Happy Dog and The Spotted Owl are two of the best bars in America, Esquire declares


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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — For its Summer 2020 issue, the good people at Esquire magazine have named not one, but two Cleveland drinking holes among the Best Bars in America.

Cleveland’s Happy Dog and The Spotted Owl (which does also have an Akron location) were recognized on this year’s list, along with Wodka Bar out of Cincinnati and Law Bird from Columbus.

To make the list, Esquire’s writers say that a bar has to be “A place you just can’t wait to experience again.” Other than that, the criteria is exceptionally vague.

This year’s rundown was apparently finalized right under the wire, before the coronavirus shutdown in March, and includes 27 drinking hubs around the country (with the four from Ohio).

Writer Jeff Gordinier said the following about the Cleveland bars:

On Happy Dog: “Happy Dog is a rock ‘n’ roll bar to its bones, with Christmas lights and no-bull**** beer list. You can order hot dogs topped with SpaghettiOs and Froot Loops. We’d steer you toward the ‘alien’ relish, which glows green.”

On The Spotted Owl: “I was instructed to select my desired mood (I went with relax) and a range of flavors (I went with umami and ginger) from the wheel. The bartender would then conjure something for me to drink. I figured this was all some sort of gimmick until I tasted my cocktail, which had been made with gin, lime and pho syrup — yes, the Vietnamese soup. It was absurdly delicious, and it was then I decided this is a next-wave mystic temple of cocktailing.”

Due to coronavirus, both of these bars have remained closed, but are still engaging with the community. The Spotted Owl has offered various carry-out options and pop-up events, and Happy Dog has planned a virtual trivia fundraiser for its staff on June 8.

For continuing coverage about the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest on Ohio, head here.

The list has yet to hit Esquire’s website yet, but can be read in the newest summer issue on stands. In the meantime, catch up on the Best Bars in America, 2019, right here.

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