In an area where bars like the hipper-than-thou Aalto Lounge and the meat-headed Belmont Inn can be stuffy, Side Street thrives by embracing the idea that, sometimes, a bar can just be a bar. Cavernous and dark, the candle- and chandelier-illuminated tavern is about as laid back as they come, with an exceedingly friendly staff that does wonderful things with baked Tater Tots ($4 and up). The patrons match the camaraderie, and after a long night of drinking, everybody's like family. Because of its lack of pretense, it's almost impossible not to become a Side Street regular after the first visit.
What to drink: The Creamsicle ($6) tastes just like the frozen confection and is made with vanilla vodka, fresh-squeezed OJ and cream.
Happy hour: $2.75 microbrews, $1.75 domestic pints, $3 wells; 4:30-6:30 pm Monday-Friday.
Entertainment: Pool, TV, jukebox, pinball, sidewalk seating.