The maritime city of Halifax is known as “the gateway of Atlantic Canada,” but there’s a lot of hip and trend within this tartan town. In the past five years, the Halifax bar scene has shifted from “wear a T-shirt and clasp a beer,” to “ wear a button down and pinch a martini between those well manicured fingers.” Sure, you can still find a traditional watering hole, but here’s a guide to Trendy Halifax.
“ The Good Time” pub. You’ll not be worryin’ about dress code at the Deck - anything goes – but you may want to think twice about wearing your stilettos in this stone cave historic building. The ceilings are low and you really do feel as though you’re below deck on a merchant ship. Claustrophobics beware! The Deck has a fine blend of the young and the not-so-young. Local bands singing traditional songs can be found there most nights in the summer, and you can hear the echo of their jigs rolling down the Halifax Boardwalk. The Lower Deck is certainly an experience and is close to the Casino Hotel on the Halifax Waterfront, so it’s only a crawl away.
If your tastes are more…electronic…visit The Palace. With its dark decor, state-of-the-art equipment, and great music spun out by some very popular DJs, it’s a nice spot to “shake what your mama gave ya.” The Palace should not be considered as one of the most exclusive nightclubs in Halifax, it’s more of a young persons exposé. Wet t-shirt contests and theme nights permeate the stage at the “Pala-Chay” as it’s nicknamed (hard body, hot legs contest anyone?). In short, the Palace is the place to visit if you want to meet new people, chill out with “hot” friends, check out live music performances, or simply dance the night away while drinking shots for $2.50. The Palace sits across from Citadel Hill, next to the Metro Centre. It’s close to all downtown hotels, and in the heart of the city. It’s open till 3:30am for the nighthawks and is open from Wednesday till Sunday weekly.
If crowded drinking dens or dance floors don’t suit you, Halifax does have an ultra chic answer, Taboo Nightclub. Taboo’s claim to fame is space, and creating that space for you for a price. The atmosphere of red chandeliers and leather chairs appeals to young professionals in Halifax, looking to “pick up” by inviting someone to their privately reserved booth. This “ultra nightclub” houses 10 private booths, ranging from a cozy spot for 8 to a space for 100 of your closest friends or guests. Taboo goes late into the night with last call at 3:30am, minus the wet t-shirt contest.
Taboo offers a variety of packages to suit its clients’ needs, each with an assigned host or hostess, a private booth for the evening, complimentary admission and coat check. This would be the spot where martinis are pinched between manicured fingers. Similar spots would be Mosaic Bar, on Argyle Street, as well as The Bitter End, just next door to Mosaic.
For the indie cowboy/cowgirl who loves experimental or great independent music, the Seahorse is the right spot. First and foremost, The Seahorse Tavern states that it’s a live music venue and one of “Halifax's only sources of top quality original talent. “ They don’t write cheques they can’t cash: Thursday nights feature a great local electronic band called the Melotones, hailed as one of Halifax’s best funk and R&B bands. The only downside of the Seahorse is that it is another sardine can where space is concerned. Often packed with converse-wearing band followers, this place requires a bit of patience and is not for the uppity crusts with a lack of open mindedness. The plus side is the Seahorse is located dead smack in the middle of downtown Halifax, The Tavern has survived for a long time - it’s been around since 1948 - and it’s got a reputation to stand on. Gus’s Pub is of a similar ilk and is located in Halifax’s North end (it’s even seedier but is a hot bed for local, loud talent).
Also located in the downtown area, this restaurant and bar is famous for its organic, macrobiotic menu with locally grown ingredients. Local artists play this venue for its quiet allure and support. If you want to meet locals, chances are they’ll be here. Boasting an impressive wine list and environment-friendly organic ingredients, the taste is excellent. This is a preferred destination for those lovers of the earth and nature.
If you feel the urge to guzzle down some excellent local or imported drinks with some buddies while listening to live music, then step into the Pógue Fadó. The atmosphere and food at this place is Irish-influenced, but ranges from country to acoustic to pop. Pógue Fadó is reputed for its mammoth Jumbo Wings, which are served five nights a week. This bar also features trivia nights every Tuesdays, and student nights every Thursdays (a crowded and drunken night ensues so maybe choose another night if you want room to jig!). Pógue Fadó is a great spot for happy hours and floor thumping good times. High energy required for this spot.
The Split Crow, a popular pub with a good selection of beer and great food, has been on the go for a quarter of a century. Meal prices are good but don’t come here looking for gourmet – it’s nacho, potato skin-ville. During the warmer months, you can sit outside and shoot the breeze while overlooking the cobble path of tourists and sun bums. There’s not just live music on certain nights, but every night, making this place a watering hole worth watering at! Great local talent will give you a taste of Nova Scotia tunage while sitting amongst friends.
If you want a “Stiff Drink and Juicy Steak,” that is just what you’ll get at Ryan Duffy’s Steakhouse - that’s their motto actually. Chef Chris Velden is a chef who’s focused on providing guests with local, sustainable food. Duffy’s is a bit of haunt for the Halifax business elite, but anyone with a penchant for good steak and strong scotch would no doubt love the experience. The atmosphere is also very conducive to a romantic night out amid fine stemware, linens and meticulous service. You can’t dance here, but you can bar mingle and drink with class among a more mature lot.
Long considered a bit of a den for the artsy and media types of Halifax, the Economy Shoe Shop is a cobble-floored den on Argyle Street. The Shop doesn’t have any particular design theme besides retro-labyrinth, but cozy nooks and crannies throughout this downtown space echo sounds of jazz music, live or ambient. Monday Night Jazz, monthly art shows, live bands, a fabulous artichoke dip and a full Belgian beer bar make this haunt a great choice. This bar is also attached to the Sea Horse Tavern, so you can have a two-for-one experience.
Tiny and tucked away on a small street just off Spring Garden Road, Tom's considers itself “more New Orleans than Nova Scotia.” True to its name, the bar used to welcome cigars and pipes, but a provincial smoking ban quashed that. Still, the menu is eclectic, spanning several countries which appeals to local, relaxed but cultured types. North Atlantic fish cakes with a hoppy beer make a great combo. Local beers are served by peppy staff, and this hideaway bar offers an opium-den- like appeal with maritime friendliness.
There you have it! Ten of many bars in downtown Halifax worth visiting…or staggering out of.