There are bars, and then there are bars that offer more than a drink and a meal. All across South Carolina, tavern owners are seizing the high ground with rooftop locations that offer dinner with a view - or the "low ground" with cozy, get-away-from-it-all underground spots that nurture a feeling of being welcome.
From the Lowcountry and the Grand Strand to the Upstate, here are some of the best up-high and down-low places for happy-hour reflection.
The Low: Basement Bars
The Cabana Restaurant and The Storm Cellar Wine & Cigar Bar
Established in 1996, Cabana's owner/chef offers a menu of appetizers, steaks, seafood and signature dishes, plus a varied wine, beer and spirits selection. Live entertainment on Friday nights, and a special late-night menu for after-hours dining.
Vault Martini Bar (Sheraton Downtown Columbia)
Located in this former bank's original vault, the bar is a historic centerpiece for the Sheraton lobby, great for gathering and sipping a favorite cocktail. Also hosts private functions up to 30.
Billed as "North America's greatest dive bar," this basement location at the corner of Gervais and Main streets directly across from the SC State House is the place to duck down for a drink, sandwich and the latest political gossip.
Cutty's Elliotborough Establishment
Charleston's small, local "hipster dive bar," Cutty's offers TVs for watching sports, a Tuesday night Comedy show and friendly bartenders.
The RarebitOffers a 1960s diner/cocktail vibe, with track burgers, grilled cheese and a variety of cocktails. The bartender is fond of drinks made with house-made ginger beer.
In the heart of downtown Greenville, the Basement has a regular lineup of DJs for dancing, plus drink specials on weekends and a safe environment. Strict dress codes are enforced and a "club" experience is stressed.
Open for lunch and dinner, specializing in Belgian beers and American beers made in the Belgian style. Trappe Door has a wide selection of sandwiches, seafood and more.
The High: Rooftop Bars
Offering an extensive menu including sushi, steaks, pasta and seafood, Soho is located two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and offers lunch and dinner options. At night, the lounge features low light, soothing music and modern furnishings in a "cosmopolitan" atmosphere.
Pirates Cove Lounge
In the heart of North Myrtle Beach, Pirates Cove is inside a 1940 building that once was a bowling alley (the owner worked as a pin setter in the 1950s), surrounded by nightclubs and bars. The building was remodeled and opened as a lounge in August 1995.
2nd Avenue Pier
It's hard to beat the ocean view when you're surrounded by it. The wraparound deck atop the Second Avenue Pier features comfy couches and chairs, along with signature margaritas, munchies and sandwiches. Closed in winter.
Gulfstream Cafe, Garden City Beach
Voted "best restaurant with a view" and "most romantic" by The Myrtle Beach Sun News, the upstairs deck has the Grand Strand's only views of the ocean on one side and Murrells Inlet on the other. The Gulfstream Cafe advertises its "high-end seafood in a laid-back atmosphere." Sunday brunches include a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar.
Offering views of the Ashley River and the nearby marina at sunset, Aqua Terrace is located at the Charleston Marriott in downtown Charleston. Offers a variety of cocktails and yachts passing by at sunset, a favorite time to visit.
Market Pavilion Bar
Ranked as "the swankiest of the Charleston rooftop bars," the Market Pavilion rooftop has an extensive cocktail menu, as well as wine and champagne lists. The full menu includes appetizers, pizzas, salads, sandwiches and desserts. The Market Pavilion is located on the corner of East Bay and Market Streets in the heart of the historic district.
Stars Restaurant Rooftop & Grill Room
One of Charleston's newest rooftop bars, Stars can seat 140 people, making it a choice for private events. The bar offers wines, specialty cocktails and craft beers, plus artisan cheese platters. Reservations for the dining room are recommended.
The Rooftop at the Vendue InnConsidered one of Charleston's most iconic rooftop bars, the Vendue Inn Rooftop has two separate outdoor deck areas, offering views of Charleston harbor. Dinner features a tapas-style experience, with appetizers, small plates and dessert.
Located on the famed Market Street, Henry's House is bustling on weekends, with regulars enjoying happy hour and appetizers. Also offers a full menu, and the rooftop area has two decks, while a downstairs deck is connected to the NV Dance Lounge.
SIP Whiskey & Wine
SIP Whiskey & Wine Bar is a vibrant yet sophisticated lounge with a lively full-service bar that offers unique wines by the glass, extensive whiskey labels, and SIP's signature cocktails. Enjoy stunning views of downtown Greenville from their rooftop patio.
A tapas restaurant and wine bar, The Cazbah is "a destination for creative, sophisticated, high-energy diners," the establishment says. An extensive wine list complements the tapas menu, offered in a communal dining style. The menu changes quarterly so that regulars can try new offerings.
Rooftop Lounge (Sheraton Columbia)
Located atop the oldest high-rise in Columbia, The Rooftop Lounge has views of sunsets over the city. Cocktails, wines and beers, and the rooftop is open on evenings, weather permitting.