After the single-vineyard Pinot tastings, the youthful Cabernet and meticulously curated estates of Napa and Sonoma, there’s no shame in wanting nothing more than a jukebox, a shot and a beer. Amid all of wine country’s trappings and tourism, authentic, local bars persist. Here are our favorites—places where no one needs to know your name or cares what you drink.
Ana’s Cantina, St. Helena
Among St. Helena’s antique shops and pricey dress boutiques sits Ana’s (shown here), a local’s favorite for decades. It’s an old-school cantina with big-screen TVs, a pool table, full bar and Olympia beer in cans. The décor includes beer memorabilia on the walls and dollar bills pinned to the ceiling. There’s karaoke Thursdays and maybe even Ana herself behind the bar.
Casino Bar & Grill, Bodega
Casino doesn’t offer gambling, but it does have pool tables (since 1939), local oysters and other fresh catches brought into nearby Bodega Bay, which are served on the outdoor patio. Come for the mean Bloody Marys, but stay for the local food and color.
Forestville Club, Forestville
In the small, drive-through town of Forestville, right in the heart of the Russian River Valley, this club is known for its eclectic entertainment, such as shows by bands like Stone Cold Mollie. When the music isn’t live, a jukebox and dance floor await, while pool tables are in play in the back.
Jack London Lodge Saloon, Glen Ellen
This watering hole is located at the foot of Jack London Historic State Park, named for the author who drank his share of cocktails. It sports a jukebox, pool tables, popcorn, a crew of regulars who sit along the antique bar, and a nightly bar menu. On summer nights, hang out on the patio by the creek.
Along the same drag as The French Laundry, Pancha’s is a world away. It’s a place for pool, beer, brandy and bartender extraordinaire Rose Solis, who lives by the slogan on the wall: “Welcome to Pancha’s, where the customer is always wrong.” Tie rings remain outside from the days when locals rode in on horses, and the Tacos Garcia food truck is usually parked nearby.
Susie’s Bar, Calistoga
Downtown Calistoga is home to Susie’s, the oldest and best place in town to settle in for happy hour or an open mic night. Don’t be afraid if the chalkboard sign outdoors warns of “Weak Drinks, Angry Bartenders and Dirty Bathrooms” (quoting a Yelp review): The joint was slightly spruced up in 2013.