Carmel’s not known for bars and raucous nightlife—here, the streets roll up fairly early. That doesn’t mean there aren’t places for people to enjoy a cocktail and conversation after dinner. For Carmel’s best nightlife adventures, try the handful of bars in Carmel-by-the-Sea—all casual but varied enough for anyone to find a favorite. For a pub or tavern feel, swing by the Hog’s Breath Inn, Brophy’s Tavern or Jack London’s Grill & Taproom. Carmel bars include Terry’s Lounge in the Cypress Inn, which has both indoor space and an outdoor patio with fireplaces, where you can cozy up next to your sweetie—even if that sweetie has four legs. If you love piano bars and singing along, take a little jaunt to The Restaurant at Mission Ranch, where entertainers, as well as wallflowers, are welcome. Performing arts fans can get tickets for the Monterey Symphony and performances at the Outdoor Forest Theater, but even those ensure a relatively early night.
The Hog’s Breath is one of Carmel’s most famous watering holes, and they serve a mean burger. Although it’s no longer owned by actor and ex-mayor Clint Eastwood, the Inn still serves a few menu items named for “Dirty Harry.” With an Old West ambience and hogs’ heads mounted throughout the establishment, it’s for casual gatherings rather than glitz. Visitors make up most of the clientele, with the occasional local regular. On chilly nights, the outdoor fireplaces keep bar guests cozy while they enjoy their beverages.
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This bar-restaurant in the Cypress Inn is named after the late Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son. Some of the gold discs from his days producing records for the likes of The Beach Boys and the Mamas & the Papas share space on the walls with his mother’s movie posters. In keeping with Day’s devotion to animals, on an average night there will be at least one dog sprawled under a table. This intimate hotel lounge is also very popular with locals. In good weather, the party spills out into the courtyard. But if you’re drinking outside, mind the volume: Hotel guests with a courtyard window may not want to join in your festivities.
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The piano bar at The Restaurant at Mission Ranch is one of the best places to catch sight of owner Clint Eastwood when he’s in town. But that’s not the only reason to come here. Live piano music and attentive bartenders make it a great place to relax after a busy day in Carmel. Folks who love to sing will be at home on the nights a piano player lets others have a turn at the microphone. Not a fan of sing-alongs? Swing by on a weekend night, when you’re less likely to hear inebriated amateur vocalists. If you’d rather save your vocal stylings for the shower, the bar is also ideal for people watching.
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Brophy’s Tavern is the place for those in search of a casual sports bar in a town that can have cute overload. Hardcore sports fans will find enough viewing space with a wide-screen TV in each corner, and the staff is more than willing to change a channel, as long as there’s a consensus. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, Brophy’s is worth a stop for late-night snacks and a glass of wine or beer, but unless you want to cheer along, it’s best avoided on big game days.
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