By Ben Olson and Cameron Rasmusson
There is an art to pub crawling. At least, it starts out that way. Many stops later, the art becomes a drunken quest, except no one knows why or what for. Let me start over. We went on a pub crawl Tuesday night around the many fine bars in downtown Sandpoint for our Bar Issue. Why Tuesday night? Because we forgot to do it last weekend and Wednesday night is deadline, and we have pushed this Bar Issue off far too long. So, it came down to Tuesday, arguably one of the quieter drinking nights in Sandpoint. There were just three of us; myself, Cameron and his date Cameron (who I shall refer to as “Camo” to avoid any confusion). What we lacked in numbers we made up for in spirit. No one got arrested. There were no bar fights (though Cameron was challenged to one at Roxy’s). It was a fairly successful evening, except for leaving my camera behind at the 219 like an idiot. Drinking with your friends is an American institution. If it isn’t in the Constitution, it should be. We’re happy to present to you our findings from our night of bar hopping. -Ben Olson, Publisher
Idaho Pour Authority
Beer lovers take note: There’s no other place in town better than Idaho Pour Authority when it comes to the selection. Hundreds of options await in bottles from American and international breweries alike, along with a generous selection of brews on tap. If variety is the spice of life, then Idaho Pour Authority turns the flavor up to 11.
IPA has only been around for a couple years, but in that time, it’s become a favorite hangout for locals. That’s probably because of the comfortable furnishings and the owners’ commitment to supporting regional nonprofits. Also keep an eye out for regular live music; as far as I’m concerned, a pint and some good tunes are life’s ultimate chocolate-and-peanut-butter combination. [CR]
Eichardt’s is like the bar from “Cheers,” except instead of Bostoners there are North Idaho hippies and outdoorsy men and women of all ages.
The beer selection at Eichardt’s tends toward microbrews. Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t go to Eichardt’s to drink Budweiser.
The food is second to none. Seriously some of the best grub in town. I only have two words for you: garlic fries.
Owned and operated by Jeff Nizzoli for 21 years, Eichardt’s is well known for being relaxed, easygoing, unpretentious and downright homey. When you walk in the door, you are immediately confronted with two decades worth of memories adorning the walls and ceiling. This is probably the location of the largest Pez dispensor collection in North Idaho. And I feel as if every item on the wall has a story attached.
As if to prove my point, Nizzoli points out a police badge hanging from the wall and begins to tell a hilarious story about two cops from Australia who were traveling through Sandpoint and got stuck in Eichardt’s for a short time.
“They were on the way to the Police and Fireman’s Olympics in Canada,” said Nizzoli. “They spent some time here, loved it, then, on the way back through after the Olympics, they asked if they could bartend.”
The cops—whose names were Stick and Stinger—ended up tending bar on dollar beer night.
“They were both pretty big guys,” said Nizzoli. “The women loved them. The male population of the bar went down that week, but we had a lot of women in here.”
At the end of their stint of tending bar, after winning the trust of the locals and fending off multiple offers not usually made to police officers, the pair stunned everyone by announcing they were cops in Austrailia.
“Everyone was like, shit,” said Nizzoli.
Before the pair left, they donated a police badge and a rugby jersey to hang on the wall. The badge hangs by the tap handles in a place of honor and the jersey hangs from the ceiling.
“They came back, actually,” said Nizzoli. “It was four or five years later. They had their wives with them this time. It was a whole different experience.” [BO]
MickDuff’s Beer Hall
Sandpoint loves its local artisans, and few have been embraced more than Mickey and Duffy Mahoney. Their wide selection of locally-produced microbrews has helped put Sandpoint on the map for beer lovers. From the smooth, rich taste of the Knot Tree Porter to the hoppy wallop of the NOHO or Stromhammer IPAs, the wide variety of beer styles should be enough to quench any thirst.
MickDuff’s is best known for its First Avenue pub, which features a restaurant and special events like the popular trivia night. But if you’re not feeling peckish, you’d be better off hitting the business’ newish beer hall on Cedar Street. This location has, outside of weekend nights, an easy-going vibe, and you’re welcome to hang out with board games, your own food or some of the location’s complimentary popcorn. [CR]
Early on, we decided to limit our pub crawl to bars that weren’t attached to restaurants, but Connie’s is the one exception, as the bar and restaurant are wholly separate entities it seems.
Featuring a recently redone interior and drinking patio that faces away from the busy Cedar Street, Connie’s is a great place for a bloody mary with breakfast, or a sunny perch to share some mixed drinks with your friends after work. They have live music out there sometimes, too. It’s a great spot to gravitate to after the Farmers’ Market which takes place right across the street.
Shannon Williams has tended bar at Connie’s for years and treats his clientele with respect and a sense of fun.
The crowd at Connie’s tends towards the younger set, but every night is different. Mostly it’s a bar where you can play some pool, smoke and drink on the patio, and prepare for the later stops on the tour (Connie’s isn’t a late-night bar. They’re usually wrapped up before midnight). [BO]
The Tam O’Shanter (aka Tervan, or simply the Tam) is the home of the absolute coldest beer in town. It’s also the oldest continuously operated business in Sandpoint (thanks to Camo for this factoid. It helps to have Museum personnel on bar crawls).
When you walk into the Tam, there are usually two or three locals at the bar who like to flip you some guff in a fun, grumpy kind of way. Known as a blue-collar bar for the working men and women of Sandpoint, I’ve always been fond of the humble nature of this place.
When we ordered up some frosty schooners, the bartendress Teddi asked if we wanted, “Small or large?”
My first inclination is always to go large, until I saw the size of a large, which looked like you could pour a whole six-pack into it. We elected to go small, as it was still early on our pub crawl.
Whilst drinking said schooners, Camo enlightens us with her favorite Tervan story, told by her father.
“When my dad first moved to Sandpoint in the early 80s, he decided to check out the bar scene,” said Camo. “He ended up here, and as he was opening the door an axe goes flying out the door. They were having an axe throwing competition in the bar and using the door as a target.”
The small, quaint bar that is the oldest in town is worth checking out if you haven’t been inside yet… just keep an eye out for flying axes. [BO]
By most accounts the local bar with the most interior square footage, Roxy’s definitely gives a hopeless inebriate room to stretch his or her legs. But that’s not all to admire about the Pine Street bar. A healthy collection of devoted regulars mean this could be the place where everybody knows your name after just a few visits.
Thanks to a wealth of entertainment options, Roxy’s also gives you plenty of options for fun and games with your new friends. There’s the time-tested combination of booze and a game of pool, for one thing, and enthusiasts consider the tables to be among the best in town as far as quality goes. For my money, though, there’s nothing like a few beers and a game of shuffleboard—in which case, Roxy’s has got you covered there, too. [CR]
A & P Bar and Grill
Many people thought it was lights out for A&P Bar and Grill in 2014, when an accidental fire ravaged the local establishment’s historic downtown building. But never underestimate the power of a can-do spirit and a little elbow grease. A&P is back and, dare we say, better than ever.
The bar seems to be a favorite of Sandpoint’s younger set, particularly the weekend partiers. What’s more, A&P features one of Sandpoint’s latest-open kitchens, a surefire advantage for a town weak on late-night grub options. A bite into one of the bar’s hamburgers after one-too-many whiskeys may be just the thing to find your second wind. More than anything, though, the classy-yet-rustic interior and nods to the building’s historic past (including its previous life as a brothel) are sure to make for a wild Friday night. [CR]
The Five Star Dive Bar is where everyone usually ends up at the end of the night. I’ve had a lot of good times at the 219. I’ve also been kicked out of there three times (once at eleven o’clock in the morning on New Years’ Day… that’s a story for another time, though).
Featuring a recent redesign that cleaned up the interior and established an outdoor patio with a stage and outdoor bar, the Niner has held onto its position as one of the top bars in Sandpoint for a long time.
It’s the type of place that accepts everyone as they are. Though it looks quite a bit cleaner nowadays, there is still a little bit of rough around the edges, which I’m a fan of when it comes to dive bars.
The best new addition, in my opinion, is the patio out back and the inclusion of live music every week. In fact, almost every night has something going on; Tuesdays are karaoke night, Wednesdays are reggae night, Thursday through Sunday features live music outside in the summertime, and in the pool room when the cool weather returns.
By this stage of the night, our pub crawling trio was looking a little haggard. We’d switched from beer to whiskey a few bars back and it was starting to show. You can still smoke in the 219, which means you will smoke, even if you don’t smoke cigarettes.
We harassed the bartenders Josh and Racheal for juicy stories and fun anecdotes, but all of the notes from this part of the evening are indecipherable. That works for me.
One of my favorite places to hang out in Sandpoint is in the corner booth at the Niner. You can cram a dozen people into the booth and hold court all night.
Before sneaking out of the bar around 1 a.m., I’d apparently left the Reader camera behind, which might’ve been stolen if we don’t live in such a small town. By the morning, I’d already received a message from Racheal that it was safe. I didn’t even have to do the walk of shame to pick it up as my buddy Josh Hedlund grabbed it for me. Don’t you just love small towns? [BO]
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