Plan your party

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Cape's downtown has something for everyone. OFF does the pub crawl for you.

So you want to go out for a night on the town.

Well before you head out in your best duds it's smart to plan out your evening of excess. Cape's downtown is no place to go all willy-nilly, especially if you're new in town or trying out the night scene for the first time (that includes you, college kids).

To accommodate your partying needs, OFF has put together this handy little guide to the best spots in downtown Cape to go for drinks, food, music, games or whatever else you feel like doing. Now you're a downtown expert. See you at school, Professor Party.

Buckner Brewing Co.

Buckner Brewing Co.

Address: 132 N. Main St. (corner of Broadway and Main)

Phone: 334-4677

Are you a beer snob?

How about someone who hates cigarette smoke?

Or someone who loves hickory smoke?

If you answered yes to any one of those questions, Buckner Brewing Co. is probably the ideal downtown hangout for you.

Let's start with the beer snob. Buckner is the only place in Cape's downtown where you can get a hometown microbrew. Brewmaster Mike Mills slaves away daily creating the best beer in Cape, from ales to wheat beer to porters. Take your pick of brew style, Buckner probably has it.

But Buckner has food, too. Fat burgers grilled on hickory pits, beer batter fried concoctions and some killer sandwiches make up a menu that complements the beer selection.

If you like the traditional bar atmosphere, i.e. smoky and crowded, the downstairs level known as Ragsdale's is the place for you. But on the second floor you'll be run out of the place for lighting up, since there's no smoking until after 10 p.m.

Rude Dog Pub

Rude Dog Pub

Address: 123 N. Main St.

Phone: 335-4447

The Rude Dog Pub is known as a place where rock 'n' roll is king, there's always a party going on and most weekends you odds of finding a seat are slim to none.

Since the Rude Dog is packed, then that must mean there's something good about it, right? Yes, that's right.

Rude Dog is one of the best places in Cape to catch shows, especially if you like bands who have jam tendencies. That also makes the Rude Dog a place where hippies like to hang out, and you know hippies can party down.

Unlike places like Buckner and Two North Bistro, Rude Dog exists for one reason only -- to serve alcohol. That means if you're under 21, sorry, you won't get in unless you can fool the ever-present doorman.

Broussard's

Broussard's

Address: 120 N. Main St.

Phone number: 334-7235

Broussard's is a Cape tradition. If you haven't been there, you haven't really experienced the city's downtown.

For those who don't know, Broussard's is the only downtown establishment in the city that focuses on Cajun cuisine. That means you can get stuff at Broussard's like jambalaya, ettoufee, raw oysters and fried alligator tail. Hmmm, tasty.

And since Broussard's is a Cajun restaurant and bar, the place tries to emulate the Cajun atmosphere -- from the huge southern-fried murals on the walls to the glow of red neon, you'll think you're down on the bayou if you have one too many in Broussard's. Hunter Clark, who co-owns the place with wife Stephanie, calls the look "rustic." We call it cool.

To go along with the Cajun cuisine is a long tradition of live music. In the past it was mostly blues-rock or classic rock bands like 13th Floor, Tony Spinner and the Melroys. Now Hunter says Broussard's is trying to expand its entertainment to bring in the younger crowd. Rock Solid played there recently and packed the house. Hunter was pleased.

Cup 'n' Cork

Cup 'n' Cork

Address: 46 N. Main St.

Phone number: 651-5282

Not so much into loud rock music and smoky bars? Don't care about darts and billiards and loud jukeboxes, either?

If Buckner is the destination in downtown Cape for the beer snob, then Cup 'n' Cork is the place for the wine and coffee snob. Especially if that wine and coffee snob is allergic to cigarette smoke or prefers some dude or chick with an acoustic guitar over a full rock band.

Cup 'n' Cork is one of downtown's newer additions. And as the name implies, the place's specialty is wine and coffee. At lunch you can find some of the city's young professionals there, munching on soup and sandwiches over their decaf mocha latte. Sometimes you'll find them sitting outside on the tables provided by the Cork, watching the downtown scene go by.

On weekends you're as likely to find a wine tasting at the Cork as you are to find a musical act. And if there is a musical act, you can bet it will be as mellow as a Pinot Grigio. That wine is mellow, right?

Breakaway's

Breakaways

Address: 15 N. Main St.

Phone: 335-9449

After a long day at work or in class sometimes you just need to kick back, drink some cheap beer and play pool for free. If that's you, then Breakaways is probably the downtown hangout for you.

Fans of happy hour and billiards (the two go hand-in-hand) will quickly find out that you just can't beat Breakaways for that combination. Monday through Friday afternoons you can play pool for free at Breakaways, just as long as you buy a drink. And guess what -- those drinks are discounted. Hooray pool and beer.

Don't like pool? There are darts and arcade games to satiate your playful cravings.

Owner Mike Hess says his bar is "one of the best places for adults to come play games" in Cape. Many locals would probably say he's right.

But games aren't all Breakaways has to offer. Hess also says customers tell him his burgers are the best around. That's a pretty high recommendation when you're competing with places like Buckner and Bel Air. Whether it's true or not, you'll have to find our for yourself.

And every once in a while you can catch a live band at Breakaways. Steve Ewing and Lojic have been seen there frequently, along with Zach Hexum. Hess only books the shows that will bring in the crowds, so be prepared to get sweaty if Breakaways has a band.

2 North Bistro

Two North Bistro

Address: 2 N. Main St.

Phone: 334-7500

Anything with the word "bistro" in its name has to be upscale, right?

Well, yes and no.

Given, the newest addition to Cape's downtown scene is a little high-brow with its elegant atmosphere and sophisticated menu. A lot different from the blue-collar bar that previously occupied the space, Our House.

But Two North Bistro is still a bar, and locals who go there have said it's a pretty good bar. The drinks are there for the buying, and on any given weekend night you're likely to find a young crowd in the place.

And in the tradition of Buckner's upstairs and the Cup 'n' Cork, Two North is a smoke-free environment. Nor will you find loud and rowdy rock 'n' roll at Two North. There is music on Friday and Saturday, but it's mellow.

A good place to go out for a sweet date, but if you want to get crazy you might try somewhere else.

Bel Air Grill

Bel Air Grill

Address: 24 S. Spanish St.

Phone: 335-0377

If walls and ceilings don't agree with your party style then its time to head east a block from Main Street and hit the Bel Air.

The Bel Air Grill has become the premiere place to drink downtown under the stars. The Bel Air's deck is rather massive, and just about any night of the week you can see 20- and 30-somethings hanging out with the Bel Air's trademark buckets o' beer, talking and getting wasted while suspended on wooden planks above the earth.

"It could be any given day," says owner Misty Thrower. "If the sun is shining and it's about 85 to 90 degrees, they'll be there. It doesn't really matter what day it is."

But Bel Air has some nice food, too -- hence the word "grill" in the name. Thrower says one of the most popular items is the fried pickles, but the burgers aren't bad, either.

Every now and then you can catch an acoustic guitar and voice act on the deck, as well. Nice background music for an evening of sipping booze under the stars.

Port Cape

Port Cape Girardeau

Address: 19 N. Water St.

Phone: 334-0954

What can we say about Port Cape Girardeau that hasn't already been said? Not much.

Port Cape is like the granddaddy of the downtown bar scene. It's been there a long time, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

The food could have something to do with that. Port Cape's ribs are known as some of the best in Cape, if you like the dry, smoked kind. And don't forget the Port's signature side dish, Bel Air potatoes.

Port Cape's main appeal may be the building itself -- an old two-story on the riverfront that's been there longer than anyone living today. The Port's location is your classic old-school downtown building, and a real treat for those who like character in their bar.

But the Port also books some of the best, and most varied, entertainment of any downtown bar. It's known among the downtown establishments as being the main stop for regional rock acts like Springfield's Tiffany Christopher and southern Illinois' Ivas John Band.

The Port is also the home base of the River City Players community theater group, and the local venue for Cape's DJ's, who put on shows there called Riverfront Beatz.

Jeremiah's

Jeremiah's

Address: 127 N. Water St.

Phone: 334-0508

Jeremiah's has gone through a lot of changes over the years. But through the changes the bar has remained, much like Port Cape, one of the staples of the downtown scene.

At points during its history Jeremiah's has hosted live bands, but not so much anymore. Now the bar with the frog on the sign is known as the place to groove to dance music, attracting much of the university's Greek population during school.

On weekend nights the upstairs is bumping with beats, bodies and sweat. Meanwhile downstairs bartenders are full of personality -- like Cape's very own musician-comedian Carl Banks. Carl's a fun guy, and he knows how to mix up one mean, and very gigantic, drink.

And like Port Cape, Jeremiah's is located in an old waterfront district building. You can almost feel the ghosts in the place. Just don't hide in the shadows after closing because you may never return.

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