The nightlife “bar” is high, but readers agree that atmosphere, drink specials, and a great place to hang top the list of what makes Salem bars top-rated, “Best Of” quality.

Downtown, it seems that singles love themselves some Venti’s Café. Tyler Gresley, kitchen manager at Venti’s, believes that it’s the laid-back urban edge that gives the restaurant with the downstairs bar top ranks. “We really have a diverse crowd.” A lot of people cruise through Venti’s, but the basement bar is set up for patrons to stay, chill and mingle.

“I think it’s that Moroccan spice that might be why we are a popular place. It puts people in the mood to get to know each other,” Gresley said.

With dim lighting and a long bar, a good connection is just natural. “The bar is uniquely set up for singles. It’s the dim, relaxed, easy atmosphere. It’s easy to communicate with people. The bartenders are friendly, and everyone is taking it easy,” said Gresley. “We do have a lot of people who come in as individuals and before we know it they are coming in together.”

Tyler spends the majority of his time at Venti’s. In fact, it’s where he met his wife. “Technically, we met and she started coming in. Years later we decided to get married. But it started out as a friendship, and I guess that is how it always starts at Venti’s.”

Just in case you have already had the greatest connection of all time and you are looking for a place to grab a martini before heading home for dinner, Salem thinks Alessandro’s downtown is a “Best Of” kind of place to grab a martini!

“We are a great place to have happy hour,” said Molly Brittan, manager at Alessandro’s. “We have several of our most popular appetizers at half price between the hours of 5 and 6 pm. We are still generous with our portions. People can choose between pizza, crab cakes, and salads. There are a lot of different options,” said Brittan. “Our specials really are on the food. It’s the same quality, just at a certain time. People can sneak in for a deal.”

“We get a lot of repeat business, we have our A to Z martini menu, and customers like coming in after work,” said Brittan. If you are expecting a dark hole in the wall, think again. The atmosphere is a long bar with several tables, and an art gallery with an open ceiling.

“Our bar area is an extension of our main dining area. Lots of lighting, nice atmosphere and brick work that adds character,” said Brittan. “The food is great, and the atmosphere is wonderful. We have a great staff. It really is a great place.”

Best bar

First place: Brown’s Towne Lounge

189 Liberty St NE # 112

503-391-9977

Second place: Windjammers

3890 Commercial St. SE

Third place: Venti’s

325 Court St. NE

503-399-8733

Best college bar

First place: Magoos

275 Commercial St. SE

503-363-5836

Second place: The Ram

515 12th St.

503-363-1905

theram.com

Third place: Copperjohns

195 Commercial St. NE

Best singles bar

First place: Venti’s

325 Court St. NE

503-399-8733

Second place: Copperjohns

195 Commercial St. SE

Third place: The Brick

105 Liberty St. NE

Salem, OR 97301

503-375-0959

Best neighborhood bar

First place: Brown’s Towne Lounge

189 Liberty St NE # 112

503-391-9977

Second place: Windjammers

3890 Commercial St. SE

Third place: Venti’s

325 Court St. NE

503-399-8733

Best happy hour

First place: Alessandro’s

120 Commercial St. NE

alessandros.net

Second place: Applebee’s

Multiple locations

applebees.com

Third place: Venti’s

325 Court St. NE

503-399-8733

Best cozy bar

First place: Brown’s Towne Lounge

189 Liberty St NE # 112

503-391-9977

Second place: Venti’s

325 Court St. NE

503-399-8733

Third place: f/stop Fitzgerald

335 Grove St. NE

f-stoppub.com

Best bar wait staff

First place: Venti’s

325 Court St. NE

503-399-8733

Second place: Jammers

1897 12th St. SE

503-362-7494

Third place: The Brick

105 Liberty St. NE

503-375-0959