Glasgow’s after-hours scene is the stuff of legend, but beyond the old favourites, where are the best bars in town? Martha Shardalow picks out ten safe bets for a great night out in Scotland’s biggest city, including some of the hottest new watering holes in town.
1163 Argyle St, 0141 221 8988; more info
The Kelvingrove Café has just recently been revived, and the message behind the bar is exactly that – reviving and reliving a Glasgow drinking culture which could easily be forgotten. This approach is captured perfectly by the low-key spot it occupies on the Finnieston end of Argyle Street. And, quite fittingly, the original café was here for years: the exterior is untouched and as shabby as ever, while the inside is a whole new story. The food and drink is laced with heritage, the bar catches your eye in dazzling brass and the monochrome floor tiles dance up at you as you search for a booth by the window. It’s a popular spot for the lunching ladies and their iced Pinot Grigios, or the lone drinker engrossed in his paper. The bartender looks you bravely in the eye and vows to conjure up whatever you wish, and they offer a menu of “mixed drinks” that changes seasonally. The listing for Winter 2013 is based on French and Italian fortified wines mixed with spirit, bitters and sugars. Can you tell this lot take drinking seriously? If your tastebuds are tingling then your appetite will follow and there’s plenty of grub that’s fancy but tasty. It’s all about the particulars and getting old, old fashioned.
If you’re thirsty… Inverso (3/4 Amer Picon Peritivo, 1/4 Appletons 8yr old rum, dash bitters, 1/8 grenadine)
If you’re starving… Hush Puppies n dip (go on) + Charred monkfish with fennel slaw
Boteco Do Brasil
62 Trongate, Argyle St; more info
If you’re venturing down the east end (the other end of Argyle), and dodging the exquisite selection of Reebok trackies, you’re perhaps not expecting to stumble across Brazil. But be fooled, and be fooled again, as this little gem is a little spice of life and will take you sailing past the tobacco stores to the heart and soul of Latin America. Oh and, ur, Glasgow, apparently. It’s not one bit pretentious and it’s not your classic trendy joint. It’s colourful and characterful and the cocktails will make your mouth water. The bar staff are full of smiles and quite refreshingly look more than happy to be there – the clientele are varied and that’s refreshing too. The whole place is drenched in colour and screaming ‘sit down’ with big brown comfy sofas. It seems workers, drinkers and dancers collide and the atmosphere makes it easy to relax and let your hair down. Live music isn’t uncommon by night (along with the aforementioned salsa outbreaks) and football from across the globe on TV screens by day. The cocktails are a biased highlight (the presentation flamboyantly fantastic) but a bottle of Brahma comes a close second (especially after a tragically long day in the office). Your food comes served in terracotta dishes and contains all the flavours and quality you’d expect.
If you’re thirsty… The June Bug + The Brazilian Scotsman
If you’re starving... Feijoda (traditional Brazilian beef stew) with a side of Macaxeira Frita
[Image: Will McGregor]
61 Otago St; more info
A takeaway burger you say? Up until 10pm? If the Sunday hangover doesn’t like that, then the mid-week motivation dip will. Skinny’s is brand new to Glasgow, and makes a slick new addition. OK, so burgers have been done before. OK, so American diners have also had their time. But why change something that’s a blinding success? And why not do it right by adding your own quirky cool touches? From the seat made from Lego to the White Russian accompanied by a flaming marshmallow – and onwards and upwards to the Green Chilli Cheese burger – this one’s all about rocking up casual. Drinks wise – the ‘hard’ stuff and the wine n’ bubbles. The cocktails – debt friendly for a little fun on a school night. The atmosphere – nab a window seat and watch the world go by.
If you’re thirsty… Daiquiri (add the funkin’ raspberry and strawberry puree)
If you’re starving… Stack of Fresh Buttermilk Pancakes (add a pot of those fresh berries if you were out last night)
214 Bath Street; more info
Mahalo good people – take a seat, take a break. In fact, go the whole hog, and pretend you’re far away from the Glasgow rain and getting up close and personal with the totem ‘Zombie’ chalice. Savour that one though, because the staff will only serve you two. Potent and particularly alcoholic, this is the beverage that Tiki’s getting named (and shamed) for. The décor goes all South Pacific on you with great looming tribal statues, the occasional hula girl, peacock wicker chairs, tiki terrace and (of course) the tiki hut DJ booth. Every day is a rum day and every day is a reggae day. Whilst slurping over your very rummy Mai Tai (naturally served in a crystal gold goblet) it’s likely you’ll find an escape to the Polynesian Kitch lifestyle that warrants repeat visits. Just promise you won’t steal those Tiki mugs.
If you’re thirsty… ‘Gin and Juice’ (rollin down the street, sippin on…)
If you’re starving… Coley with three flavoured sauce
Macsorley’s Music Bar
42 Jamaica St; more info
Macsorley’s Hebridean history goes back a whole 114 years. It’s the definition of a classic Glasgow pub, with the patter and the welcome to go with it. The bar in the middle is quite literally your dad’s old liquor cabinet, and between its four walls is home to some of the best live music you could hope to stumble upon. Unlike the trendy Tiki, or the uber cool Skinny’s, Macsorley’s is much less about style and etiquette. It also plays to every type of musician, and reminds its inhabitants of its city’s musical culture – vibrant, varied and the very, very best. Whether you want a good Scottish pint or a Speyburn single malt, you won’t be short in supply. No gimmicks, no fuss, and a place to meet the locals. Buzzing with Scottish character from every generation.
If you’re thirsty… A half and half (new to the gantry, make your whisky a Glendronach)
If you’re hungry… Maw Mcsorley’s secret recipe stovies (yes, that’s right, your mum’s included too)
566 Dumbarton Rd; more info
Don’t be put off by the fact that this west, West End bar was actually once home to a 1910 butcher’s shop – the best bits remain with its Edwardian tiling and unique red exterior. There’s even an old butcher’s bike hanging precariously from the ceiling. The menus are delivered in sleeves of vinyl records, matching aptly with the real vinyl jukebox, which is old-school cheesy – expect Madonna or The Sound of Music. It’s not a far cry from the neighbouring working class boozers and it speaks of its history with the original butcher hooks hanging on the wall. You can even sit outside on wobbly plastic chairs, next to a door that’s always open so you don’t forget about it, or ever feel unwelcome. Go for coffee and cake or beers, wines and spirits.
If you’re thirsty… A nice velvety glass of red
If you’re starving… A quick sarnie: Pastrami, beetroot and piccalilli
10-14 Kelvinhaugh St; more info
So Glasgow loves a record player – in this case an old HMV 78 record player, and you’ll love them too because you’ll end up loving The 78 so much. Of this selection it’s perhaps the bar you need to be told about, as it’s a little bit out of sight if you’ve just set foot locally. It’s heaven for vegans, and it’s another hidden gem unique in its own right. Its sister venue Stereo (which now resides in town) was once just round the corner and held host to some of the most bouncing intimate reggae nights you’d ever clapped eyes on. The 78 has simply continued good traditions, a cracking social hub that’s desirably non-corporate. There’s a big roaring fire and legendary music nights – live jazz on Sundays, ‘sing and drink’ on Wednesdays…but Thursdays ‘dub n grub’ is the reason you’ll remember it…and go back. Lots.
If you’re thirsty… Impale IPA
If you’re starving… Spiced Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew with Rice, Flatbread and Tztaziki
73 Queen Street; more info
Go on, reaffirm it, this bar will never die. Under many different names and guises over the years (someone will always remember it as ‘The Rock Garden’), in its latest form Max’s Bar has perhaps reached its peak. It’s a grow-er not a show-er, with crumbling walls and dingy corners, but it only takes five minutes to warm to its charms, and once you’re there you’ll be perched at the bar for many weekends and mornings to come. The dimly lit entrance lures you in from a street, and once inside there are bottles balancing on the gantry and a slightly obscure array of Mexican tequilas. If you’re not quite ready for a hangover come lunch then you’ll be convinced that you’re ready for a heavy head remover. ‘The Bloody Mary/Bastard’ is a proud one for the staff with homemade, extra hot chilli vodka not for the faint stomached. By night this bar has all the right elements of mayhem too, from the diva on the table who won’t stop flailing her arms to the superhero barstaff who tap dance round the pieces. It doesn’t matter that your feet are stuck to the floor or that the door’s fallen off. You came for a good time and that’s what you left with.
If you’re thirsty… Jensen’s Old Tom gin or a pint of St. Mungo
If you’re starving… Max’s Award Winning Chorizo Burger
526 Greatwestern Road; more info
It’s a small space for a queue of thirsty locals – but it’s also one of the nicest spots to celebrate Friday. The staff remember your face, and it’s not just packed with students. As well as a fake grass hedge and a couple of tables outside, there’s plenty of weekend chatter and a fantastic drinks selection. It’s modern, but a bit like a quaint European café that sells spirits instead, with a soundtrack that ranges from electro to soul. You’re likely to leave de-stressed and ready to go dancing. A quality new pit stop to roll up and unwind.
If you’re thirsty… A bottle of Negro Modelo
If you’re starving… A hot bowl of Cullen Skink
445 Great Western Rd; more info
Another newbie (former restaurant The Big Blue), there’s something really tasty about this bar geographically. Beneath Kelvinbridge and just off the walkway between the Botanics and Kelvingrove, this spot also runs adjacent to the pretty Kelvin river. In the summer it’ll be perfect for a pint outdoors but at present it’s still inviting on a cold winter’s evening. Set up by the guys at the William Brothers Brewery, it’s a multi-functional destination with a varying vibe – you could turn up one night to watch the football, the next to a local on the decks, and the then for a quiet one with your laptop or a good book. This already has a proper pub atmosphere with the drinks list to go with it.
If you’re thirsty… Black Ball Stout
If you’re hungry… Anything with pulled pork on it
Find these great bars on our Best of Glasgow map:
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