Ranking TV’s Nightlife Destinations from Worst to Best


The cities and settings and streets and apartments we see on television become, over time, our own; who doesn’t sometimes get the feeling they could actually stroll through Pawnee or buy coffee at Central Perk? These places become our second homes, each as filled with nostalgia as our old classrooms, friends’ houses, and playgrounds. But we’re not going to fool ourselves — some of the dingy joints our favorite TV characters spend their time in are just as bad as the worst ones we get dragged to in real life, which is why we’ve put together an honest tourist’s guide to onscreen nightlife. Below the jump, browse our ranking of ten TV hangout spots, in order, from the ones we wouldn’t step foot into to the ones we’re trying to book for our next holiday party. Which TV bar, club, or lounge would you head to on a night out?

10. Paddy’s Pub, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia takes the title of having established the worst bar in America. It’s impossible to tell when this drinkery is open, its owners regularly closing shop on a whim mid-evening or simply not opening up at all. But even if you make it through the rusting factory door entrance, you’re not guaranteed decent service. And this is not the kind of bad service that gets your order wrong; it’s the kind that grimaces at you for ordering, hits on you inappropriately, and eagerly picks a fight. Still, the owners’ antics are entertaining if you manage to be inducted into their inner circle.

Type: Dive bar The Next Day: Sick but not hung over; you waited outside in the cold for the bar that never opened.

9. Moe’s Tavern, The Simpsons

While Moe’s Tavern is arguably grimier and skeevier than Paddy’s Pub, it wins points for being a drinking establishment that regularly and reliably serves beer. Specifically, Moe’s serves one brand of beer — Duff — and you can almost smell it stuck to the wooden benches and floors. A clear boys-only club, and simultaneously the only bar in The Simpsons’ Springfield, Moe’s has its owner’s office in the women’s bathroom. But out-of-placeness permeates all aspects of the location’s character: the bathroom and backroom are often home to fugitives, homeless people, and a black market, and the main room regularly combusts into fistfights and murder plots.

Type: Neighborhood dive The Next Day: Your clothes smell like cheap beer; your hair smells like cheap beer; you’re passed out in your bathroom, or possibly on the street.

8. Okay, How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother has invented the ideal New York neighborhood bar in MacLaren’s; that’s clear and needs no elaboration. So we find it more interesting to critique the show’s other late-night venue, Okay, the dance club that perfectly captures the trashiest of the New York club scene. You have to flash the bouncer to get in, no one knows what kinds of drugs are being taken in the bathroom, the music is too loud and too repetitive, and it’s impossible to see anything going on around you — which means you may be grinding with your cousin. But the place has its minor draws too; after you do a bunch of drugs and lose all your friends, the club might spontaneously erupt into an inclusive dance circle, one that inspires Jason Segel to bust out some impressive moves.

Type: Nightclub The Next Day: Your ears are ringing, you’re hungover, and you may or may not have OD’ed on something that was definitely not a painkiller.

7. Bada Bing!, The Sopranos

The mafioso-owned Jersey strip club is a fun spot to blow off steam — depending on who you are. If you’re a Tony Soprano, whose crony owns the joint, there’s no place that mixes business and pleasure better than Bada Bing! Good Scotch, cigars, naked women, and money are all staples of this establishment. A scuffle here and there also isn’t a rarity, but security is tight and manages to keep violence under control even in a crowd of drunk, horny mobsters.

Type: Strip club The Next Day: No matter whether you had a wonderful or terrible night, you’ll probably be pretty wrecked in the morning.

6. The Bronze, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The backdrop of almost every social event that occurs throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seven seasons, The Bronze watches Buffy grow up while magically growing with her; it turns into a drinking establishment when she is old enough to drink and keeps remodeling over time to better match her style. The Bronze also offers a delicious-looking menu of hot drinks and a repository of memories for any Buffy fan, including those many concerts given by Dingoes Ate My Baby.

Type: Neighborhood café-turned-bar The Next Day: Wake up hangover-free, memories from last night clear, and ready for another day of hunting.

5. Regal Beagle, Three’s Company

Visually, this Santa Monica neighborhood bar isn’t anything special, but it represents the same constancy, homeyness, and practicality that a MacLaren’s does. In fact, if How I Met Your Mother’s MacLaren’s had a 1970s predecessor, it would be Three’s Company‘s Regal Beagle. And just like the bar downstairs from Ted and Marshall’s apartment, Regal Beagle never seems more than a few minutes’ stumble away from Chrissy, Janet, and Jack’s.

Type: Neighborhood bar The Next Day: This bar is whatever you need it to be, perfect for the kind of night that leaves you in bed until sundown the next day as well as the night that has you up and ready to get to work on time.

4. Dobler’s, Greek

The quintessential college bar, Dobler’s is where of-age Cyprus-Rhodes University students go to blow off steam, make up with friends, and make out with friends’ boyfriends. There’s always some drama involved with a trip to Dobler’s, but it’s also where conflict is resolved over lemon drops and some of Greek’s most memorable bonding sessions occur. Attractive clientele is a sure thing, and the bar is manned in part by students who are usually willing to give you a free drink or five.

Type: College bar The Next Day: You’re sneaking out of the bed and window of a fraternity or sorority bedroom whose occupant’s name you can’t remember.

3. The Bait Shop, The OC

Always at the cutting edge of the early 2000s indie music scene, this multi-purpose space in Orange County usually has one up-and-coming band or another playing a set whenever you drop by. Though the establishment serves alcohol, high school students are generally admitted, causing it, along with its one-of-a-kind status in the neighborhood, to be The OC’s it-venue for every occasion. It may not have the class of the Cohens’ abode, but it makes up for that in its cool layout and relaxed atmosphere.

Type: Multi-purpose venue The Next Day: Back to high school and all of its problems.

2. Cheers, Cheers

It’s impossible to think about the television bar scene without immediately calling to mind Cheers. The epitome of its tagline, a place where everybody knows your name, Cheers is the sole set of its eponymous show, whose characters’ relationships entirely revolve around and unfold within this drinking establishment.

Type: Neighborhood bar The Next Day: You’re back at the bar. Or never left it.

1. Regatta Bar, Ally McBeal

Google, even with its nap rooms and rock-climbing wall, has nothing on Cage & Fish, whose office building is home to to this after-hours bar and lounge, where Ally McBeal and her lawyer associates hang out every evening after work. The venue is perfect for every mood and occasion — chatting with friends, picking up dates, watching a performance, sitting in silence, dancing with twins. Fostering a friendly community of lawyers, Regatta allows people who are serious and stern during the daytime to let loose, show some personality, and flirt. They’ll even let you take over the mic if you feel so inclined, as Ally often does.

Type: After-work lounge The Next Day: You’re hiding your face from coworkers you’ve utterly embarrassed yourself in front of.