Seven Bars We Never Want to See Close in Beirut
If Beirutis are proud of one thing, it’s their animated nightlife. And over the years, the world seems to agree: we've been consistently listed in major news publications like CNN, the BBC, and The New York Times for our clubs, lounges and bars.
Beirut is undeniably brimming with water holes, many of which are nestled between convenience stores on residential streets and come alive after night falls. You might say bars in Beirut are almost as ubiquitous as pharmacies—they’re a dime a dozen in Hamra, Gemmayzeh, and more recently, Mar Mikhael—but there are some standouts we hope to never see shuttered. These bars have stood the test of time, quenching the thirst of many a passerby and providing relief from the hustle and bustle of chaotic city life.
Here are my absolute favorite bars for a delicious pick-me-up, an easy-going crowd, and a mellow ambiance.
Photo via Facebook
Perhaps the first bar I set foot in after having moved to Lebanon was Kayan. Tucked on a peaceful street off the main Gemmayzeh drag, Kayan is a destination for smart, young professionals who pop in for the expertly mixed cocktails, tasty bar food, dim lighting, and laidback vibes. You’ll immediately notice that the owners, brothers Kayan and Jean Moukhtar, are actually handling the drinks behind the long wooden bar. Order a Bloody Mary (8,000 LL during the 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. happy hour); munch on lemony carrot spears, tortilla chips and mild pico de gallo; and get lost in the chitter chatter.
Photo courtesy of glenpearson.co.uk
Pacifico is a reminder of Monot’s glory back in its heyday. The first place to open its doors on the famous street in the 1990s, this bar-resto still draws a crowd nearly every night of the week.
Not only does Pacifico serve a superb selection of shots, its Latin cuisine with distinctly Cuban, Mexican, and Haitian influences is delicious. With arguably the best fajitas in town, a range of mean cocktails straight from the American continent, and a lively atmosphere of jovial people and good music, Pacifico is a cornerstone in the Beirut bar scene.
Photo via nogarlicnoonions.com
For all you gourmets out there who are looking for exquisitely good drinks paired with exquisitely good food, Secteur 75 will do the trick. Set in an old Mar Mikhael house, walls peeling with old paint, high ceilings, and incongruous furniture, Secteur 75 will titillate your aesthetic senses with its wall graffiti art, chandeliers, and gold-framed paintings.
Try their specialty Moscow Mule for a refreshing vodka-based thirst-quencher served in a kitschy copper mug. Be sure to treat your paunch to the grilled calamari salad (24,000 LL), and if you’re lucky enough to secure a reservation for their Saturday brunch, the salmon benedict (19,000 LL) is beyond compare.
Ibrahim Pacha Street
Photo via Facebook
Ferdinand in Hamra is a tiny, hip bar that makes for a cozy atmosphere. The music playlist belts out tunes from funky old school, indie rock and ‘70s and ‘80s pop, catering nicely to its 30-something crowd.
Expect to brush up against intellectuals, expats, and budding artists, but if you’re after a more introspective evening, feel free to plop down on the sofa and bury yourself in a book. Ferdinand’s cocktails, namely the mojitos, are outstanding. Be sure to also sample their signature blueberry-jam burger—trust me, it’s divine.
Mahatma Ghandi Street
Photo via thisisbeirut.files.wordpress
If it’s funk and avant-garde décor you’re looking for, February 30 is your utopia. With furniture attached to the ceiling, heat radiators serving as barstools, and some pretty wild fixtures in general, this bar will knock your socks off, and you’re definitely going to need a few swigs to wash it all down. Their drinks are stellar. Their grub is scrumptious. And the aura is just plain transcendent. What more could you ask for?
78th Street, The Alleyway
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Hidden on a side street near the end of the Mar Mikhael strip sits the almighty Dictateur, a cozy cocktail bar that’s quickly gained a reputation for its laidback aura and underground vibe. The venue is split in four: a boisterous bar, a green garden, an open-air terrace, and a more exclusive lounge.
Order the bar’s signature drink—a Margherita (12,000 LL)—and some light nosh—the goat cheese and artichoke salad (17,000 LL) is refreshing—and then recede into the scenery that suits you best. On weekends, Dictateur serves up a tempting brunch (37,500 LL).
Badawi St., Mar Mikhael
Behind Mandaloun Nightclub
Photo via Facebook
A Beirut bar list would be incomplete without mention of the downtown scene. Uruguay Street, lined with close to a dozen bars and still evolving, was my after-work go-to for the longest time until I discovered Bar ThreeSixty just a few steps away.
Perched at the top of the luxurious Le Gray hotel and centered on a majestic glass atrium, the lounge/bar offers some of the most breathtaking views of Beirut, the Mediterranean, and edifices in the city. Happy hour (Mon-Thurs, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.) features 2-for-1 drinks, and you’re going to love their ultra-smooth and fruity sangria (23,000 LL). For wine lovers, there are over 200 vintages on offer. Expect soft jazz and house music from the resident DJ.
Le Gray Hotel
Photo via Campbellgrayhotels.com
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.