Best of Athens 2017

Here are the results for the 2017 Best of Athens in the nightlife category.

Best Bar for People Over 30

Tony's Tavern

As long as we’ve had this category – and we’re going back so many years that someone who’s 30 now would be a toddler then – Tony’s Tavern has been the winner. And they remain the Best Bar for People Over 30 in 2017. Yet, Tony is also a great saloon for people who are over 20 and over 60, and everywhere in between.

In second place for geezer honors is the West End Ciderhouse (or Cider House – it’s spelled both ways on the website, on its front window and on its drink glasses). Third place goes Jackie O’s. Notably, only 37 votes separate first and third place in this competitive category.

Little Fish Brewing Company and Casa Cantina, respectively, grab fourth and fifth place.

Best Bartender

A.J. Castro, Jackie O's

The art of mixology is a fine one. It requires years of dedication and arduous commitment. We’ve heard that A.J. (Andres) Castro (Jr.) at Jackie O’s travelled to Tibet to study under the great bartending masters at the ‘Nother Round Monastery, where the beer flows like water, where the spirits flow like beer, and where the drinks are poured with a heavy hand and an open heart.

In second place this year is Beau Nishimura at Little Fish Brewing Co. Nishimura is legendary in the trade, slinging smooth pours and tasty beverages to the good people of Athens with the style and grace of the masters. Nishimura is known as something of a Renaissance man and polymath, often called the da Vinci of Athens mixology. But mainly he’s a noted angler.

In third place comes Adam Lee at The Pub. Lee is perhaps best known for his role as a professional cooler who left New York City to take over security at the Double Deuce, in Jasper, Missouri. His success in taming the rowdy roadside bar, and his romance with a local doctor, enraged local rich person and town bully Brad Wesley, setting the stage for a dramatic confrontation, immortalized in the film “Road House.” Also, ask him about his golden retriever, Charles Bark Lee.

Honorable mentions go to Josh Brown at Casa Nueva in fourth place and Hadley Smitty of Courtside Pizza in fifth.

Best Place to Dance

Casa Cantina

From ’90s dance parties, to International Dance Night, to Open Doors, to open mic, those looking to boogie down best do their boogying at Casa Nueva, this year’s winner for best place to dance.

As Kool & The Gang once insightfully asked, what you gonna do? You wanna get down? How you gonna do it by standing on the wall? Get your back up off the wall. Dance. Get down on it if you really want it. You gotta feel it. 

Second place to shake whatcha mama gave ya is The Union, whether you’re enjoying a Y2K Millennium Dance Party with DJ Barticus or rocking out to Hellnaw or Mojoflo or Bright at Night or anybody else, you’ll have ample opportunity to show off those killer moves you’ve been practicing at home alone in the dark when the electricity goes out. You do you.

Third place this year goes to J-Bar with honorable mentions going to Broney’s in fourth place and Stephens for fifth.

Best Local Band or Performer

Wild Honeybees

As they have for the past two years, the Wild Honeybees take top honors again for Best Local Band or Performer. The ’Bees play New Orleans-style R&B music, featuring piano, saxophone, trumpet and multiple singers. The group is a constant staple at Athens festivals, especially when the sun is shining and people feel the need to boogie down.

In second place is Hellnaw, with Josh Wicker on bass/words and Wren Fenton on drums/didge, Hellnaw is a two-man rhythym section that sounds like Les Claypool and John Bonham throwing a temper tantrum in unison, as described by Aaron “Fish” Trout at Hellnaw creates a grit-funk and funk metal sound that listeners don’t soon forget.

In Third place is Bright at Night, a self-described “Soul Hip Shakin’ Phone Lovemakin’” band. They helped The Athens NEWS Rock the Red Carpet this past Wednesday night at the Athena Cinema.

Honorable mentions go to Water Witches in fourth and Weird Science in fifth.

Best Open Stage

Casa Cantina

Once again this year, Casa Cantina takes top honors for Best Open Stage. Longtime local singer-songwriter/band leader/musician Chris Biester still holds down the fort every Wednesday night at 10, as he has for many years.

Second-place honors go to Donkey Coffee, which has its open mic night every Thursday evening (and a poetry, prose and spoken-word open stage every Tuesday night). Picking up third place is The Smiling Skull Saloon, which offers a rollicking open stage every Tuesday evening.

Fourth and fifth place honors go to The Union and West End Ciderhouse, respectively.

Best Happy Hour

Jackie O's

Ohhh, happy hours. The happiest of hours in anyone’s day – when beer and liquor flow like water, and our wallets don’t bear as much of a burden as usual in the pursuit of blissful inebriation.

First place in this category this year, as was the case last year, is Jackie O’s for its well-attended Power Hour each evening from 8 to 9, where select JOs brews are only $2.

Second place this year goes to Red Brick, with its regular “Brick Break” deal from 6 to 9 p.m. offering discounted drinks.

Tony’s Tavern takes home the third-place award in this category. Can you say $1.50 hot nuts? Cause we sure can’t after pounding so many of these things. Fourth place is a tie between Casa Cantina and Courtside.

Best Live Music Venue

The Union Bar

The Best of Athens winner for Best Live Music Venue this year – The Union – needs little introduction. It’s been Athens’ signature spot to hear live rock n’ roll acts for decades. And especially now, after a major renovation following the fire on West Union Street in 2014, the bar and music venue is better than ever, with a new stage set-up, a brand spankin’ new sound system, and a cool new back patio area to cool your heels after a night of moshing.

Second place in this category goes to Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium (Mem Aud) on OU’s College Green, which is similarly a legacy institution in Athens. Built in 1928, generations of OU students, their parents and others have seen huge musical acts including the Grateful Dead, the Who, the Beach Boys, the Replacements and many more. Third place goes to Casa Cantina, offering up great live music and open stages every week. Casa’s weekly free early shows are usually standing room only.

Fourth place in this category goes to Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville and fifth goes to Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery in Athens.

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