Barfly’s Named One of the Best Bourbon Bars in the Country

| September 13, 2021 | 0 Comments

Yelp named Riverside’s Barfly’s the 19th best bourbon bar in the country last month. The website ranked the bars using “a number of factors including the total volume and ratings of reviews between Jan. 1, 2001 and Aug. 19, 2021.”

Barfly’s co-owner Michael Leeds said this recognition is “pretty cool.” Leeds said he committed to making Barfly’s more of a whiskey bar about six years ago and now the bar stocks about 700 different whiskeys, about 400 of which are bourbons.

Leeds is a bit surprised the whiskey program has taken off the way it has over the years. He noted that its success has him always searching out new whiskey.

“I’m not done, but I’m running out of space,” said Leeds, who noted Barfly’s has a system behind the bar to keep all the whiskeys organized.

Leeds said Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s, and local brands Sagamore Spirit and Old Line are some of the most popular whiskeys served.

Pappy Van Winkle is the most-desired, high-end bourbon Barfly’s sells. Shots start at $20 and go up to $160 for a shot from the 23-year-old bottle. Leeds said drinking Pappy Van Winkle is “a bucket list for whiskey guys.”

Pappy Van Winkle, which is only delivered in October, is difficult to get from the distributors due to high-demand. Leeds said after he was rejected on his first request, he was determined to get it the next time around and now Barfly’s now has the entire Pappy Van Winkle lineup.

Leeds said Barfly’s has to continue to build relationships with the distributors to get many of the high-end whiskeys.

At Barfly’s, most people drink their whiskey neat or on big ice cubes, but Leeds noted they do make a lot of old-fashions and Manhattans. He said they don’t have the room to be a full-blown cocktail bar, though.

Leeds said he meets new customers in the bar every time he works who are seeking out the whiskey selections. And, he said many local bartenders recommend Barfly’s to whiskey aficionados.

Barfly’s continues to also be popular for its pan pizzas, which really helped the restaurant stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are a pizza joint in the middle of the block that happens to have a whiskey problem,” joked Leeds.

While bar business was down, Barfly’s did equal its pizza sales during the pandemic to previous years due to a boost in carry-out sales. Leeds said even now with the bar open, the pizza carry-out business is still about 25 percent of Barfly’s business where previously it was about ten percent.

Leeds said things at Barfly’s are starting to feel back to normal, but noted he is dealing with “increased costs on everything,” which is impacting profits. Leeds noted he is very proud that Barfly’s has kept its entire staff employed throughout the pandemic.

Photos courtesy of Barfly’s

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