Underneath the blue sky, in the shadow of pink mountains, amidst the brown sand, paved desert and faux mud structures lies Albuquerque's commons of inebriation. We're talking about drinking establishments, and to the fretful chagrin of temperance types, our dens of sin are here to stay. That's because most Albuquerqueans, like most humans, enjoy stepping out and cutting loose. We know it's fun to drink, dance, gamble, swear, flirt and listen to music at deafening volumes, but we also understand that the nursing of these arguably bad habits is best reserved for designated areas such as our city's voluminous selection of drinkeries.
Where in Albuquerque does the rootin'-tootin' Alibi-reading crowd go to wet its whistle? The answers follow.
Best Bar Overall
Burt's Tiki Lounge
When it comes to hitting the bars, our readers really, really, really like Burt's Tiki Lounge. Maybe it's the Mai Tais ... or the live music. Maybe it's the hipsters who've made it their hangout of choice. It's definitely the absence of a cover—no cover, ever, leaving some extra cash money for the cab ride home after a night of responsible drinking. Coming in a close second is the Anodyne—another no-cover wonder with killer Long Islands and mas pool tables. The Library (where you're sure to find a scantly clad school girl) and Elliot's (a Westside favorite) also got many votes.
Best Dive Bar
Joe’s Place (inside Carraro’s Pizza)
Sometimes the best bars are those that are well-hidden. This year's winner for Best Dive Bar is Joe’s Place. It definitely gives you that “everybody knows your name” feeling. In second place was Burt’s Tiki Lounge and third place was a tie between Atomic Cantina and the now-defunct Sonny’s Place.
Best Gay Bar
Gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, straight, queer or questioning, Pulse and Blu have a spot on their dance floor for you. From their fabulously over-the-top Fire Ball to their 18-and-over goth night, "partier" is the only adjective anyone need add to their name before strutting into Pulse and Blu. Sidewinders—your favorite county-themed gay bar—moseys on up to second with Exhale Bar and Grille saddling up at third.
Best Rock Bar
This one was very close, but not at all surprising. For our readers, three bars come to mind when they’re ready to bang their heads. Leading the Holy Trinity of Rock Bars this year is the Launchpad, followed by Burt’s Tiki Lounge and, third but not least, Atomic Cantina.
With Steve Alford now in the picture, loyal Lobos supporter Coaches should soon be hosting even more local sports enthusiasts in search of libations, delicious all-American food, an all-around pleasant atmosphere (which includes a pretty killer patio) and weekly karaoke. The second-place winner is Sneakerz, with Fox and Hound, Spectators and Uptown Sports Bar and Grill tying for third.
Best Bar for Dancing
Few combinations in this world are as delightful as alcohol mixed with booty shakin'. When Alibi readers want to boogie down in public with a slight (or not so slight) buzz on, they get their groove over at Downtown's OPM nightclub. Also popular among the hip jigglers is The Library Bar and Grill and Pulse/Blu. Get down! All the way down! Yeaaaaaahhh!
Best Happy Hour
It's been a long, miserable day. The boss chewed you out. Your butt hurts from sitting in front of your computer for nine straight hours. You need a drink. Fast. Where do you go? Margarita heaven over at Garduño's, of course, where you can also snack on some free delectables while you try to forget the fact that the whole painful process will start all over again tomorrow. Nothing like a little salt and Tequila to help obliterate your work-a-day woes. The Library, Martini Grille and Zinc all got plenty of love as well.
Jason Salazar (Elliot's)
Representing the Westside this year, Elliot's bartender Jason takes the "Golden Lemondrop" (we just made that up) for excellence in tending bar. Other fine Albuquerque barkeeps are Jeff Leidner at Burt's Tiki Lounge and Doug Albin from Anodyne. And now, a toast: May these three good citizens of Burque have health, wealth, happiness and extraordinary tips for many years to come.
Rockstar Karaoke at Atomic Cantina
We've been known to do a little tipsy belting of the jaunty "867-5309/Jenny" or "Kiss from a Rose" on occasion. Just remember there's no reason to feel bad in the morning if even the most respected hipsters swaggered onto the stage, squeezed tight their eyes and went for broke with an off-key rendition of "Piano Man." That's the scene at Atomic Cantina on Tuesday nights. Whiskey Business at The DistrictBar and Grill hoists the silver. Ed's Pub at Leisure Bowl and Elliot's are neck-and-neck for third.