Books in a bar. A bar with books. Adult beverages while you read. Wine tastings and book clubs. I just can’t get this concept out of my head. What could possibly be more cool than a bookstore that is also a bar?
In my last article I highlighted bookstore bars around the world, but I thought it might be helpful to list a few more that are practically in your backyard. Many of us can’t afford to roam the globe and blog about our bookstore bar visits (please, please let me know if you do!), but we can check out these more local literary watering holes.
Don’t expect an expansive book superstore when you walk in here; BookBar takes pride in its 3,000-ish volume collection, put together by the ever-vigilant staff who listen and learn all they can about the independent book scene. On Tuesdays they offer “Happier Hour Storytime,” which means half price wine for grownups, half price kids’ meals, AND cookies, plus storytime for the little ones. They even have guest authors pop in for this event on a regular basis. This place sounds like a dream, right? I mean, It’s located on Tennyson Street. Seriously. The only question that remains is, will you munch on the Mad Hatter (chorizo and goat cheese stuffed mushrooms) while sipping an Apricot Blonde and perusing a Lewis Carroll volume? Or will you opt for something more filling with the Dante flatbread pizza, paired with the Californian Zinfandel, as you study The Divine Comedy? Choice, choices, choices.
A used bookstore and brewpub that has a significant collection of board games to play as you read and chug? Perfection! Their website says that they are “passionate about disconnecting people from technology and reconnecting them with each other.” I could most definitely connect with somebody in this joint, although I think I’d rather connect with a good novel. All of their books are only $3, all magazines $1, AND 10% of all profits are used to fund a literacy program for Central Indiana. As if we needed motivation to buy more books, right? As for the alcohol, this place brews their own beer (the have some guest beers on tap too) and all are given super cool literary names: Blonde With the Wind, The Stout of Monte Cristo, Winnie the Brew… Where does one start? Bartender, I think I’ll try the Nancy Brew and the Hoppy Boys, to go with my vintage copy of The Secret of the Old Clock.
Books, coffee, books, wine, books, beer, books, charcuterie, books… the combinations are endless. This place has a wall of work by local artists that rotates every few months. All kinds of local authors hold readings, signings, and book launch events here. All draft beer comes from the area’s best craft breweries, and many of the other drinks (cider, kombucha, and some bottled beer) are from local sites as well. They even have live music on the weekends, which officially makes it the ultimate blending of local talents. My favorite thing to do when traveling is to find cute, local, independent cafes and bookstores, so a place like this is right up my alley. And home-grown artwork too! I’d like to try the Dry Cidah to accompany the like-new copy of The Dry Grass of August I expect to find on the shelf. Sidenote: this place has the coolest sign ever. Just the sign alone would make me want to go check it out!
PLEASE will someone go with me to “Volume,” the Spotty Dog’s monthly reading and music series? Pretty please? As if that’s not cool enough, they also hosted a “Where’s Waldo Scavenger Hunt” around the neighborhood in the summer. Why wasn’t I informed in advance? Geez. The building itself has quite a history, as you can read on the website, and pretty much explains why it’s called Spotty Dog: the building was a firehouse. Clever! A building with history, most of the beer is local, the cheese menu looks diving, there’s an adorable children’s area, weekly trivia nights… AND there are books? Unreal. Okay, pour me some of the NY State rose cider and hand me that copy of The Last of the Mohicans. I’m good now.
Just when you thought that there couldn’t be anything better than a bookstore that serves adult beverages… allow me to introduce you to NYC’s philanthropic bookstore bar. You can officially feel good, even proud, of your book habit now! Housing Works is an organization of people affected by HIV/AIDS. Their mission is to “end the dual crises of homelessness andAIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our effort.” One of the ways they accomplish this is by using volunteers as staff and giving 100% of profits to aid their cause. What this means is that I can pile up on John Grisham books and enjoy as many grilled cheeses and Brooklyn Lagers as I want and not feel ANY guilt! This place is magical. Magical!
The list of authors who have done readings at this store is impressive: Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, and E.E. Cummings all visited Prairie Lights in its early days. More recently, President Obama visited the store in 2010. President Freaking Obama. Among his purchases was Star Wars: A Pop Up Guide to the Galaxy, apparently for the son of his press secretary. This has me wondering two things: 1) Did the bookstore run out of copies of this Star Wars book soon after this, due to everyone wanting to buy what the President bought? 2) Did he even KNOW he could have stopped and had a brewski while in the store? I feel as though he’d like the Houndstooth, the house drink that combines espresso with Schlitz beer. I’ll have one too, as well as that same choice of Star Wars material. What the president buys, I buy.
Why wouldn’t you want to go to bestofboston.com’s Best Bookstore of 2016? These guys have pretty much everything: new books, special order books, a few used books, and even a bunch of “remainders” (leftovers from recent print runs that are sold at deep discounts). This could be a serious problem for me and my small apartment. It looks like an awesome spot for a get together with gal pals too, and from what I can see, their brunch options are incredible. And have you seen their events calendar? It’s loaded with uber cool bookish happenings! I’d love to go to the calligraphy night, or the Downton Abbey-themed murder mystery night! If this doesn’t sound cool enough, they even have their own podcast called TRIPOD. After reading about all of this, I’m experiencing a craving for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a smoked salmon scramble, and a grapefruit mimosa. Nothing like a little champagne and feminism on a Sunday morning!
Okay, the photos of this place make me drool with book envy. I have one word for you: floor-to-ceiling dark-wood bookshelves (hey, I’m a writer not a mathematician). “Several rooms of books surround an open-air courtyard that offers seating for The Café.” If that doesn’t sound enticing, I don’t know what does. Their happy hour offers half-priced drinks and snacks, and I’m thinking someone should suggest half-priced book purchases during that time too. Don’t you think? Included on the craft beer menu are some options from Cigar City Brewing. They have a beer called Monk in the Trunk! If I disappear in the near future, please inform my family that I’ve picked up a copy of Pillars of the Earth and am enjoying a pint of the Monk down in Florida. They’ll understand.
These ladies had a dream to create a place that housed all of their favorite things: fresh foods, rich espresso, classy restaurant atmosphere, good friends, great wine, and lots of books. And boy, have they succeeded! The space is cozy, the books are copious, the staff is friendly, and the drinks are plentiful. Lots of bookstores do book clubs, but these guys have book clubs AND cocktail classes! So on Wednesday night you can extol the virtues of the written word (and have a themed cocktail!), and on Mixology Mondays you can tout the attributes of crantinis and mai tais. The bar has a huge list of cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine, enough so that you could probably have a different drink with a different book every time, and still have years’ worth of combinations to try! Currently, their list of seasonal libations includes a Can’t Be Beet, which includes gin and beet juice, among other things. Excuse me, sister? I’ll have one of those to go with my copy of Little Women. Mmkthanks.
It’s…just…so…cool! On February 16th they’re hosting their fourth annual Erotica Slam at a nearby art gallery. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of a bookstore doing something like that, have you? Another new concept offered here is a program like Post Script! where each month subscribers receive a package with a new book (usually fiction), a letter from the bookseller regarding that month’s choice, and some Kramerbooks swag. Sounds a lot like the box subscription craze that’s oh-so-popular these days, but this one comes straight from the source: the bookstore. These geniuses really have thought of everything. Now, let’s take a minute to appreciate the cleverness of their cocktail menu. “Are You There God It’s Me, Margarita” is THE greatest drink name I’ve ever seen. Next time I find myself in DC, I’ll bring along some Judy Blume and Virginia Woolf, guzzle one of these margaritas, and then move on to “A Rum Of One’s Own.” I’ve never been this excited about visiting the US capital city before!
While it pains me to admit that we here in Canada haven’t hopped on the bookstore bar train yet, I have faith in my home and native land. I believe it will happen!
In conclusion, you need to visit all of these places. And so do I! If you get there before I do, please try each drink-book combination I have mentioned above, and report back ASAP.
Which one will you visit first?
YouTube Channel: Autographaroo
Featured image via Growler Magazine