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5 Bars Where You Can Get Top Shelf Quality On A Budget

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the california clipper chicago party earth bars

American bars tend to stick to extremes, with watered-down dives on one end and swanky VIP lounges with bottle service on the other.

But not every night calls for suits or stilettos. Sometimes, it’s nice to drop the pomp and circumstance and get seriously sloshed without busting your budget.

Here at Party Earth we’re happy to remind everyone—from blueblood nobility to the blue-collar crowd—that a cheap drink doesn’t have to be a weak one. So take a look at some of our favorite U.S. drinking dens from down and dirty bars in D.C. to cheap and easy dives in San Francisco that more than make up in liquor for what they may lack in luxury.

This story was originally published by Party Earth.

New York City: Mehanata Bulgarian Bar

Hipsters, hookahs, and beat-heavy polka unite at Mehanata Bulgarian Bar, a Lower East Side hotspot that effortlessly puts the “rad” back into comrade.

It’s as unapologetically raucous as you might expect a proud Soviet-themed bar to be: naked mannequins, mouth-shaped urinals, and the “Get naked, get a free shot” sign that somehow hasn’t put them out of business (yet). But the real draw at Mehanata is the infamous Ice Cage, which is basically a giant walk-in fridge lined with over fifty bottles of premium vodka.

It costs around $20 to enter the Cage, but the price includes free use of authentic Soviet military uniforms, which patrons don before pounding a half-dozen shots of whichever vodkas they choose in under two minutes.

Mehanata Bulgarian Bar
113 Ludlow Street
New York, NY 10002



Washington, D.C.: Dan's Cafe

The first thing to remember about Dan’s Café is that it looks like an abandoned little building with a boarded-up front and a ramshackle sign that would earn a quick “F” in any fifth grade art project.

Inside, the stuffy single room isn’t much better (we’re pretty sure the ferns hanging from the ceiling died sometime before the Cold War), but perceptive patrons will notice a lot of rowdy regulars wielding what appear to be ketchup bottles—which wouldn’t be weird save for the fact that there’s no food in this Café.

The large squeeze bottles, in fact, are loaded with hard alcohol, either pre-mixed with a favorite chaser or straight as the day the grain was born. And nearly all the squeeze bottles are priced less than $20. After doing the math, downing an entire bottle by yourself comes out to less than $2 a shot.

Dan’s Café
2315 18th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20009



Chicago: The California Clipper

Although it’s well-removed from the city’s bigger bar scene, The California Clipper is still one of the best bars in Chicago and has been going strong since the 1930s.

The consensus on its welcoming vibe has no doubt aided its success, along with the free board games that fill the void between the free live jazz on weekends. Sure, there are rumors the venue is haunted, but its popular Purple Martin cocktail is sure to bring back even the most phantasm-phobic, time and time again.

Of course, if a mixture of fake grapes, rum, and lemon reminds you more of a desperate last call at a frat party, this cozy neighborhood lounge offers a host of budget-friendly classics, from champagne cocktails and Rusty Nails to a California egg cream so good you won’t even remember to ask how they got cream out of a chicken’s egg in the first place.

The California Clipper
1002 North California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622



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