Imbibing in Erie, PA

Erie, PA is no stranger to awards; recently, its National Natural Landmark, Presque Isle State Park, was named as the best freshwater beach in North America and as Pennsylvania’s top attraction. And while these are worthy accomplishments, we wanted to see what other types of attractions the area had to offer—the kind that don’t make the ‘best of’ lists, or fit exactly under family-friendly activities. So Terri and I set off on a drinking tour to check out local haunts where we could enjoy a variety of libations.

I should mention that these establishments aren’t dive bars—places where you might end up arrested or where I’ll most probably meet the next (temporary) love of my life. Instead, these are the places where the local color shines bright, the bartenders rock, and you can enjoy a sort of Cheers-like atmosphere even if you’re not in Boston. Let’s get this party started, shall we?

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Steelers’ fan? We’ve got the place for you.

First Stop, The Cab

Because we’re big believers in getting  sustenance before getting our drink on, we started at The Cab Bar & Grille, which is the perfect place to pre-game, or actually game-game, considering that they have five flat screens, two projection screens and a massive TV viewing area in the back where you can watch your favorite teams play. They also have big portions of bar-type food to fill you up from Big Daddy’s BBQ ribs to wings with special “Cab-created” sauces, so you can establish the base you need before imbibing. Now in its 22nd year of business, The Cab attracts local Steelers’ fans for games as well as people who appreciate their daily homemade hot lunch specials. They get a special shout-out from me for having a non-smoking section since I’m a big fan of breathable air.

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Can’t go drinking on an empty stomach!

Why Do They Spell Dinor that Way?

Haggerty’s Tavern has been serving the Emerald city (who knew that Erie had this nickname?) since 1931. There’s a lot of history here, including that part of the bar is located in what was formerly Bob MacKendrick’s Boston Diner. You can still stand within the shell or enjoy some brews on the outdoor patio. The space bills itself as a tavern and dinor, setting my teeth on edge as an editor who really wants to take a red pen to that spelling. But it turns out that ‘dinor’ is a spelling unique to northwestern PA, and you’ll find other places using this same moniker. I’ll just have to suck it up when in that part of the country.

Big props to their very cool bartender, Meghann, who extended a warm welcome and was extremely patient when I wanted to take lots of photos of her awesome tattoos and eye makeup. I stalk her now on Facebook.

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Meghann has that quality that all bartenders need–patience!

 

Going Classic at The Plymouth

The Plymouth is a classic Erie bar where generations of people have come to hang out, from 21-and-over college kids, to girls’ night out groups, to families looking for a meal. It’s a big space made up of three buildings, including one that used to house the Erie Cut Rate Medicine Store. Since I consider my alcohol to mostly be medicinal, that seems about right. Though the buildings are over 100 years old, the bar has been in place since 1973, and has become somewhat of an Erie institution. For that reason, it’s often packed—and loud—so Terri and I fit right in.

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Terri and I felt quite comfortable at the Plymouth. Note the alarmed guy in the left top corner. Cheers!

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Gatherings Pub & Grille is a little hole-in-the-wall neighborhood tavern that serves awesome tacos. And I know that I already mentioned that we  had a big bunch of food at The Cab, but when you’re drinking and someone offers you a taco, you take it. Don’t judge. If you’re a craft beer person, this is a great stop. In addition to more familiar offerings, you can partake of a DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus or a Raging Bitch Belgian IPA, depending, obviously, on your mood. It takes a little time before people stop staring at you, because this is definitely a local’s place, but everyone was nice including the happily inebriated woman who kept sitting on my lap while trying to find her seat at the bar. Or maybe she was trying to grab my taco…good luck with that, missy.

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This lovely young lady makes a mean drink. And served us tacos! We love her.

Bad Pick-up Lines…but Good Drinks

The first thing that struck me about the Red Fox Inn, other than the overpowering cologne of the drunk guy hitting on me and the fact that he was still using pick-up lines from 1985, is that the bar name is written on the ceiling—in three-foot letters—which caused us some consternation.

Terri: Look up.

Vanessa: Whoa! No needing Lasik to read that.

Terri: Why in the world do you suppose the name of the bar is written REALLY BIG on the ceiling?

Vanessa: So that if you fall down and need to call for help, at least you’ll know where you are.

Terri: That’s kind of….brilliant.

While we didn’t need to avail ourselves of this amenity, it was nice to know that it was an option. The Red Fox also has a machine hanging from the ceiling that lights up for Last Call/Bar Closed, which is another way to know when you’ve overstayed your welcome. We didn’t get to see it in action, though, because we had more bars to conquer—never let it be said that we’re quitters!

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There’s no doubt where you are when visiting the Red Fox. Just look up! Oh, and the spider web and creepy crawly thing were just Halloween decorations. Thank goodness they’re not permanent fixtures!

Getting Our Drag On…well, sort of.

Our last stop of the night was the Zone Dance Club, where, despite its name, we did not dance, since at this point, standing was difficult enough. The largest gay bar in Erie, the Zone has another badass bartender who makes me want to cover myself with tattoos, as well as some of the most civic-minded staff I’ve ever met. At the time we visited, the room was filled with baskets they created for the next day’s Annual Pink Party to benefit breast cancer research. Unfortunately we weren’t there at the right time to catch a drag show, which they do the third Sunday of every month, but we’ve been told we’re welcome to return…and I think they actually meant it.

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Did I not tell you that this town has the coolest bartenders?

Look at Us Being All Responsible

We usually suggest people not do what we do, but this time you really should follow our lead. Don’t drive. Call a taxi, Uber, Lyft or the transport service of your choice and let them do the driving so that you can live to drink again. Special thanks to our chauffeur who totally hung with us until she found a better offer (or at least someone who could speak coherent sentences) and our Uber driver who got us back to the hotel. We hope we tipped you well.

If You Go:

While we chose to go on a whirlwind bar tour, we highly suggest that you also enjoy all of the daytime activities that Erie has to offer from beautiful Presque Isle State Park to the Erie Maritime Museum. You may want to schedule your visit around some of their cool festivals as well—this year, that includes the Great Lakes Beach Glass & Coastal Arts Festival from May 4-5 (www.Relishinc.com) and Tall Ships Erie 2019 from Aug. 22-25 (www.TallShipsErie.org).

If you choose to follow (or fall) in our footsteps:

The Cab Bar & Grille: 5442 West Ridge Road, Erie, PA  www.thecaberie.com

Haggerty’s Tavern: 1930 W. 26th St., Erie, PA Facebook: Haggertys Bar & Dinor

The Plymouth: 1109 State Street, Erie, PA www.plymouthtavern.com

Gatherings Pub & Grille: 2902 Reed St., Erie, PA www.gatheringspub.com

Red Fox Inn: 1224 East 38th Street, Erie, PA Facebook: Red Fox Inn 76

The Zone Dance Club: www.thezonedanceclub.com

Note also that you can wander through Lake Erie Wine Country (www.lakeeriewinecountry.org) or traverse the Lake Erie Ale Trail (www.lakeeriealetrail.com). You know, in case you’re still thirsty.