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
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.
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.
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.
Located in a strip mall and catering to residents in the Forestbrook area, The Basement offers happy hour prices on liquor, plus a variety of craft and imported beers (more than 40 choices). A place to stop and relax when traffic on US 501 backs up.
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.
Known for its happy hour prices on liquor and its selection of craft beers, Hurricane Maggie's has a two-level bar with upstairs pool tables and outdoor bar service upstairs. Food is reasonably priced and a locals' favorite.
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.
Crooked Floor Tavern, Murrells Inlet
Owners stress that yes, the floor is indeed crooked in the former location of the Short Bar and K-Rae's. The tavern has two bars with options to sit outdoors or indoors, while the rooftop bar overlooks Murrells Inlet's Marshwalk. Good food and drink prices.
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.
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.
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.
Considered 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.
A true wine-tasting venue, Sip has an elevated tasting room and lounge, located on the Piazaa Bergamo (above Proaxis Therapy), with more than 40 wines by the glass and two-four- and six-ounce tastings, using a WineEmotion dispenser system, which serves wine at ideal temperatures. The menu features small offerings such as cheese boards, dessert and pizzas by Chef Patrick Long of The Green Room.
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.