A beloved cult figure in 1990s New York City, Timothy "Speed" Levitch became locally famous for his rhapsodical, philosophical, and downright eccentric (and yes, speedy) lectures as a bus tour guide. His exceptional worldview and heartfelt, often psychedelic stream-of-consciousness performances were captured as the subject of director Bennett Miller's 1998 documentary 'The Cruise.' Levitch is back on camera, this time on the Hulu original series 'Up To Speed,' in which he crosses the United States – everywhere from San Francisco to Kansas to Virginia – in search of quirky places with cool backstories.
He also likes good beer, which is why we asked him for a list of the oddest and most history-filled bars in America. When speaking with a genius tour guide, so it goes. From the birthplace of the Bloody Mary to a ramshackle speakeasy, these bars are sure to whet your curiosity, if not your thirst for a strong stout. Launch Gallery >>
Pat O'Brien's Bar (New Orleans)
When Speed thinks back to his college days, he fondly remembers a road trip he and a few friends took down to New Orleans, where he drank his first Hurricane in Pat O'Brien's Bar. The Main Bar is said to be the birthplace of the heady drink. "It was my feeling, when I was walking around afterwards, that the Hurricane produces a custom-made delirium for those streets," Levitch recalls. "The buzz from the drink was much like a guide, helping me absorb and comprehend that very unique place." (Our sentiments exactly.)
After you've downed a couple and are ready for a livelier crowd, walk across the carriageway to Pat O'Brien's Piano Bar. The scene is deep and dark, replete with green-jacketed waiters, dueling pianos, and a copper-topped bar. Though the lines may be out the door, it's worth the wait to scrawl the title of your favorite song on a napkin and pass it up to the musicians. If you're lucky, you'll have the whole place singing with you. And although it may be tempting, just remember: no "Piano Man." [Pat O'Brien's Bar; 718 St. Peter Street, New Orleans, LA, 504-525-4823]