And then there were 10.
After much deliberation, we have the 10 finalists in our N.J.’s best bar showdown.
To recap, we started last month with a call for nominations. A total of 405 bars were nominated. All were put on ballots, separated into six categories: neighborhood bars, dive bars, craft beer bars, wine/whiskey/martini bars, sports bars, and restaurant or hotel bars.
The top five vote-getters in the neighborhood bar category, plus the top four vote-getters in each of the other categories, were 25 of our semifinalists; I picked the other 25, and visited all 50 semifinalists over three weeks. I alone picked the 10 finalists; no voting was involved in their selection.
Many legendary bars were left off the finalist list, and there were surprise newcomers. But as with all of our previous N.J.’s best showdowns, this competition wasn’t about popularity, ranking or reputation — it was about the best bar, based on tradition, history, atmosphere, service, food and other factors.
You can vote starting now for the Readers’ Choice winner; the poll is below. I will pick the overall winner.
The 10 finalists are listed in no particular order.
The casually stylish restaurant/bar, with main floor bar and dining room and upstairs 1933 Room, has been open 20 years. Rick St. Pierre, owner of Verve, is a tireless booster of Somerville and often hosts fundraisers for worthy causes.
Why it made the top 10:
Swanky but not stuffy cocktail lounge surroundings, with top-flight bartenders. The 1933 Room, with its handsome bar, is a cozy little hideaway. Good food; try the Verve Burger, with aged white cheddar; the Bang Dumplings; and don’t you dare skip dessert. Recommended: the chocolate souffle, with house-made mint ice cream. Sweet dreams are made of this.
Now it gets serious. I will visit all 10 finalists starting tomorrow – two bars a day all the way through Saturday. Watch for the trip schedule later today; show up and support your favorite bar during our visit. Next week we will announce the winner live on NJ.com. Don’t forget to vote for our readers choice winner.