Best Neighborhood Bar (West County)

Balaban's Wine and Tapas Bar

The best neighborhood bars are the inconspicuous ones, the hidden-in-plain-sight types so conducive to ducking into on your way home from work or picking up some laundry detergent. And so it is with Balaban's in Chesterfield's Dierbergs Market Place. Helpful, too, are bartenders such as Adriane, who lean into a pair of businessmen bellied up to the bar with a conspiratorial, "So, I'll be seeing you for the first time this week on...Wednesday?" Even though it's actually Monday. But why wait till midweek to slide in for happy hour when it's offered Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.? Most of Balaban's wines by the glass are already in the $7 to $10 range; during its "Afternoon Delight" happy hour, that price cuts in half. So, too, do all beer and cocktails — the French 75 is an indulgent steal for less than six bucks. A rotating selection of flatbread pizzas — think applewood bacon and carne picada — are $6, while the smoky-rich trout pancake and cheese plate are even less than that. But you'd be wise to put all the cash you saved to good use: For the aforementioned businessmen, it went right back to the tight-lipped Adriane, assuring her, "Your bribe money's included in the tip."

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