on Nov 20, 2014 By Danielle Issa
Beirut’s been heralded worldwide for its vibrant nightlife, but how familiar are you with its historical bars that have withstood the test of time? Indeed, the Lebanese capital is constantly in flux, shuttering one establishment while it launches another. Because of this, the façade of streets can be seen to morph every few years, and bars seem most susceptible to the transient nature of the nightlife sector.
Today we applaud some of the oldest and finest watering holes in the city. Through political distress, economic recession, and the demise of tourism, these gems continue to open night after night and give us a sense of permanence in a country that reflects everything but.
Photo via Znood.com
Possibly Lebanon’s oldest bar, Captain’s Cabin was established 40 years ago and remains a Hamra mainstay. Originally a crash pad for pilots in between flights, the Cabin provided a place to gather over a play of cards and throw back glasses of gin. Today it’s a relic of Lebanon’s pre-civil war glory days, and the décor seems intact. Expect a very leathery, aged feel, faded wood furniture and Mexican beer at 5,000LL a pop. Captain’s Cabin is a far cry from the glitz and glam of Beirut’s showy institutions.
Blue Note Café opened its doors in 1987 and served as the capital’s first blues and jazz bar. Perhaps the only bar to have emerged during the civil war and remain in business in 2014, Blue Note ushers in primarily local jazz talent who play every night before an eager audience. Some aspiring artists—Charbel Rouhana and Toufic Fadoul are two—have even catapulted to fame because of their live performance at the bar. Reservations are recommended, and note that there is a cover charge for the entertainment.
Zinc has been around for 17 years, with a loyal fan base comprised of folks in their early to late 30s who grew up with the bar. A cozy space in Sodeco, Zinc makes the mark with its nice tunes, soft lighting, and animated atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot to frequent before heading out for a late night of clubbing. Because of the popularity of rooftop lounges in the summertime, Zinc understandably shutters, only to come back more energetic than ever in the autumn.
Seif Eddine Al Khatib Street
An aura of nationalism pervades the atmosphere at Hamra’s Barometer, complete with Ziad el Rahbani music in the background, posters of acclaimed nationalist poets affixed to the wall, and a sample of delicious Lebanese mezza dishes that go well with the bar’s arak specialty. Barometer has been around since 1998, attracting leftist thinkers as well as foreigners ambling about for an authentic food and drink experience in the city.
One of Monot’s last remaining pubs from its golden era is Hole in the Wall, which came into being in 1999. The bar draws a crowd of rock music fans from every age and walk of life who assemble to listen to local talent belt out invigorating tunes. Drinks are solid, the vibes are inviting, and the locale impeccable—no wonder this Hole hasn’t been tossed to oblivion.
Long before Gemmayze became a hotspot for nighttime revelers, Centrale planted itself firmly as an upscale restaurant with an accompanying bar. The bar often takes center stage, though, thanks to its tasty drinks and architecturally appealing structure. On warm nights, its cylindrical ceiling retracts, exposing bar guests to the open air. Order a vodka-based Mona Lisa Smile and mingle with the seasoned clientele.
Mar Maroun Street
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
euhh i can't believe u forgot abu elie...
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