BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR--MINNEAPOLIS - 2004
There's a purple-haired girl sitting next to a white-shag lampshade playing Yahtzee with a young but already grizzled tattooed guy in a work shirt. Two very PTA-looking moms sit a couple of tables over and watch their kids play Atari. Boisterous groups of twentysomethings gulp beer and sip wine (no hard liquor here--all the better for failing to attract hard-core drunks). Everyone seems to be having a great time. The stunning array of available board games and the house-brewed beer help to create a homey feel at the Chatterbox. And the food is well above average for your neighborhood watering hole: The weekend brunch, which features crispy Irish potatoes, great French toast, and various fancy egg concoctions, is impressive, and a garlic-squash dip appetizer provides a nice alternative to the common artichoke-cheese variety. These factors, along with the mod decor, combine to create a cozy drinking spot--and the neighborhood needed one (though Matt's, a few blocks down, is a nice, more blue-collar option, and offers Juicy Lucys). All the retro-kitsch merchandise--record covers, vintage advertisements--on the walls is for sale, but the atmosphere is quite impossible to re-create faithfully. And in another plus, the Chatterbox sits next door to the Smitten Kitten, a very tasteful and woman-friendly sex toy shop. Not even a fence could make a better neighbor.