Atmosphere: The Union is a true blue-collar bar. Local steelworkers, carpenters and other labor union members belly up for a beer on hot, slow afternoons. Younger folk occasionally stop by for a game of ping-pong or cornhole—a popular pastime here, where players toss beanbags at a horizontal target. But at night, the place transforms into a frenzy of live music and swing dancing. Few places in town offer as lively a time for no cover. Just remember, the bar is cash-only.
What you're drinking: Pretty much anything goes here, from shots of Fireball to pitchers of beer. If the night's really moving along, try the Irish Carbomb, a Union staple. You drop a shot glass of Jameson and Bailey's Irish Cream into a half-pint of Guinness. Then you chug before the cream curdles. Trust us, the aftertaste is not unlike chocolate milk's.
What you're dancing to: Several well-known Missoula bands frequently take the stage at the Union. Some nights you might be shuffling your feet to the soulful sounds of Zeppo, others you might be spinning your partner to the rock stylings of Tom Catmull and the Clerics. Even Colin Meloy, the Helena-raised frontman for the Decemberists, couldn't resist the temptation last month to pick up a guitar and treat the Union crowd to a tune. Seriously, just try to stay in your seat. It ain't going to happen.
Happy hour: The Union offers a daily lineup of drink specials, from $3 microbrew Mondays to free pool and $1-shot Sundays. The official happy hour stretches from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with $2.25 well drinks and domestic beers. There's a reason the Union is a fave spot of ours: They know how to quench a mighty thirst.
Where to find it: Downtown Missoula, about a block up from the Elks Club at 208 E. Main Street. Just look for the big "Union Hall" sign.
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