Friday, March 25, 2011

Happiest Hour: Charlie B's

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 3:32 PM

The weekend is fast approaching and our stomach is grumbling. We've been dreaming all day about greasy food and hoppy brew. That's why we dedicate this week's Happiest Hour to Charlie B's.

Who you’re drinking with: A regular crowd of full-time drinkers converges just about every morning before 10. On a recent late-March day, the regulars are all men. Most of them are over 40. They wear baseball caps and are missing teeth. A more mainstream crowd piles in for lunch, enjoying world-class bar food served up by the Dinosaur Café, nestled in the rear of the establishment. As afternoon wears into evening, artists, writers, college students and pool sharks pile in. Politicians love the place, too. It’s not unusual to spot Missoula County Democratic Party leaders talking strategy over whiskey on the rocks as the sun goes down and Charlie’s regulars, after putting in a full day of drinking, sink further into their barstools.

Photo by Chad Harder

Ambiance: Photographer Lee Nye’s gritty portraits of Charlie’s patrons add an artsy vibe to the joint’s distinctly blue-collar feel. Perched at the corner of space and time—a phrase coined decades ago in reference to the bar’s place in the world—Missoula Independent readers year after year vote Charlie’s among their favorite places to go "for a stiff pour.” The dive bar is also growing a national following, with Esquire Magazine last year naming it a favorite haunt. According to Esquire, Charlie’s is “Without question the best place in the country to find a beautiful woman who can gut her own trout.”

What you’re eating: Cajun cuisine, including such delicacies as etouffee, po’ boy sandwiches, jambalaya and gumbo. Nearly all menu items run less than $10.

What you’re drinking: Select from a full bar stocked with local brews and hard booze. Blackfoot IPA pints, PBR and whiskey are favorites.

How to find it: 428 N. Higgins Avenue at Spruce Street.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, e-mail

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