TotL – 15 Fictional Watering Holes
Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.
That’s a really awesome reference that you should Google. No, don’t worry about it, I’ll drop a Youtube link. It’s time for yet another edition of Top o’ the Lot (or TotL pronounced “TOTAL” by the kids), Outright Geekery’s weekly listicle. This week’s countdown examines all the great bars, taverns, clubs, and dives from my favorite TV shows, movies, comics, and more. While Cheers may not have made the list, nothing beats that song. So, without further ado, we hit all (or most) major forms of media, make it a double, and everybody sing along, with Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot: 15 Fictional Watering Holes.
Honorable Mention: The One from Every RPG Ever
Including video games, table top games, and the occasional board game. You know the one: Where there’s always someone selling the exact stuff you need for the upcoming journey, the bartender is burly (probably a bastard), the bar maidens are hot and ready (and probably rogues), and (in too many cases) there always seems to be an NPC or PC ready for a team up.
This one is ridiculous in almost every single case. It’s cheap storytelling, hinges primarily on nostalgia, and none of that matters at all. Seeing the local Inn in video games like World of Warcraft or Elder Scrolls is often such a terrific feeling. It denotes discovery and familiarity in brilliant ways. But there’s way too many, so it gets a Honorable Mention.
15. The Bar with No Name
Ok, try to keep up. In the Marvel Comics Universe there is this bar…or maybe it’s a series of bars, where the badguys meet up for planning world domination, cementing their criminal networks, or celebrating good times (Kang’s birthday party was a true rager), and they do this in a place known only as The Bar with No Name.
This is the one that should be getting an Honorable Mention. What a cheap way around getting some bad guys talking. But it’s throwback, it’s subtle and dark, and some really cool things have started in these Bars with No Names…or whatever. And it’s comics. Comics get a pass.
14. Kadie’s Club Pecos
This is the bar from Sin City. A lot of things happened there. Dwight and Ava meetup, The Long Bad Night, Nancy’s Last Dance. What an amazing way to tell a story, and what a terrific scene.
Only hits this low on the list because so many others are just better. It should be on here, but 14 is as high is it’s getting. The dance is really good though…but NSFW.
13. Gaston’s Tavern
What a lovely little town. Too bad the only bar is run by this douchebag. But there’s no denying that Gaston’s Bar from Beauty and the Beast is THE happening place in that provincial little town. Everyone loves the owner too.
Gaston is the man, and he knows it. Why shouldn’t he run his very own tavern? But it’s that song! Although, a good tune can only carry you so far. And he’s such a jerk. Calm down, dude! Grab a drink, go lift some weights, and get with one of those other honeys. I mean, you own a bar. He should just move on.
12. The Bada Bing
The Bada Bing is the fictional strip club owned by Silvio Dante, second hand to crime boss Tony Soprano, and it was a crazy place. Topless girls, alcohol, and gangsters 24 hours a day. The back room was a gentleman’s club, where New Jersey’s finest criminals ate sandwiches, played poker, and counted money.
The Bing makes the list because it was just a cool place. The setting worked to help define the backdrop of this series, and it was one of my favorites. I picture myself walking in, spreading around the cash to all the fine “ladies” dancing, and being invited to the back room for a late night poker game, which inevitably leads to Outright Geekery becoming a front for the mob, my wife’s fingers being cut off as a warning, and me ultimately floating in the Hudson River. Worth it!
In IDW Publishing’s Transformers titles, there’s a story about a group of ragtag Cybertronians – loners, castoffs, shut-ins, socially inept etc. – who decide to leave Cybertron and search the galaxy for the fabled Knights of Cybertron. Things have not gone well. Despite that, however, one standout of this series in the context of this list is Swerve’s Bar. Swerve is a wise-cracking smartass of a guy, but he’s just looking to have a good time. And Swerve’s Bar is THE place to go on the spaceship The Lost Light should you have the need for some Energon Ale.
While Swerve’s doesn’t break into the top 10 o’ this Lot simply because it’s such a vague and relatively unknown bar, it makes the list overall because I just love these robots, their stories, and their relationships so damned much. I know, these are plastic toys from the 1980s. But their real to me.
Although it’s not the coolest bar from the Star Trek universe, Quark’s is easily the one that looks more like your traditional western frontier saloon, which is what Deep Space Nine was going for. Set right off the main hub in the promenade, Quark’s offered food, drink, fellowship, but most importantly it offered gambling and holosuites.
Having hookers and gaming was a real departure for the series as the Federation tended to frown on such things, but it added a sense of realism to the fell of the entire series. Real frontier stuff, unrestrained by the laws of the Federation. And the cast of regulars, including the ever-silent Morn, were fantastic additions. A great place that deserve to break the Top 10 in a list with so many great entries.
Club Rockit was an actual, real-life place that writer Bryan Lee O’ Malley used to model the fictional punk rock venue in the wildly successful and fun Scott Pilgrim series of comics. It was described as cramped, ugly, and terrible by its creator, but we loved it for a lone reason: Sex Bob-Omb played there!
If you have a club in a comic book and there’s a cool band that plays there it’s going to be an awesome place. The club shows up in every instance of this license including comics, movies, and video games, and really just goes to show you how damned popular this series is. Sequel? I sure hope so!
8. The Leaky Cauldron
Founded by Daisy Dodderidge in 1500 to serve as a doorway between the non-magic Muggle World and the Wizarding World, The Leaky Cauldron is a pub and inn from the Harry Potter Universe. It was one of the first introductions readers and viewers had at what the new magical world we were stepping into truly had to offer.
Whimsy filled both the book and movie scenes that introduced The Leaky Cauldron, and it only got better from there. Beyond that, however, The Leaky Cauldron was a portal of sorts from the real to the imagined, a mainstay in scores of fantasy titles. Subtle and fun, it was a great anchor early on in the series and just neat in its own right.
Another one from both famous books and popular movies, The Prancing Pony is in the village of Bree in Middle-Earth from The Lord of the Rings series of novels and films. This is where Frodo and his group meet up with the Ranger Strider in what became one of the most amazing adventures of all time.
More occurs at this inn and bar than just the meeting of Frodo and Strider, but it’s the most famous by far, and this meeting represents a ramp up in the adventure of the story. And it’s a terrific moment. Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf meet up here at one point, as well, but it’s just not mentioned as much. While the Honorable Mention spot in this Lot may be a stereotype, this is the inn that created it.
6. Moe’s Tavern
When you visit Springfield there’s only one place where the Everyman goes after a long, hard day of running the nuclear power plant. Moe’s Tavern. The cold Duff on tap, terrific music, fun regulars, and, of course, Moe, our lovable bartender. There may not be a more well known bar on this list.
A lot of people know about Moe’s because so many people have been forced to watch so many seasons of The Simpsons. I guess it deserves it – I haven’t watched since season 5 or 6 – but Moe’s is still very worthy of making this list.
5. The Hellfire Club
I’m not really quite sure if this entry even qualifies, as the Hellfire Club is more of a group of people than a building where people drink, but I don’t care. The perennial X-Men villain, the Hellfire Club is a fictional society bent on obtaining power, but they do often have an actual club.
Sometimes a bar isn’t about the where, but the who. The place is terrific, but The Hellfire Club is really made up of really interesting – and often very evil – characters. And those cool Chess piece nicknames? So cool!
4. The Iceberg Lounge
Barely missing the Top 3 is the relatively new aspect of DC Comics Gotham City, Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge. The iceberg shaped nightclub, conveniently located in Gotham Harbor, acts as a legitimate business front for the Penguin’s criminal dealings, and also works as a place for Batman to use his makeup kit.
My favorite parts of the Iceberg Lounge are when Batman disguises himself as a criminal, goes to the lounge incognito, all in an attempt to overhear some underworld information that may help him solve the next crime. And it’s just really cool to see it floating there on Gotham’s Skyline.
3. The Ink & Paint Club
Yes, breaking into the Top 3 is the nightclub run by cartoons from the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Ink & Paint Club. In a world where toons are real, this nightclub takes the best parts of that animated world, puts them to wrok, and provides quality entertainment as well as superb nightclub services.
Opening on the Duck vs Duck piano duel, Jessica’s solo in the middle, and ending on that gorilla of a bouncer, the Ink & Paint Club not only left an impression on anyone who watched this movie, but it made viewers want to go there for a Saturday night of drinking, dancing, and drawing.
2. Mos Eisley Cantina
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
But, man, they play such good music! Like many things in the Star Wars Universe, less was more when it came to this Outer Rim bar on the mudball that is Tatooine. Is was rightfully a dangerous place. Who goes to Tatooine if they aren’t in trouble and laying low? That’s a recipe for smugglers, pirates, and, yes, nerf-herders.
Again, less was more here. Lucas understood that an audience will fill in their own gaps, and usually an audience will fill it with better stuff than a writer ever could. So many alien races with absolutely no explanation whatsoever about who or what they are. It was perfect. Oh, and that house band is the best in the galaxy.
1. 10 Forward
Wait! They put a bar in a Federation Starship? Yes, they did, and it was awesome! Deck 10 in the forward section of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D was just that: A bar. A place where weary Starfleet officers could relax, eat, fellowship, drink, listen to music, and otherwise have an awesome time. It was weird for a while. There’s a bar on a Federation starship? But it ended up working so well for so man reasons.
The primary reason was the bartender, Guinan, played by acting legend Whoopi Goldberg. But all of the little things fell right into place over a very short period of time to make 10 Forward one of the most popular place in the entire galaxy. Sometimes there’s a hostage situation, some days it’s a birthday party. Other days there’s a funeral wake, yet others there’s an emergency baby delivery (thanks, Worf!), and still others see the entire crew trying to beat each other to a pulp. Business as usual on the Flagship of the Federation.
See a mistake? Disagree with the choices? Let us know!