Best Underground Club: The Billiken Club (21 N. Grand Blvd., 314/977-2020, www.myspace.com/thebillikenclub ) is literally underground, in the food court of the Saint Louis University student union. But those humble digs don’t keep the Billiken from booking top indie acts like Mountain Goats and Do Make Say Think — and the sound is surprisingly excellent. Best of all, there’s no charge for any of the shows.
Best Place to See Live Music: Off Broadway (3511 Lemp Ave., 314/773-3363, www.offbroadwaystl.com ) is all about the music, and rare is the night when the place isn’t packed. Off Broadway devotees truly support live shows, and the turnout is strong for local and national acts alike. Drinks are cheap, the sound is great, and recently the whole place went smoke-free.
Best Place for the Blues: At B.B.’s Jazz, Blues, & Soups (700 S. Broadway, 314/436-5222, www.bbsjazzbluessoups.com , daily 6 p.m.–3 a.m.), passion for the blues is palpable. Late greats Johnnie Johnson and Bennie Smith had regular gigs here, and the place is always packed with casual fans, aficionados, and legends in the making.
Best Pub: Spend an hour or two at the The Scottish Arms (8 S. Sarah St., 314/535-0551, www.thescottisharms.com ), and you’ll think you’ve been transported to Edinburgh. The Scotch selection is unparalleled, the kilt-wearing servers are friendly and knowledgeable, and there’s always football — the real kind — on the television. Order cock-a-leekie pie or haggis to complete the experience.
Best Subterranean Bar: Sol (4241 Lindell Blvd., 314/534-1300, Tues.–Sat. 7 p.m.–1:30 a.m.) is one of the most beautiful bars in St. Louis, in terms of both design and clientele. The gorgeous space is located under popular Midtown coffee shop The Grind; just descend the stairs and experience a slice of nightlife unparalleled in the city.
Best Cocktail List: Nhat Nguyen runs one of the friendliest bars in South City — and he also happens to cultivate one fantastic cocktail list. The drink menu at Urban (3216 S. Grand Blvd., 314/772-3308, Mon.–Sat. 5 p.m.–1:30 a.m.) incorporates fresh, height-of-the-season fruits and puts inventive twists on classic combinations.
Best Late-Night Bar: At some 3 a.m. bars, the late hours are the only selling point. Not so at Atomic Cowboy (4140 Manchester Ave., 314/775-0775, www.atomiccowboystl.com , Wed.–Sat. 5 p.m.–3 a.m.), where there are selling points by the score — including an expansive patio with an outdoor fireplace, stellar DJ nights, monthly burlesque shows, and perhaps the best margaritas in town.
Best New Old Bar: The Old Rock House (1200 S. 7th St., 314/588-0505, www.oldrockhousestl.com , Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–1:30 a.m., Fri. 11 a.m.–3 a.m., Sat. 5 p.m.–3 a.m.) is a reincarnation of a legendary St. Louis saloon, and it’s one of the most interesting places to open in the past few years. Enjoy live music on the main floor and the mezzanine, or head to the basement for scotch, cigars, and conversation. No matter where you are in the Old Rock House, you’ll feel like part of St. Louis history.
Best Wine Bar: Spending time at 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar (1913 Park Ave., 314/231-9463, www.33wine.com , Tues.–Thurs. 3:30 p.m.–midnight, Fri.–Sat. 3:30 p.m.–1 a.m.) is a lot like hanging out in a really cool friend’s amazing wine cellar. In this case, the friend is owner Jake Hafner, and his wine collection is both unparalleled and affordable. Enjoy your vino in the lovely smoke-free bar, or head outside to the lushly landscaped patio.