The holidays are coming. Go ahead, this article can wait while you get a drink. Heaven knows you need it, what with all the shopping, loneliness and cherished visits with family.
But where? Where are the best places for one to go to around McAllen?
Ho-ho-Heineken, have we got a list for you. A list of all the local bars, nightclubs and restaurants that have been naughty and nice.
The methodology is simple. After speaking with promoters, watching our readers’ Facebook feeds and doing a bit of field research, Mcallen Website Builder has ranked the best overall venues in McAllen for a night out.
You may disagree. In fact, we’re counting on it. You may be so incensed you speed click to our Web site to spew vitriol, writing a quasi manifesto about how Dirty Bottle should have taken spots one through five on this list.
Go for it. It’s America, and, given the time of year, you’re probably kind of tipsy anyway.
THE TOP 25 BARS DOWNTOWN 1) The Empire Lounge 1106 Austin Ave., McAllen (956) 686-8544 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Empire-Lounge-Mcallen/103781136356966?sk=info The Empire Lounge won’t leave your mouth hanging open in amazement, if your prone to such ostentatious displays of emotion. It won’t revolutionize the way you think of partying. It lands in our number one spot for a simple reason – consistency. When you go to Empire, you will hear pretty good music, the bartenders will be fast and fair handed, the girls will look good and the guys won’t be scary. It will be fun. Empire has been around for more than a year or so, which is an eternity in nightlife years. It’s got two levels and it’s longer than it is wide, making it a fun room to maneuver through as you head upstairs to people watch from the balcony. It’s a historic, restored building with cool brick façades and simple decorations. Friday ranks as the venue’s best night, with a chill Thursday not being a bad option either.
2). Volta 223 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 227-7270 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Volta-Mcallen/168705299967 Volta ranks as the best pure nightclub in town, armed with the best soundsystem in town and an atmosphere that actually coaxes macho valley dudes to get down on the floor and dance -- no easy task. And Volta has been doing it for a while, boasting a pretty long tenure on 17th Street dating back more than two years or so. In addition to the killer speaker set up, Volta has a spacious venue, fantastic lightshow and a staff and ownership that tries really hard, which seems like a given but can’t be discounted when it comes to creating a fun place to unwind. There’s an outside patio and a shot bar inside. They bring down some high-class DJs. And again, people actually dance. Shocking. Check it out Saturday nights.
3). Roosevelt’s at 7 821 N. Main St., McAllen (956) 928-1994 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/Rooseveltsat7pm?sk=info There are no surprises at Roosevelt’s. Show up and you can expect the best selection of beer in the Rio Grande Valley, gourmet food served until close and an eclectic, smart crowd. Since the bar opened in 2008, ownership has run it with integrity. They don’t go in for fads, they don’t use gimmicks to draw crowds and they don’t try to expand outside of their comfort zone. They’ve made little tweaks here and there to improve it – remodeled patio, chalkboard above the bar announcing the newest drink additions and an expansive collection of board games – but on the whole, it’s stayed pretty consistent. There really isn’t an event night to go to Roosevelt’s, any time is good. Try it out during the first Friday Art Walk, where it has become the hot place to be. And hot is an apt word, given that the place is basically shoulder to shoulder on those nights.
4). Alhambra 519 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 994-9754 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Alhambra-McAllen/187797501235081?sk=info Alhambra fills many niches, and it does so with the upmost class. While known to the masses as a fantastic, open-air salsa club and bar, it’s also arguably one of the best restaurants in town, offering unique Mediterranean cuisine made with mostly locally-grown products. Then it’s a hookah lounge. Then it’s a farmers market. Then it’s the best place to go do some serious salsa dancing on Thursday nights. This beautifully-designed bar is many things, all of them well-planned and classy. Look for a ritzier, older crowd here than you might find elsewhere in town. And, generally, they know how to dance. 5). Marquee 1103 W. Business 83, McAllen (956) 243-3053 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/MARQUEE83 This venue specializes in intimacy. No, not like Stilletos-style intimacy. Like the kind you’d expect from an exclusive lounge-style venue that has a cozy space and an incredible sound system. It’s small, but that’s the appeal. Check it out on Friday.
6). El Divino 1410 Austin Ave., McAllen (956) 627-3990 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/eldivinorgv This bar serves a few things: top notch cuisine, innovative high-end cocktails and a ton of class. Whether you go on a bustling Saturday night, or you head over to just relax after work and listen to acoustic guitar covers on a Tuesday evening, Divino will leave you feeling classy. It’s also one of the few places in town that innovates with its drink selection. Pretty much every dive in McAllen has a cucumber martini for some reason, but Divino pushes that further, offering jalapeno-flavored margaritas, blueberry infused whiskey drinks and other concoctions you’d have a hard time finding anywhere else. 7). Mezzanine on 17th 109 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 627-3899 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000623667544 Armed with a fantastic sound system, an extensive beer and liquor selection and the best elevated view of the mayhem that unfolds nightly on 17th Street, Mezzanine has become one of the best bars actually located on 17th. Like Volta, it’s been open for a while and shows no signs of slowing down.
8). Nox.Diem 200 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 607-7815 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/noxdiem/170484706327053?sk=info Nox.Diem, formerly Club Flesh, has entrenched itself as the best big nightclub on 17th. Anchoring the corner of Beaumont Avenue and 17th Street, it’s impossible to miss. Check out Nox.Diem on Saturdays, when they host their best party of the week.
9). Cine El Rey 311 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 278-0626 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Historic-Cine-El-Rey-Theatre/109035405792026?sk=info The Historic Cine El Rey Theater would probably capture the title of most unique place to grab a drink in McAllen. The venue has been around longer than most downtown revelers. The downstairs bar and outside patio area are beautiful, and expertly decorated with local flair and history. For a real treat, check out the free movies on Tuesday night, followed by an eclectic group of talented local musicians jamming out in the lobby.
10). Phoenix Lounge 104 S. 16th St., McAllen (956) 821-7283 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Phoenix-Lounge/266359083380799?sk=info Are you still longing for the days of The Boiler Room? A former Festiva favorite, The Boiler Room was one of the founding fathers of 17th Street before it closed its doors in 2010. It was simple, chic and classy. Not too aggressive, not too laidback, just right. Then it died. But Phoenix has risen to replace the niche it once filled. Armed with high definition TVs, a necessary dress code and a location away from the bedlam that is 17th Street, Phoenix might not burn out anytime soon.
11). Peacocks Shot Bar 209 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 631-4031 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001814235203 Peacocks was the first shot bar on the scene about a year ago, and they have a cool thing going on with the huge windows, chalk boards and spinning wheel that picks your shot.
12). OMG Shot Bar 202 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 607-7815 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/omgashotbar?sk=info OMG Shot Bar has the same cool get-in-get-drunk-get-out gimmick as Peacocks. There’s no chalk boards or wheel, but they have a pretty cool wall of lights.
13). Bar 201 201 S. 17th St., McAllen WEB SITE: http://www.bar201.com/Site/Welcome.html Bar 201 is sort of the prototypical bar for 17th Street. It’s got drinks, a McAllen crowd and booming DJ music. We’re still waiting on the once-promised second and third floors to open.
14). Thirsty Monkey 301 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 664-2400 ONLINE: http://www.mythirstymonkey.com/ This bar has a tire swing inside, and if you ride it you get a free shot. That’s really all you need to know.
16). Rio Hotel Bar 1704 Chicago Ave., McAllen (956) 687-9696 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001913383577&sk=info This bar, aimed at the same type of crowd as The Old Ice House, is a bit newer. It’s in a cool, historic building. The best night to check it out for some norteño music is Thursday.
17). Vintage Room 301 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 664-2400 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/vintageroom Vintage Room is sort of attached to Thirsty Monkey, but whereas The Monkey is a rock bar this place is closer to a club music lounge. It has a cool window looking at 17th Street.
20). Vice Nightclub 221 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 971-8423 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/OnlyatVice?sk=info Vice is another club that has been around a while, and it isn’t going to quit anytime soon. Keep an eye on the excellent out of town DJs they bring down.
21). Frida’s Grill Cantina 209 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 631-7313 You may have seen masses of people salsa dancing in here as you passed by. Also, the food is really, really good.
22). The District 1418 Austin Ave., McAllen With a few small tweaks, The District could be one of the coolest bars in town. It’s almost there.
23). Parlay’s Sports Bar 307 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 631-6611 Parlay’s is like a guy who wears a sport coat, tie and basketball shorts. It can’t really decide what it wants to be. It’s part sports bar and part trendy lounge.
24). Bellini Seven 323 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 739-9919 ONLINE: http://www.belliniseven.com/ Bellini Seven is a pretty standard Downtown McAllen bar – beers, drinks and tons of green lasers.
25). Ibiza 101 S. 17th St., McAllen (956) 358-4276 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/ibiza.mcallen?sk=info This huge nightclub is often the first venue revelers seen when they turn onto 17th Street. It’s big and the furthest north.
Dubious Distinctions You might disagree, but these five venues for various reasons make us want to stay home and watch a movie.
-Vnize 118 S. 17th St., McAllen Almost everything is done wrong here from the signage to the crowd to the nearly impossible to pronounce name. It’s a shame this place is desecrating the ground on which classic venue The Boiler Room once stood
-Le Rouge 109 S. 17th St., McAllen People seem to love La Rouge, but if you’re claustrophobic you should probably steer clear. The ceiling is so low that it feels like partying in some kind of basement.
-Chicago East 115 S. 17th St., McAllen Chicago East has pretty good pizza, but it’s not a great place to drink. It feels more like purgatory than a nightlife venue. There’s also a bunch of really weird things on shelves in here.
-Speakeasy 316 S. 17th St., McAllen Speakeasy opened as one of the first venues on 17th Street with big plans to be an upscale piano bar. The name and the location are the same, but the piano is gone and now there are really young girls dancing on poles amid a stifling cloud of cigarette smoke. Something went awry.
-Irish Pub 100 Nolana, McAllen This is a really nice place with the most inaccurate name of any bar in town. There’s nothing really Irish about Irish Pub. Not even close.
Restaurants There are some places in town that are known more for their food than drink, but nonetheless they’re still great places to get a little tipsy when you’re done with your meal.
-House.Wine 1117 W. Business 83, McAllen This cozy wine bar makes a serious case for best cuisine in the Valley.
-The Patio on Guerra 116 S. 17th St., McAllen The Patio features a historic location, great steak and an expanded outside area for salsa dancing in front of a live band.
-Zuzhi 501 W. Business 83, McAllen Zuzhi looks like part sushi restaurant and part fantastic night club. This place is really chic and expertly decorated.
-Barcelona 10 S. 11th St., McAllen This is a nice little tapas restaurant.
Words Can’t Capture It -Dirty Bottle 210 S. 17th St., McAllen Dirty Bottle is less of a nightlife venue and more of a surrealistic piece of performance art. Enter here and bask in the essence of Valley nightlife. There will be two of you. There will be you before you enter the DB and you after you’ve been Dirty Bottled. Tears well up as one attempts to describe the sheer beauty.
Rock Venues Interested more in ringing ears and searing guitar riffs? Check out this collection of venues.
-Newmans 4800 N. 10th St., McAllen
-Simon Sez 2007 Orchid Ave., McAllen
-Smoking Aces 2518 Business 83, McAllen
-Misty’s Rock N Blues Bar 214 S. 17th St., McAllen