The Search for the Perfect Neighborhood Hangout

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During an episode of How I Met Your Mother, the statement “We need a MacLaren’s!” was uttered, like a wish whispered into the night sky illuminated only by a shooting star. Time and space stood still as every being in the room felt the true weight of that statement: We have no neighborhood haunt. We want the bartender who asks whether you’ll take the usual, the creepy yet mysterious older gentleman on the corner stool, and the dimly lit booth implicitly reserved for you and your buddies every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30pm. Here are some qualities you might look for if you, too, desire a place to go where everybody knows your name:

Location

This is clearly the most important factor in almost any decision you will make in your life ever (that’s why people say “location, location, location” all the goddamned time, right?). It’s not a neighborhood hangout if it’s not in your neighborhood, and you can’t be a regular somewhere when you can’t get there regularly. Plus you don’t want to wander through any unexpected gun battles on your way home.

Business

You want a hangout that does steady business but doesn’t need to ramp up the douchery on the weekends. If your proposed spot is dead as a doornail on Tuesday at 7pm but becomes a hip-hop club with shiny shirts and minidresses as far as the eye can see as soon as the clock strikes 5 on Friday, you might want to reconsider. I don’t know about you, but I want a place that I can call “mine,” which means I can go there anytime I want and it’ll still be more or less the same place.

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Seating

If you plan to frequent this coffee house or whatever alone, seating is less important. However, if you have friends or something, you might want to make sure seating is adequate. Are there open tables or booths? Even on weekends? How’s your visibility? Is there a light above your table that you bonk your head on every time you get up to go to the bathroom?

Cleanliness and General Maintenance

Speaking of bathrooms, I don’t want to be a regular anywhere that can’t keep the toilet paper stocked in the ladies’ room, you dig? Also I hate it when the soles of my shoes stick to the floor, the bathroom stall doors don’t lock, and the bar stools are rickety and torn up, but you might have different standards.

Food

I love food, and you should, too, because food is good. Food also can help save you from a gnarly hangover. A liquor-serving establishment with a kitchen that’s open late, even if it only serves nachos and french fries, gets an A+ from this ol’ gal. Failing that, places that allow you to bring in food from somewhere else are also acceptable.

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Prices and Specials

Know a great bar that charges $9 for a rum and coke? Screw ‘em. Reach instead for the slightly less fancy businesses, where the drinks are strong and affordable. Even better if your bar has any sweet happy hour specials. Some have happy hours both early and late, so you can come right after blowing off an afternoon at work, take a nap and regroup, and then come back for a nightcap.

Staff

Different people have different tastes in other people. I prefer a somewhat surly old man mixing my libations because I know he won’t try to have a conversation with me (I hate talking) and he knows how to make a (strong) drink. But you might seek out a staff whose members are hot, have connections in the music scene, know a lot of Mad Men trivia, or are all gay. Think you’ve found the perfect staff? Put them to a test: Imagine yourself being super-drunk and about to make a really bad choice. Does the bartender cut you off, distract your “choice,” and get you in a cab home? Or does he or she keep taking your money and sit idly by as you unravel your life?

Hanging out at your place (or your buddies’) is great, but there’s something to be said for having a meet-up spot, a place to go when you don’t want to be at home or you don’t want to be alone. Choose wisely.

Images courtesy of Pop Culture Playpen, Sabotage Times, and SerienOldies.de

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About the author

Sarah M. Smart - Red-Light Special

Sarah M. Smart was summoned into being on a distant ice cream planet through an unholy union of Two-Buck Chuck and unicorns. They sent her to Indianapolis and then the University of Missouri's School of Journalism to spread peace and big hair. Perpetually in mourning for the comma, she has worked for a variety of print media, including Indianapolis Monthly, Global Journalist, and Vox. Since moving to San Francisco for the booming dumpster-diving scene, she has been an online operative for such fine folks as Horoscope.com , Neo-Factory, and Academy of Art University. After a day of cat-feeding, hat-making, dog-walking, vegan baking, and daydreaming about marrying rich, all she wants is a margarita as big as her face.