Big Daddy's3001 Corrine Dr., 407-644-2844
It's either your dream or your nightmare: a karaoke night with an attentive audience who will hang on your every squeaky note as you cough out your rendition of "I Touch Myself." But that's what you get at Big Daddy's, which is one of Orlando's best karaoke joints.
The dream of the '90s is alive at Bullitt Bar – not the Portlandia one, the one that features flocks of tattooed girls in baby tees and pigtails and walls packed with collectible gig posters. The naked-lady wallpaper (better than Wally's, and that's high praise), the beer cooler housed in the back end of a '70s van (painted with, yep, boobalicious ladies) and the booths done up in muscle-car seat upholstery make Bullitt look like a Vegas reconstruction of an "L.A. rocker bar," but don't overthink it – this is a hangout for strong drinks, loud music and big, dumb fun.
Burton's Bar and Grill801 E. Washington St., 407-425-3720
But for the scare that it was going to close back in 2007 – potentially shutting the door on one of downtown Orlando's longest-lived liver-hardening establishments – Burton's has continued to be Thornton Park's only daytime-drinking bar with nighttime hair-of-the-dog tendencies. However, there has been a palpable evolution from the old Budweiser-at-3-p.m. crowd in recent years. These days, you'll find a sort of frat-boy/sports-bar crowd mingling with some pretty girls and some rough boys around the pool tables and large-screen televisions, all with cheap beers in hand. It's clearly no-frills and faintly divey, but then, it always has been.
The Caboose1827 N. Orange Ave., 407-898-7793; facebook.com/thecaboosebar
The Caboose is as unpretentious as a bar gets, with loud music, a piecemeal approach to furnishing the space – which is now twice as big as when they started – and no-frills ways to get wasted with stiff drinks and domestic pitchers. You can disappear here.
The Celt Irish Pub25 S. Magnolia Ave., 407-481-2928; harpandcelt.com
The Celt bids you "céad míle fáilte," and it's the closest downtown Orlando gets to a genuine Irish pub experience. Pound a plate of Irish nachos, slide over a few pints of Guinness, and you won't want to be anywhere else for the rest of the evening – probably because your legs will stop working at some point. This traditional Celtic haven feels like home from the moment you walk through the door till you part ways and stumble on home.
Claddagh Cottage4308 Curry Ford Road, 407-895-1555
Laid-back neighborhood pub run by Jimmy and Kathy Mulvaney, who keep the ale flowing, fortified by traditional Irish stick-to-your-ribs fare like a variety of pastry pies filled with savory, meaty gravy inside buttery crusts. The Guinness will be properly double-poured at this authentic and casual spot soaked in Irish charm.
Elixir9 W. Washington St., 407-985-3507; elixirorlando.net
Much effort has been put into preserving the historic nature of this building (which used to be home to Scruffy Murphy's Pub), without sacrificing interior design. They've salvaged old materials they found in the space and repurposed them into the design of the bar, which is made of 100-year-old refinished heart of pine that was in the building already. The bar is the perfect place to sip a bourbon or whiskey (they have more than 30 different brands here), or pair a beer with one of the "hash house" burgers.
Finnhenry's39 N. Orange Ave., 407-648-0100; finnhenrys.com
A little more neighborly appreciation of sports can be found downtown at Finnhenry's, where a halo of TVs displaying an array of sporting events rings the central bar. The pub is a throwback to old public houses of yore, sporting cozy high-top tables and tons of bar seating.
Fish on Fire7937 Daetwyler Drive, 407-812-6881; fishonfire.net
If you're into fishing and boating around the Conway chain of lakes, you're sure to make friends here – a lot of the patrons are Belle Isle and Conway residents who appreciate this place for its completely unpretentious, laid-back Florida fish camp kind of feel.
Hideaway Bar516 Virginia Drive, 407-898-5892; thehideawaybar.net
Dog-friendly patio? Check. Fried fish sandwiches? Check. Full liquor, should you feel the need for a shot to go with that PBR? Check and check. The Hideaway on Virginia Drive is the quintessential casual sports bar – it's not Miller's Ale House-intense, but there is a rabid Miami Dolphins allegiance that you won't miss. The Hideaway is also that rare sports bar where artists, hairdressers and theater folk feel right at home – located walking distance from Lure Design, Halo Salon-Spa and the new home of the Varietease troupe, the Venue, the Hideaway is just as comfortable with its Andrew Spear murals and occasional hipster Worst Music parties as it is with shouty sports fans on a Sunday afternoon.
Lizzy McCormack's55 N. Orange Ave. 407-426-8007; lizzymccormacks.com
Drunken camaraderie marks this Irish pub with one of the longest happy hours in downtown Orlando and one of the best atmospheres to boot. You don't want to be anywhere else for St. Patrick's Day.
Lucky Lure1427 N. Orange Ave., 407-250-6949; facebook.com/theluckylureorlando
Hanging out at the Lucky Lure on a sunny afternoon is so much like being at the beach – the long narrow room festooned in nautical decor like fish traps, buoys and surfboards; the open-air windows all along one side – that it's a surprise to find the scuffed-up concrete floor doesn't have sand on it. The huge selection of great beer (cans only; they'll give you a coozie if you ask) is complemented by strong cocktails and your favorite beachy staple: the frozen drink.
Olde 6464 N. Orange Ave., 407-245-7730; olde64.com
Olde 64 is one of Orange Avenue's newest nightlife venues, taking the space previously known as Bar-BQ-Bar. Olde 64 is, thankfully, not a fancy bar – the owners still embrace the no-frills divey ethos that make a good watering hole a classic – but they've cleaned up the space (more room for drinking!), gave it a basic makeover and continue to offer drink specials that'll get you in the door and a nonpretentious atmo that'll make you stick around.
Ollie's Public House3400 Edgewater Drive, 407-999-8934; olliespublichouse.com
Every neighborhood needs its comfy local hang, and Ollie's is it in College Park. Low-key, a good selection of beers on tap, pickle shots, a big outdoor patio and an affable staff make this bar feel like home. It's a fun spot to catch a game, grab a bite or meet up with friends for a long chat over drinks.
Schumann's Jäger House25 W. Church St., 407-985-1950; schumannsjagerhaus.com
There's a new German restaurant/bar downtown where you can sample some spaetzle while sipping on Schnapps or Spaten. An interesting menu combines traditional German cuisine, like schnitzel and wursts, with German-inspired sandwiches, salads, soups and burgers. Then there's the drinking: eight German beers on tap, plus import and domestic bottles, wine and plenty of Schnapps.
Spatz Deli & Billiard Liquor1025 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-3354; spatzwp.com
Just a stone's throw away from the Rollins College campus, this low-key joint has pool tables, darts, arcade games and cheap drinks. It's popular with the Rollins crowd, and unlike a lot of the bars and restaurants in the Park Avenue area, it's open past midnight on most nights.
Sportstown2414 E. Robinson St., 407-894-6258; sportstownbilliards.com
Whether you're playing the game or playing spectator, when it comes to leisure activities, like ping-pong or pool, it only seems right to play with a beer in hand. Sportstown Billiards, a dark watering hole tucked along the funky commercial strip known as the Milk District, certainly keeps the competitive crowd occupied – and beer is the name of the game here (there's beer and wine, but no liquor). Not only do they have an extensive list of craft beers on the menu and ridiculously cheap beer specials, this place also houses a horde of pool tables, corn-hole areas, arcade games, skee-ball and every board game in between. You could totally hole up for the entire night with a few brews at a place like Sportstown, where fellow bar patrons are more worried about who's got the next shot than the name on the label of your beer bottle. Daytime drinkers, rejoice! They open at noon.
Stardust Lounge431 E. Central Blvd., 407-839-0080; stardustorlando.com
This place is like Orange Avenue and Thornton Park had a baby and let the Lake Eola swans raise it on their own. It's got just enough fratty energy to keep you buying drinks, but without the caterwauling and beer-can tossing that happens just up the street. There is a retro-VIP feel to this underground lounge, which is perfect for the burlesque shows produced by Baby Blue, so bring lots of singles.
St. Matthew's Tavern1300 N. Mills Ave.; orlandobeergarden.com
This newly opened tavern in Mills 50 used to be known as Orlando Nights, and before that it was called Paradise. It has undergone significant renovation, and today the bar has the distinction of hosting church services on Sunday mornings. It's also got a full-service bar and some serious drink specials – $2 margaritas on Mondays and $3 Smirnoff martinis on Wednesdays. Don't be surprised if you show up to discover the lowkey establishment has been taken over by oddballs events crafted by the eclectic art scene that's laid claim to the unique environment.
Wall Street Plaza Bars19 N. Orange Ave., 407-849-0471; wallstplaza.net
Special occasions, from New Year's Eve to Oktoberfest, belong to this open-air meeting place for the masses. Located at the epicenter of downtown Orlando, and always throbbing with music, booze and vitality, Wall St. Plaza and its seven fantastically themed venues – Wall Street Cantina, Shine, Hooch, Waitiki, Sideshow Bar, the Monkey Bar and the Henhouse – are sort of like a theme park for drinking. They take up an entire city block and there's always a crowd, but it's easy to navigate, heavy on drink specials and stocked with eye candy for all.
Wally's Mills Avenue Liquors1001 N. Mills Ave., 407-896-6975; wallysonmills.com
When you walk into Wally's, you'll find a devoted crowd of seasoned regulars who mean serious drinking business. It's smoky, it's dark, and if you can find a seat (there are maybe 25 total) at the bar, stiff cocktails are coming your way. (Note: Most other bars in the Mills 50 area only serve beer and wine.) Those looking for booze on the go can purchase from the liquor store that makes up one side of the joint.
Whiskey Lou's Lounge101 N. Bumby Ave., 407-898-2593
Always a good time at this raucous dive bar, which is best known for its cheap drinks, heavy pours, bright neon sign marking it as a haven for drinkers and its life-sized Blues Brothers mannequins.
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