I just wanted a beer and some fuel before melting into my couch for a much-needed record session. Outside it was dark and cold, and I was so worn down while sitting on a bar stool at Stetsons, I thought there was little that could disappoint me. I waited a few minutes and then flagged down the bartender to place my order.

“Could I get a Budweiser and a burger please?”

She looked as tired as me. She wearily told me that Stetsons no longer carries the King of Beers.

“Huh, how about a PBR?”

“We’re out of PBR.”

“Miller Lite?”

And off she went to place my order, with a sulky face and shuffled steps.

I’ve been frequenting Stetsons lately to try to develop a steady relationship with a local pub. I’ve always had a nearby place where the staff knows me by name, where my first beer is poured before my ass hits the stool, and where a free round is occasionally signaled by two soft knocks on the bar top. At my previous local, conversation flowed as readily as the affordable beer, and the food, while simple, was competently prepared.

Stetsons (for me at least) is not that kind of bar. Here, I’ve made better friends with the door man than most of the bartenders. The staff seems lethargic most nights, and I rarely find someone to talk to unless I’ve brought my own company. I’m not sure what could go wrong with a place that combines such a killer 16th and U location with decent prices.

Then I realize the Miller Lite I’ve just ordered was poured into a dishwasher hot glass, arriving lukewarm. My burger may have been cooked to order, but I was never asked how I wanted it cooked. It arrived with a thick crust encasing a beef patty that was as dry as 1940s-era pork chops. Over the past few months, I’ve given Stetsons numerous chances, and my last visit convinced me it’s time to find a new watering hole.

My search has me asking what makes for a great local, and wondering if other barflies look for similar characteristics. How far does one have to walk before a pub becomes a destination instead of an extension of one’s living room?  How much cash should be set aside for two beers and a burger that’s cooked properly (at least some of the time), and how should the staff and regulars interact with each other?

I’d love to hear what others deem important when deciding which pub to visit on a frequent basis. In the meantime, I’m hitting up Metro and my bicycle to see what else this city has to offer.