How to Drink in Davenport
May 21, 2011 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I know virtually nothing of bars. How do I know which bar to visit that would be a good fit for me?

I am not so good at going out and doing things by myself, but I've been living alone in Iowa for 7 weeks and haven't met anyone to be friends with at work or elsewhere. So, to change things up I want to go to a bar tonight (inspired this this question).

Problem? I know nothing of how to pick a bar to go to. The very few times I've gone to bars in the past it was with people who already knew what bar to go to and in those cases I didn't have a reason to be nervous about it because I was with friends.

My vision was to basically go sit somewhere (at a side table? at the bar?) have one or two drinks, read for a couple hours, sober up (safety first!), and drive home. Maybe chat with strangers.

But when looking at Google maps for bars near me I started worrying about what bar would be appropriate for me to go to or how to handle myself if I pick the 'wrong' kind. Are bar and grills good (I could eat at home or there, depending on recommendations here)? Pubs? 'Plain' bars?

I guess in summary: Can anyone give me bar recommendations for Davenport, IA (52807 area) with optional pep talk and general advice? I am male and 27 years old if it matters and will give further info as needed.
posted by Green With You to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A lot of it depends on personal taste, and you'll have to develop that by trying stuff out. Here are some things I look for:

- What's the age range of the patrons? Too old? Too young? Just right?
- What does the gender mix look like? (The options seem to be boy's club, meat market, or lesbian bar, from my experience.)
- What's the focus of the crowd? Is there dancing? Sports on a TV? Live music? Pool/darts/pub games? Food?
- What are they serving? How are their prices?
- Most importantly, do I like the bartender? This is totally a gut feel thing for me.

I personally like a bar where I can go, lean on the bar, chat with the bartender if it's slow, and crowdwatch or watch something other than sports on a TV if it's busy. I also like a bar that stocks some interesting whiskeys AND has drinkable well whiskey. I have no interest in bars that cater to college kids. So I end up at the goth dance club or the tiny Irish pub run by actual Irishmen or the dimly-lit general purpose local, depending on my mood.

I find bars that serve food feel more like restaurants to me, and being solo in a restaurant always sort of weirds me out. YMMV of course. If you have coffee shops that serve booze near you those are a good option for bringing a book/laptop and unobtrusively watching the crowd.

If you aren't instantly turned off by a place, try to go two or three times in a reasonably short amount of time, so the bartender starts to recognize you. For me that's the point where a switch will flip and I'll know whether or not it's a good place for me. But it's totally a personal taste thing, so I recommend just getting out there, bring some cash so you don't feel tied down by a tab, and go practice your barstool-perching technique.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:03 PM on May 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks! I have to say I was hoping that there would be other advice. Because if not then it looks like I will need to do exactly what I didn't want to do: walk in blind. Using Google hasn't been helpful to find the 'focus' of a place. Any place that provides ANY information about the establishment is invariably a bar and grill. So far these are the best places I could find to give a shot.

Bleyart's Tap
Mc Clellan Stockade
Mac's Tavern
Tiddley Tap

I won't leave for a little bit yet so anyone else with suggestions or insight I'm all ears.
posted by Green With You at 5:48 PM on May 21, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, not surprising. So walk in, order a mixed drink (faster to down than a beer if the place just gives you hives) lean on the bar and sip it, and look around. Ten minutes minimum, and keep some of the above categories in mind. Then drop a single in the tip jar (you should have tipped already when you bought your drink, but do it again,) say "Thanks!" when the bartender catches your eye (they will - they are totally in tune with those tip jars) and walk to the next one on your list. Hit as many as are in walking distance, then pick your favorite of those to go back and nurse a soda slowly in to sober up. That should give you all the ammo you need, and you'll have a purpose all night long :)
posted by restless_nomad at 5:54 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The bars I listed above are quite far from each other so if I do go out it will probably only be to one of them.
posted by Green With You at 6:08 PM on May 21, 2011

The second and third look right next to one another. But the above advice definitely applies if you can find the part of town that has a bunch of bars in a row. I know it looks like you want to be sure ahead of time that you'll like it, but it's just not going to work that way.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:12 PM on May 21, 2011

Best answer: Have you checked Yelp? I find I can usually get an idea of ambiance from reviews, and there are places in Davenport reviewed there.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:19 PM on May 21, 2011

Best answer: I don't know anything about Davenport bars, but there are several nice bars in Iowa City that are neither boys clubs, nor meat markets, nor lesbian bars. People who enjoy the company of the opposite sex but are not necessarily trying to sleep with strangers need bars too! In particular, I like Deadwood, Sanctuary, Joe's (a little bit meat market in there sometimes), the Mill, and maybe Foxhead. You probably don't want to drive an hour to go to a good bar, but if you ever do find yourself in IC, we can show you around maybe.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:03 PM on May 21, 2011

It's been a six years since I lived there, but I remember there were more entertaining hang out bars across the river in Rock Island than there were in Davenport, and it's pretty easy to get over there on a bike via Arsenal Island (it's that close). Iowa City is a good option too but it's an hour drive for not a whole heck of a lot.

Bring solitaire or a book--people love to interrupt both of those activities if you do them at a bar. Automatic conversation.

Also re: meeting people if you are staying there much longer: the Iowa caucus is around the corner and things are going to get crazy in Davenport. Volunteer for a campaign or two and you'll me some wacky people.
posted by quarterframer at 7:40 PM on May 21, 2011

The Foxhead and the Mill were Writer's workshop hangouts when I was there 17 years ago.
posted by brujita at 9:46 PM on May 21, 2011

Here's my advice, from one complete stranger to another. Beauty of the internet, I guess.

I'm a loner. I'm also a bartender. So I feel like I understand both sides of this equation, in this particular question at least.

First off: tip well. Dollar per drink, dollar for a water, dollar for a soda.

I second restless_nomad's advice of hitting all the bars in the area - feel them out. However, don't feel them out in terms of which bartender is nicest to me... this is important, because bartenders change every few hours. Feel them out in terms of which place has an overall ambiance (music, clientele, and distractions) which cater to your tastes. So you like soccer? Or political conversation? Queers? Yuppies? These are important to finding where you feel comfortable. i am so. not. saying. these are exclusionary. or a total list of bar goers. bars and bar goers are as wierd and different as the day is long

Once you find a place you like: Go there. Often. Go there once per day. Get one drink. Nurse it. Tip well. Do not Try in the Yoda sense to engage anyone in conversation. Merely exist. Be. Drink Something Delicious. Eventually, you will be a Regular.

bars are like some wierd zen state. they remind me of this parable:

A potential student went to see a Zen master and asked: "If I work really hard, how long will it take to become enlightened?"
The Zen master looked at the man and said: "Ten years."
"No, no!" the man said, "I mean, I will really work at it"
The Zen master cut him off. "I am sorry. I misjudged you. Twenty years."
"Wait!" the man blurted out, "I'm very serious, you don't understand-"
"Thirty years," said the Zen master.

posted by special agent conrad uno at 3:41 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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