Esquire Magazine Names Walnut Hills Bar One of the 'Best Bars in America'

This year, "Esquire" editors named 27 drinking destinations across the country to hold the coveted title of "best bar"... and only one is in Cincinnati.

click to enlarge The exterior of Comfort Station — and its signature blue door — in Walnut Hills - PHOTO: HAILEY BOLLINGER
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The exterior of Comfort Station — and its signature blue door — in Walnut Hills

Each year, Esquire magazine compiles a list of the best bars in America. And after the hell of 2020, the 2021 list was special — almost a "return to normal."

"Bars are simultaneously a place to be by oneself and a place of community. An escape and a home away from home. That vanished as many were forced to transform into takeout joints or, worse yet, to permanently close," reads the article intro. "In a time when life and work and family bled into one another in messy ways, the bar is that much-needed extra space—physically, emotionally—that we could all use right now."

This year, Esquire editors named 27 drinking destinations across the country to hold the coveted title of "best bar"... and only one is in Cincinnati. 

The jewel in the Queen City's crown this year? Walnut Hills' Comfort Station,

Writer Sarah Rense outlines the reason she picked this bar as her favorite: 

You won’t stumble across Comfort Station. Even if you happen to be up in Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills neighborhood, the likelihood of you taking a chance on a women’s restroom door on the front of what used to be a public bathhouse is slim. But should you tentatively push through, you’ll find what feels like the city’s spiritual center. Inside, the bartenders whip out gems like Heaven, My Reward—a frothy sour with adobo chile that, yeah, is heaven—and Hot Damn, Son!, which any sucker for manhattans and oatmeal cookies will buckle for. 

Opened in the summer of 2019, Comfort Station is helmed by the team behind creative Over-the-Rhine apothecary cocktail bar Sundry and Vice. Located in a former "Public Comfort Station," this century-old building has been completely transformed and includes an expansive back patio (which is now cicada-proofed) and excellent libations.

Comfort Station posted to their Facebook page about the honor:

Last year, Wodka Bar in Over-the-Rhine was the only local drinking destination to make Esquire's coveted list. 

Dayton, Ohio's Tender Mercy also made Esquire's 2021 list, with Rense writing:

Tender Mercy opened three days before the shutdown—bad luck, that was—so for a year this ambitious oasis in the nowhereland of southwestern Ohio stayed a secret, except to the Daytonians who drank their last great cocktail there before lockdown began. Enter through the subway stairway the bar convinced the city to let it burrow into the concrete. Then walk deeper into the underground cavern, where you’ll encounter a library, a vault turned drinking nook, a sprawling bar serving draft drinks, a wall of (tastefully) naked ladies, followed by a backroom cocktail den with a fireplace and a photo of Richard Gere smoldering against the booze bottles. 

“Our team is extremely proud to bring some overdue attention to the hospitality scene in Dayton. We set out to create something special for this town, something it deserves, something it can be proud of. This honor is certainly a recognition of that effort and one we will build on as a team and as a community," says David Kittredge of The Idea Collective, the ownership group behind Tender Mercy, in a release, adding, "We’re just getting started.”

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