Last year, our list of the best bars in McAllen was met with literally no acclaim from ANYONE we ranked on the list. (thanks guys!)
So here’s a toast to another year of The Bench Wire going, potentially, unnoticed. (here, HERE!)
Much like last year’s list, we’ll be ranking each bar using a series of metrics designed to help us grade each bar fairly:
1. Variety: How deep does the bar’s selection go? Original drinks score more points.
2. Drinks: We’re not overthinking this one; are the mixed drinks good? If no mixed drinks are available, is their choice of selection good? (This portion would differ from variety; a bar could, in theory, have a wide selection of terrible product)
3. Atmosphere: Every bar is designed with a type of client in mind. From when you walk-in, to your first drink. From the tables, to the music; A bar owner knows the kind of feeling they want to emit. What bar is doing the best at building up the environment around you?
4. Service: Is the place adequately staffed? How long does it take before you actually get noticed at the bar-top?
5. Sanitation: Long bathroom wait? Do you feel like you’re gonna catch something?
I should disclose that this is all based on a comprehensive list of local bars. No big-chain restaurant/bars were considered.
A new addition we’ve included in this year’s list is crowning the best bars in each “bar district,” the geographical boundaries of which I’ve just made up right now. The districts include: 17th St. (well, everything on 17th), Nolana (sensing a pattern, here?), North McAllen (bars north of Nolana), Mid-Town McAllen (inside the box of Col. Rowe, 23rd, Nolana, Expressway), and West McAllen (between 23rd and Ware).
Here are the results:
Best Of Bar Districts
Best Bar 17th St.: Suerte (Score 7.9)
Best Bar Nolana: Havana Club (Score 7.4)
Best Bar North McAllen: El Divino (Score 9)
Best Bar Mid-Town McAllen: The Centennial Club (Score 9.3)
Best Bar West McAllen*: El Callejon De Los Milagros (Score 6.3)
*Disclaimer: West McAllen has an extremely limited sample of local bars. Basically, almost everything on Expressway and Ware was disqualified for being big chains.
#10. Deloreans, Nolana. Score: 7.00 (2015 Rank: #10)
A year later and Deloreans is still going strong as a popular spot on Nolana. Having matched their rank from last year tells me that not much has changed from their formula: Invest in what makes your bar unique. 80’s music, nostalgic wallpaper and alcohol is going to continue to keep them in the upper-echelon in perpetuity. ..i mean, unless someone builds a 90s bar.
#9. Roosevelt’s at 7, Mid-Town McAllen. Score 7.10 (2015 Rank: #7)
There isn’t a bar that has helped mold McAllen’s pursuit of their Art District than Roosevelt’s. It draws a different type of crowd that isn’t found on 17th and features a large array of micro-brews. The board games, art, and wood tones help bring the environment together with a staff that’s impeccably knowledgeable about their product. Still no renovations on their tiny restrooms, though, and yes, they still look out into the kitchen. Nonetheless, a great place to knock down a few.
#8. Peacocks, 17th St. Score 7.2 (2015 Rank: #6)
Basically the drive-by of bars on 17th. Not really a place to hang out at for more than a few minutes, unless you’re fine with tight spaces. Great for keeping the night moving and spending a minute or two writing the theory of everything on the chalkboard behind you.
#7. Havana Club, Nolana. Score 7.4 (2015 Rank: NR)
The beautiful thing about Havana Club is that it’s exactly what you think it is. Live fiery salsa, bachata, merengue, etc, with a sizable dance floor. Modeled very much after a 1950’s Miami night club, it’s unquestionably the best dance club in McAllen. Hell, even if you DON’T know how to dance Latino music, they actually have lessons throughout the week by legit instructors. The only knock on Havana is that they charge cover to get in, but it’s worth it.
#6. Santa Fe Cantina, Mid-Town McAllen. Score 7.6 (2015 Rank: #4)
For as long as they’ve been around (23 years), Santa Fe has stayed as one of the more elegant establishments in the city. Like last year, their liquor selection isn’t where it should be, but their cocktails, again, are always on point. They do, however, carry a wine selection that can certainly rival House Wine’s.
#5. Suerte, 17th St. Score 7.9 (2015 Rank: #5)
I can’t think of a single time that I drank downtown where I DIDN’T somehow end up at Suerte at some point in the night. Between the cheap drinks, the art, the ambiance, the Selena nights, Taco Tuesday, and the music, Suerte is by far the best bar on 17th St. The only knock about being as popular as they are is the enormous crowd you’ll need to surf through to get a drink. But when you do eventually flag a bartender down, ask for an El Borracho. You’re welcome.
#4. Infusions, Mid-Town McAllen. Score 8.1 (2015 Rank: NR)
When the bars are being graded, there’s really no way of knowing what bar is in what rank until the scores are actually tallied up. Last year, when I saw Infusions off the list, I thought that it HAD to have been a mistake. After re-calculating, there they sat at #12, just barely missing the cut of about 50 or so bars that were graded. Having gone back a few times this year, I noticed a few subtle details that I had missed the first time they were graded. Their staff was quite a bit more knowledgeable than what I believed them to be, and their signature drinks were much more daring and experimental and tasteful than what I had originally thought. This is us making up for last year, Infusions. Sorry =/
#3. House Wine & Bistro, Mid-Town McAllen. Score 8.7 (2015 Rank: #3)
For the better part of nearly a decade, House Wine has remained a staple on Business 83. Although clubs and bars all around them go up and down, they remain constant. Their wine selection is the best the McAllen. If you’re going to do just one thing, you better be the best at it and House Wine absolutely is. Also, Lou Ferrigno!
#2. El Divino, North McAllen. Score 9 (2015 Rank: #1)
Last year’s #1, El Divino is not only one of the best bars in McAllen but all of South Texas. Their cigar room alone is reason enough to go as a great low-light alternative to the actual bar. They have a wide selection of, well, everything and their original drinks are nothing short of fantastic. It is an elegant establishment that has just about everything an alcoholic like me could want.
#1. The Centennial Club, Mid-Town. Score 9.3 (2015 Rank: #2)
Arguing the selection between El Divino and The Centennial is like splitting hairs. Both have great collections of alcohol and unique cocktails that easily out-shine everyone else in the city. It really came down to two things; the first was taste. The Centennial slightly pulls away with their signature cocktails as I’ve yet to find one that I don’t enjoy. The other was atmosphere. This year, I spent New Year’s Eve at The Centennial Club. I stood at the bar, looking around and seeing everyone dressed eloquently as a band softly played into the conversations that were all around. For a moment, I forgot I was in McAllen or anywhere else for that matter. You see, that’s what a bar is there for. To help forget everything and transport you into the moment. The Centennial does that better than anyone and that’s why they’re the best bar in McAllen.