Special Issues » Drink

Orlando’s neighborhood hangs, comfy dives and places to kick back

Bars and lounges where you can kick back while you throw one back

  • Independent Bar

64 N. Orange Ave., 407-648-5441

Located at the start of downtown’s heart, BBQ’s porch provides great people watching, and while the quarters are tight inside, if you can land a booth, you’re in for the sort of warm, inebriated night typically reserved for backyard hangouts.

Big Daddy’s
3001 Corrine Dr., 407-644-2844

It’s either your dream or your nightmare: a karaoke night with an attentive audience who will hang on your every squeaky note as you cough out your rendition of “I Touch Myself.” But that’s what you get at Big Daddy’s, which recently serves stiffer drinks with a new liquor license.

Burton’s Bar and Grill
801 E. Washington St., 407-425-3720

But for the scare that it was going to close back in 2007 – potentially shutting the door on one of downtown Orlando’s longest-lived liver-hardening establishments – Burton’s has continued to be Thornton Park’s only daytime-drinking bar with nighttime hair-of-the-dog tendencies. However, there has been a palpable evolution from the old Budweiser-at-3-p.m. crowd in recent years, as the ironic act of slumming it in the middle of a tony brick-paved neighborhood has gained steam. These days (and mostly nights, really) you’ll find a sort of frat-boy/sports-bar crowd mingling with some pretty girls and some rough boys around the pool tables and large-screen televisions, all with cheap beers in hand. It’s clearly no-frills and faintly divey, but then it always has been. And that’s a relief.

Claddagh Cottage
4308 Curry Ford Road, 407-895-1555

Laid-back neighborhood pub run by Jimmy and Kathy Mulvaney, who keep the ale flowing, fortified by traditional Irish stick-to-your-ribs fare like a variety of pastry pies filled with savory, meaty gravy inside buttery crusts. The Guinness will be properly double-poured at this authentic and casual spot soaked in Irish charm.

39 N. Orange Ave., 407-648-0100, finnhenrys.com

A little more neighborly appreciation of sports can be found downtown at Finnhenry’s, where a halo of TVs displaying an array of sporting events rings the central bar. The pub is a throwback to old public houses of yore, sporting cozy high-top tables and tons of bar seating.

The Celt Irish Pub
25 S. Magnolia Ave., 407-481-2928, harpandcelt.com

You like wood? Like lots of it? How about some awesome beer? Well, the Celt bids you “céad míle fáilte” and it’s the closest downtown Orlando gets to a genuine Irish pub experience. Pound a plate of Irish nachos, slide over a few pints of Guinness, and you won’t want to be anywhere else for the rest of the evening – probably because your legs will stop working at some point. This traditional Celtic haven feels like home from the moment you walk through the door ’til you part ways and stumble on home. 

The Hideaway Bar
516 Virginia Drive, 407-898-5892, thehideawaybar.net

Dog-friendly patio? Check. Fried fish sandwiches? Check. Full liquor, should you feel the need for a shot to go with that PBR? Check and check. The Hideaway on Virginia Drive is the quintessential casual sports bar – it’s not Miller’s Ale House-intense, but there is a rabid Miami Dolphins allegiance that you won’t miss. The Hideaway is also that rare sports bar where artists, hairdressers and theater folk feel right at home – located walking distance from Lure Design, Halo Salon-Spa and the new home of the Varietease troupe, the Venue, the Hideaway is just as comfortable with its Andrew Spear murals and occasional hipster Worst Music parties as it is with shouty sports fans on a Sunday afternoon.

Independent Bar
70 N. Orange Ave., 407-839-0457, independentbar.net

I-Bar is hipster central; there’s no other way to put it, which makes it a target for teasing, sure, but it also means that you always have a story to tell after a night there.

Lizzy McCormack’s
55 N. Orange Ave., 407-426-8007, lizzymccormacks.com

Drunken camaraderie marks this Irish pub with one of the longest happy hours in downtown Orlando and one of the best atmospheres to boot. Pull up a barstool or sit out front to people-watch Orange Avenue. You don’t want to be anywhere else for St. Patrick’s Day.

Odin’s Den
1335 Howell Branch Road, Winter Park, 407-644-3588, facebook.com/odinsdenwp

Odin’s Den is a treasured dive because their happy hour runs all day (noon to 7 p.m.) and includes free pool and cheap domestics. But what’s more, their “always” special serves up Yuenglings and Rolling Rocks any time you’re thirsty for just $3.

The Peacock Room
1321 N. Mills Ave., 407-228-0048, thepeacockroom.com

This neighborhood lounge has a bit of everything; quiet wine sipping corners, art shows, national DJs, drag shows and garage bands. It’s kind of a microcosm of the Mills 50 neighborhood in which it sits. It’s a laid back, local’s bar with artsy leanings and no pretense. They’re just there to have a good time and a good, strong drink.

Schumann’s Jäger Haus
25 W. Church St., 407-985-1950, schumannsjagerhaus.com

There’s a new German restaurant/bar downtown where you can sample some spaetzle while sipping on Schnapps or Spaten. An interesting menu combines traditional German cuisine, like schnitzel and wursts, with German-inspired sandwiches, salads, soups and burgers. Then there’s the drinking: eight German beers on tap, plus import and domestic bottles, wine and plenty of Schnapps.

Spatz Deli & Billiard Liquor
1025 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-3354, spatzwp.com

Just a stone’s throw away from the Rollins College campus, this low-key joint has pool tables, darts, arcade games and cheap drinks. It’s popular with the Rollins crowd, and unlike a lot of the bars and restaurants in the Park Avenue area, it’s open past midnight on most nights.

Stardust Lounge
431 E. Central Blvd., 407-839-0080, stardustorlando.com

This place is like Orange Avenue and Thornton Park had a baby and let the Lake Eola swans raise it on their own. It’s got just enough fratty energy to keep you buying drinks but without the caterwauling and beer can tossing that happens just up the street. There is a retro-VIP feel to this underground lounge, which is perfect for the burlesque shows produced by Baby Blue, so bring lots of singles.

St. Matthew’s Tavern
1300 N. Mills Ave., orlandobeergarden.com

This newly opened tavern in Mills 50 used to be known as Orlando Nights, and before that it was called Paradise. It has undergone significant renovation and today the bar has the distinction of hosting church services on Sunday mornings. It’s also got a full-service bar and some serious drink specials – $2 margaritas on Mondays, and $3 Smirnoff martinis on Wednesdays.

118 S. Orange Ave., 407-246-1529, vixenbar.com

A friend described it like a good date, “narrow and long.” The bathrooms are always clean, and it’s rarely too crowded that you don’t get a good seat at the bar. The crowds are usually friendly and the staff is happy to serve.

Wall St. Plaza
19 N. Orange Ave., 407-849-0471, wallstplaza.net

Special occasions, from New Year’s Eve to Oktoberfest, belong to this cantina-themed meeting place. Located at the epicenter of downtown Orlando and always throbbing with music, booze and vitality, Wall St. Plaza and its eight venues take up an entire city block, but it’s easy to navigate, heavy on drink specials and stocked with eye candy for all. It’s not exactly upscale, but it gets the job done with laughter, music and a hangover souvenir.

Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors
1001 N. Mills Ave., 407-896-6975, wallysonmills.com

When you walk into Wally’s, you’ll find a devoted crowd of seasoned regulars who mean serious drinking business. It’s smoky, it’s dark, and if you can find a seat (there are maybe 25 total) at the bar, stiff cocktails are coming your way. (Note: Most other bars in the Mills 50 area only serve beer and wine.) Those looking for booze on the go can purchase from the liquor store that makes up one side of the joint.

Whiskey Lou’s Lounge
101 N. Bumby Ave., 407-898-2593

Always a good time at this raucous dive bar, which is best known for its cheap drinks, heavy pours, bright neon sign marking it as a haven for drinkers and its life-sized Blues Brothers mannequins.


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