347 West Main Street, Durham
Whiskey, the crepuscular liquor and cigar bar that previously occupied the Main Street elbow where beer bar Criterion is now, always made us feel like we’d dressed up for a night at the theater but then got stuck hiding from the Luftwaffe in the dark. The first thing Criterion did right was to get rid of the antiquated dress code. The second was to end the brownout and turn on some freaking lights. And the third was to stash a free bumper pool table (and table soccer!) in the back of the long, narrow saloon, complete with drink holders screwed onto the sides. Why pay money to play pool, the ubiquitous guitar of billiards, when you can play free bumper pool, the rare harp of billiards? It looks easy, but it’s really tough; the pockets are barely larger than the balls and the bumpers are deviously placed. It’s the most interesting cue game around, at least until some enterprising brewpub or retro barbershop springs for a snooker table.