Eleven Essentials: The bars you need to know.

BY KEN WISER

River Gods
125 River Street, Central Square (617) 576-1881
Intimate and trendy, River Gods may be destroyed by it own success. But until the masses swamp this small Central Square Bar, its phenomenal hamburgers, generous cocktails, live DJs and fake torches make it one of the best bars in Cambridge.

Charlie’s Kitchen
10 Eliot Street, Harvard Square (617) 492-9646
To some, Charlie’s Kitchen is just the other bar on the Square with a late license. But the diner-like Charlie’s is in fact much more. With a huge selection of draft beers, a fine jukebox, live lobster and dirt-cheap food, this might be Harvard’s best dive.

Druid
1357 Cambridge Street,Inman Square (617) 497-0965
A dark Irish bar with 14 beers on tap and great music, the Druid is not exactly a traditional Irish pub but it isn’t far off. With wooden benches, a smoky atmosphere and a picture of Che Guevara, is the place to go when you’re trying to hide from the outside world outside.

Sunset Grille and Tap
130 Brighton Avenue, Allston (617)254-1331
Few bars are worth venturing over the Charles for, but the Sunset, with 110 beers on tap, is one. The atmosphere may be lacking and the food might just be okay, but with all that beer on tap – and more in bottles – it’s hard to care about anything else.

Cambridge Brewing Company
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge (617) 494-1994
Cambridge (and Harvard Square in particular) has its share of mediocre brewpubs. Fortunately, there is at least one that stands out. The CBC not only has an incredible Pale Ale, but their great suds can be ordered in an entertaining, if precarious, Beer Tower.

Tír Na NÓg
366A Somerville Ave., Union Square (617) 628-4300
Just about every bar in the Boston area claims to be Irish.  Somerville’s Tír Na Nóg, however, delivers.  A dark, but roomy pub, Nóg has a warm, Irish atmosphere that is complemented by good beer, a friendly clientele, and live music.

RedBones/Underbones
55 Chester St., Davis Square, (617)628-2200
Well-known for the best barbeque in the area, RedBones is actually underrated as a drinking destination. The beer selection tops any of its Davis Square neighbors, with everything from big-bottled Belgians to cheap, crisp Ballantine (perfect with spicy snacks from the late-night menu). Can’t decide which to imbibe? Let the upstairs barkeep spin the wheel of brews for you! Also a worthwhile stop for tequila drinkers, with excellent pint glass-sized margaritas.

West Side Lounge
1680 Mass. Ave., Porter Square, (617) 441-5566
This place will put a hole in your wallet, but it also offers, hands-down, the best cocktails in the area. If you know what an Aviation or a Hemingway Daiquiri is – or better, if you demand a bartender who can make one – then this is the place for you. Patrons with good manners have even been known to order by mood, with the masterful Misty concocting them a perfect libation for, say, Monday melancholy. Plus, it’s close to campus.

Phoenix Landing
512 Mass. Ave., Central Square (617) 576-6260
By day, it’s the best bar in Central Square, if not in Cambridge. A friendly (mostly) Irish staff delivers reasonably priced, tasty bar food and perfect pints of Old Speckled Hen. By night, a reasonable night-club – with renowned jungle, drum and bass, house and top-40 nights.

Newtowne Grille (Socrates)
1945 Mass. Ave., Porter Square, (617) 661-0706
Don’t be fooled by the tiny-print philosopher’s name on the sign. This Porter Square dive is distinctly anti-reflection. Head here after pizza next door (same name, different tablecloths) or any time when you want a beer and a shot around folks who wouldn’t think of drinking anything else.

Rhythm & Spice
315 Mass. Ave., Central / Kendall Squares (617) 497-0977
With a late license and a busy dance floor on weekends, you might compare this beyond-Central restaurant/club to the Kong. Except that there’s good music, brands of rum you’ve never heard of, and almost no chance of running into annoying classmates (unless of course, they’re reading this). One of the few Cambridge spots that justifies its cover charge ($7 on weekends).

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