It's not often that a bouncer hugs you after checking your ID, but it happened at Carol's. The occasion? We're both from Ohio!
A welcome break from bars that are too cool for, well, anyone cool, Carol's attracts a friendly crowd all week long with $7 pitchers of Old Style/MGD/Miller Lite ($12 after 9 p.m.), and some of the best honky-tonk this side of Nashville. The kitchen serves classic bar food: cheeseburgers, fries and finger-licking hot wings.
During the week, it's mostly regulars who exchange stories at the two-sided bar, and the communal intimacy of long wooden tables (reminiscent of the C&W joint in Blues Bros.) makes it easy to find an opponent for darts, or a supportive audience for country karaoke (Tuesday and Thursday nights). An occasional stranger does take a seat, though: On our last visit, my date and I were devastated to learn that we'd just missed Death Cab For Cutie stopping in for a post-gig unwind.
On weekends, the authentic house band and dance floor draw a crowd that mixes the young and hip with aging transplants from Southern states. Squeeze your way through the masses and ask a Stetson-wearing stranger to do-si-do. No matter what parts you're from, the vibe at Carol's will have you feeling right at home in no time.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Julia Steinberger