BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR—ST. PAUL - 2007
Half Time Rec
Readers' Choice: Sweeney's Saloon and Café
You can tell the place has had some satisfied customers because there's photographic evidence right there on top of the bar: A sea of plastic-covered Polaroids displays happy, drink-reddened faces for posterity. (Some of the pictures feature the subject in front of the very bar of photos you're looking at, which, if one is drunk enough, can lead to a Keanu-esque "whoa" moment.) The cheerful tipplers in these images run the gamut: shorthaired and jocky, longhaired and disheveled; black, white; collegiate, blue-collar; old, young, really old. Though the pictures lend a bit of an everyone-knows-your-name feel (a familiar vibe in St. Paul bars), the Rec is by no means insular. Newcomers will be welcomed warmly, and there's plenty of room. If you want to become a regular, though, there's always something to do here while you're boozing away the hours: pool and dart leagues, bocce in the basement, and live music most nights (free except on Fridays and Saturdays, and not always Irish). Plus, you never know when something exciting might happen, like, oh, say, a brawl involving some St. Paul Saints, as went down last summer. Of course you can find Harp and Guinness on tap, and various drink specials. And how's this for neighborliness? While the Half Time Rec won't cook for you, no one wants you to go hungry, either (or to leave). In case the vending-machine snacks aren't cutting it, each table comes equipped with napkins, plastic flatware, and delivery menus from a bunch of local restaurants.