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Inside a trio of Charlotte's quirkiest watering holes

The Thirsty Beaver

The Thirsty Beaver is a place to mention if you want to see your more, uh, tightly wound friends do a double-take when you tell them the name; and if you like drinking at a place that looks like a dive, yet is smoke-free. For the smokers among us, that can be an inconvenient flaw worth overlooking. Brian Wilson, an amiable guy who started the bar with his brother, Mark, says he wasn't sure how people would react about not being able to smoke, especially in a honky-tonkish bar that pays homage to country music's greats. "We were real worried initially, but we've gotten a great response," Brian says.

Since opening in January, the Wilsons have gathered a few funny tales from patrons. One favorite comes courtesy of a guy in his 60s who responded in a most candid way when Wilson asked him how he was doing: "No, it's not OK," the guy responded. "The guy who lives down the hall from me keeps getting me in trouble with the hallmaster. Last night he told the hallmaster that I had three hookers in my room. I had two hookers in the room, and I sent one home because she smelled bad.

"People just won't leave you alone!" he finished.

"I know exactly what you're talking about dude," Brian recalls telling him. "He was just adamant about the number of hookers in his room."

Brian's happy to attract entertaining characters: "We like little, small places and wanted to have an atmosphere where everybody felt at home."

The Thirsty Beaver, 1225 Central Ave.

Petra's Piano Bar & Cabaret

Reasons to go to Petra's:

1. The bar itself -- which boasts wood and glass materials -- is pretty. Some might even call it classy (not upscale, of course).

2. The line to the ladies' bathroom is often shorter than those at the neighboring Penguin or Thomas Street Tavern.

3. The guys are cute and gentlemanly. For gay guys, the appeal is obvious. For straight guys, you won't have to worry about a bunch of sloppy meatheads interfering with your game.

4. You will have fun even if you have an avowed hatred of showtunes. But an appreciation of musicals doesn't hurt.

Petra's Piano Bar & Cabaret, 1919 Commonwealth Ave. 704-332-6609

Ed's Tavern

Reasons to go to Ed's:

1. You're tired of the bars around the Park Road Shopping Center.

2. You like a good drink special and a comfy booth.

3. Ed's Disco Fries (gravy cheese fries). Most places around here don't have gravy fries, and these would make Nicole Richie dig in.

Ed's Tavern, 2200 Park Road. 704-335-0033. www.edstavern.com

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