BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR--ST. PAUL - 2001
St. Paul's neighborhood bars are as integral a part of its fabric as Catholic churches and an abandoned downtown. There's Schwietz Saloon on the East Side, with its rock-bottom prices and its patrons who have been regulars so long that they have their names emblazoned on the bar. On the West Side you won't go wrong with Joseph's Bar and Restaurant. Tavern on Grand is one of the few businesses with character that remains on that homogenized strip--and God bless it. But no establishment quite reflects its neighborhood like Willard's Liquors. This two-decade-old Frogtown institution is sometimes referred to as "the black Cheers," but all shades are welcome here. Willard's is homey and boisterous at once, like Frogtown itself. In the mornings you can get coffee and doughnuts (and liquor, of course). In the evenings it's pizza and beer. There's no happy hour, because, as owner Frank Schwietz puts it, "Everybody's happy when they come in here." The queue for a game of pool can run an hour on any given night, while a card game often thrives in the backroom. Still aren't convinced that Willard's is the best neighborhood joint in St. Paul? Try this: It was named after the original owner's dog.