The following are two top five lists of the best and worst in bars Northampton, MA has to offer. Remember, this is just one person's opinion and not the consensus of an entire population.
While Hugo’s offers a full-service bar, you really only come here for the beer. Well, the beer and the pool. Frequented by a wide range of clientele – from NoHo’s plentiful hipsters to townies – there’s no way not to feel welcome at Hugo’s. The staff here are great (particularly barkeep Chris), the jukebox is rocking, and the beer is dirt cheap. It’s cash only, which is sort of a downside, until you remember that a can of PBR at Hugo’s costs $1.50. Personal recommendation: PBR.
Part bar, part awesome restaurant, Packard’s is a local favorite for obvious reasons. The inside is decorated with old signs from other local shops and restaurants, providing a very unique ambiance. The bar is decent enough, but the food is greasy and excellent and decently priced. The service, however, can be on the slow side. So, take in the eclectic scenery and sip one of their signature mixed drinks while you wait! Recommendation: white wine and nachos.
3. Tunnel Bar
Named Tunnel Bar because it’s actually built into a tunnel, this bar is not for the stingy among us. However, for the amount of alcohol you get in a drink and for the amount of effort the staff puts into creating a unique menu, this bar is worth it on occasion. Dim lighting and comfortable chairs offer a distinctly personal setting, although for you bar flies, you can feel free to sit at their bar instead. Personal recommendation: the Orange Dreamsicle.
From the inside of the restaurant you can actually see the vats where staff brews the beer on site. You can’t get much fresher than the beer served at the Northampton Brewery. It offers a large selection of beers that range in flavor and price and change with the season, so you’re guaranteed to find something new on a regular basis, in addition to their year-round staples. What’s really great about the Brewery is that their menu details the flavor of the beer and how it’s made, which is a great help to someone who is not a beer connoisseur. Personal recommendation: the Redheaded Stepchild.
This towny bar is filled with colorful characters, pool tables, dart boards, decent drinks, good beer, and, yes, mom and dad, it’s educational. With over 4,000 historic beer cans on display throughout the bar, Ye Olde Watering Hole is a little like the history lesson you always wanted. Personal recommendation: Guinness.
This hipster bar thinks it’s way cooler than it actually is. Long tables that jut out of the walls make conversations utterly impossible, and, for the price you pay, the drinks just aren’t worth it. No new flavors or even interesting old ones – just moderately overpriced versions of things you could get in a better environment for less money. On the plus side, they have brunch on Sundays.
This is where the entire of cast of Roseanne ended up when they went off the air. Towny to a fault, Tully’s is mostly populated by drunk local men watching sports, which is fine, if that’s what you’re looking for. Although Tully’s does have a dance floor, it’s very rarely danced upon and, generally speaking, when people do dance, they’re met with imposing stares from the locals who would rather just watch the match and drink their beer.
3. The Basement
This tiny, tiny little bar has two shining features: local musicians and their affiliation with The Iron Horse. Other than that, they don’t really need to exist. When bands do play in there, the place is so small that the music is deafening, and there’s absolutely no space for dancing.
It’s easy to feel sorry for what once was Del Raye, but is now Paradise City. It so badly wants to be a bar in NYC, but it isn’t. With the changing of hands and names, many expected this bar to change its scene, but it didn’t. On the plus side, it offers interesting “to do’s,” like Drag Queen Bingo. On the downside, it just isn’t very good.
Few places in Northampton inspire such a gathering of preppy frat boys and drunken Smith girls quite like The Toasted Owl Tavern. Like you’ve just stepped onto the set of every bad teen movie ever made, inside the Toasted Owl is an inside look at the world of the pretentious and drunk. It’s difficult to assess whether the drinks are even palatable as the atmosphere is so unbelievably bad.