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Under the Influences

Where to pack in the flavor while getting your fill. Seven of the best bar-food choices in town.



Shenanigans' Philly Cheese steak: This yacht-sized beef sandwich is made for the big drink. House-sliced steak, provolone, peppers and grilled onions for $8.50 give you plenty of heft to partake for the evening. Add the bonus of thick steak fries and this bar comes correct with munchies before you hit the long haul. Drink pairing: Bartender Bonkers O'Bryant recommends Ketel One and soda.

Commercial Taphouse ribs: Half or full rack, these barbecued babies took me by complete surprise on a recent beer Thursday. Accompanied by uncommonly greasy hush puppies, the Taphouse's rack serves up the smoke. Braised in beer (how fitting), they're tender and tasty. Drink pairing: Bartender Shawn O'Hern suggests a Lagunitas Undercover Shutdown Ale.

Patrick Henry Pub burger: Big, juicy and cooked exactly to request makes this a burger for club hopping. Accoutrements for this handful of beef can include caramelized onions, pineapple or brie. Hand-cut fries round off a plate that won't break the bank ($8.25) leaving cash to keep on keepin' on. (Tip: On Tuesday, burgers are $3 all day.) Drink pairing: Bartender Caitlin Orrison recommends Bells Two-Hearted Ale and a side shot of Jameson.



Cuban succulence: The tamales at Havana '59 are steamed in legend. Here, paired with a caipirinha.

Havana '59 tamale
: The legend is that a Latin dishwasher arrives early to create this masa wrap from fresh ingredients daily. While that may or may not be the case, this corn casing is on point for a bar snacker. The last time I had the steamed delight, it was filled with succulent shredded pork and chilaquiles. Drink pairing: Bartender Jack Lauterback recommends the caipirinha, a cocktail made by muddling four limes with sugar, adding Brazilian rum and topping with a dash of soda.

Helen's short rib: Break-off beef makes this entree perfect to soak up a night of debauchery. At the south end of the revelry that is Robinson Street, Helen's manages to transform chic into freak nightly. The short ribs, tender, fatty and lush, stand up satisfyingly to any drink you might add to your gullet. Drink pairing: Bartender Claire Tuite suggests Pabst Blue Ribbon.



Doctor approved: Buttery Brussels sprouts at Avalon. Who says you can't feel healthy while you're drinking?

Avalon Brussels sprouts
: I'm sure when anyone thinks of bar food, Brussels sprouts are far, far away from first choice. All understandable till you taste the buttery charred sprouts that Avalon dishes. A bowl of these tiny cabbages will line your stomach with much-needed iron to keep your energy up for the impending lengthy evening. Drink pairing: Bartender Jason Throckmorton suggests a Lagunitas Pilsner.

Champps nachos: What would a bar-food rundown be without your chain inclusion? Flat-screen heaven and Wii wonderland has the tortilla plate that hits a home run. Gargantuan stacks of thin white corn chips are doused liberally with white cheese, chicken, jalapenos, tomatoes and sour cream. This pile of goodness will no doubt keep you going into overtime with cheesy sports puns. Drink pairing: Bartender Thomas Lindenzweig recommends a 22-ounce Legend Brown Ale.

Pizza Place: If the lights come on and you're still upright, use your mobile for a taxi and head to the Pizza Place at 1731 E. Main St. In about the time it takes to responsibly begin your journey home, you can grab a piece of New York-style pie. Big, crispy slices keep robust flavor front and center and impending hangovers out of sight until brunch.


Editors' note: The print version of this story listed duplicate drink-pairing information from Shenanigans under the Pizza Place entry.

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