with both Century theaters crushing the competition with stadium-style seating and movies on 38 screens collectively. This year, however, Burque filmgoers have embraced their roots and the high-quality, diverse collection of films being shown at Madstone. The Centurys took second (Rio 24) and third (Downtown), followed by the Guild Cinema.
Best Local Band Overall
Apparently, more metal fans voted in this year's Best of Burque poll than fans of any other genre of music, because the Requiem Mass victory was as solid one. Left Unsaid came through with the next-highest percentage of votes, followed by Nosotros and New Weapons. Every other band in town got at least one vote.
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