The 50 Greatest Gay Bars in the World
By Out.com Editors
There's a first time for everything, but the first visit to a gay bar occupies an entire place of its own. For many of us, it's hard to describe that strange, stomach-churning combination of trepidation and expectation, a sense that here is a place where you can drop any pretense, study the go-go boys with abandon, shimmy to Cher, and blow kisses at the drag queen vamping on the stage. We talk a lot about how times have changed, but the gay bar remains a staple of gay life'a lifeline for many of us, an old friend for the rest. There's no such thing as a definitive list of anything, but that hasn't stopped us from scouring the world to find 50 bars with all the right qualities to make you feel at home.
Theme nights range from outrageous to downright unsavory: Hanky Code Party, No Pants Dance, and MondoHomo, to name a few. Attention-whore hipsters compete with rowdy lesbians and off-duty DJs for space on the miniature dance floor. On karaoke night the pocket-size emcee channels Motown divas. Go ahead'try to leave before last call.
There's something about watching two Marlboro men two-stepping to 'Cotton-Eye Joe' that does the soul good. Nothing is ironic about this scene. Throw on your old Wranglers and cowboy boots, order a domestic beer, and leave your pretensions at the door. Hoedowns is a Brokeback fantasy come true.
OIL CAN HARRY'S
A little nip/tuck classed up Oil Can Harry's faster than jail did Paris Hilton, but this 17-years-and-running institution hasn't lost its edge. DJs spin quirky, creative sets (Rihanna segueing to Ultra Nat' to Robyn) while pretty people swig Cosmopolitans, cowboys play pool, and University of Texas students go wild. (512) 320-8823
The oldest gay bar in Boise attracts a mixed-gender crowd ranging from buffed-and-shined college kids to older couples in matching Western garb. The pool tables give way to a dance floor and a stage, where weekly drag contests are held. Emerald's Saturday night parties are packed with pretty young things kicking it to a soundtrack just a few years behind Chelsea. (208) 342-5446
Gays from all over the country flock to this popular but low-key Boystown favorite, where the music is unabashedly bouncy. If you're in town for a weekend and want a taste of Midwestern man-candy, Roscoe's is the place to find the barrel-chested white boy you've always dreamed of corrupting. (773) 281-3355
Check out the cabaret, the drag, the deep house'there's room for everything in this sprawling club east of downtown Cincinnati. While Adonis boasts that trademark Midwestern friendliness, you'll also find plenty of heat, especially on summer Sundays, which draw scantily clad men from throughout the region who
like lounging around the swimming pool. (513) 871-1542
UNION BAR + FOOD
Union's new classy location and increasingly mixed crowd (tourists, straights) still has some locals grumbling, but crowds flock to see the video and comedy montages (especially Showtunes Sundays) and to share crab cakes and chocolate martinis. Looks like Parker Posey was wrong'Union is your best bet to put the 'Oh' in 'Ohio.' (614) 421-2233
GUN BARREL, TX
A rainbow-painted wooden flag hangs defiantly on the outside of small-town Texas's friendliest bar, where more money is raised for charity than for renovations and the fish tank is filled with local well water. While the bar is small, everything else is big, especially the community pride, the fund-raiser musicals, and the drag queens' hair. (903) 887-2061
THE BAR COMPLEX
The gay crown jewel of historic downtown Lexington, this converted speakeasy radiates faded glamour and genteel manners with its three bars, huge upstairs dance floor, and plenty of dark nooks to enjoy gentleman callers or a mint julep. Bonus: When a Kentucky boy asks for your number, he always says please. (859) 255-1551