The Blue Monk
3341 SE Belmont St., 595-0575, thebluemonk.com. 5 pm-2:30 am daily.
There's something undeniably retro about grabbing a drink at the Blue Monk. Maybe it's the green vinyl booths and chairs that resemble a college rec room, or the framed pictures of Thelonious Monk and other jazz legends, or the TV perched above the door so the bartenders can watch SpongeBob SquarePants reruns on repeat, but Blue Monk's passé charm brings out the best of its environment. Lodged next to the Belmont Inn and across the street from a set of new hip dives, the bar distinguishes itself with a great happy-hour menu ($5.50 food options, including a coconut curry polenta that is much healthier than most bar food, along with $3 wells) and live entertainment in the downstairs basement seven nights a week. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
What plays: Jazz, hip-hop, belly dancing(!), book stuff.