23 January 2010

There's Something Good About Having a Favorite Bar

My favorite bar is located in the woods, on the shore of a large lake. It's old, built in the 1920s by Polish immigrants, on land they bought from Charles Comiskey, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Comiskey field. It's in a log building well preserved and lovingly maintained with stone fireplaces, wood floors and a shiny wood interior. And a beautiful wooden bar with agreeable bartenders and good food.

There are no road signs, no electric arrows that tell you where it is. I learned of it years ago by word of mouth. I'm not going to tell you its name, but I may take you there when you visit.

Most of the people in the bar are local, or have owned cottages in the area long enough to be considered local. It's not a place to bring a tourist attitude. It is a place where someone my yell when you walk in the door "Hey Al, the more you come here the uglier you look!" Or maybe "I thought were dead. Maybe you are. It's hard to tell. Buy a round so I know for sure." Think Cheers, with musky and deer mounts on the walls and an up-north welcoming camaraderie.

Care for a beer? Me too. The first thing a good bar needs is good cold beer. A couple pints of Guinness, bartender.

Is anyone we know here today? Let's look around.

Yep, a few familiar faces, over there, and some new ones next to us at the bar. Two hours later and the new faces at the bar are now our new friends. And it turns out we have common friends, common interests and can marvel for a moment at how small the world seems.

Lunch was ordered and served. Bison burgers. Organic, grass-fed. No kidding. Deeelicious, with sweet potato fries.

Mmm, good.

A man walks in with his two young daughters. All are dressed for snowmobiling. The girls are excited; the dad is tiring fast.

The bartender looks at him and the dad says "A cup of coffee for me and a Miller Lite for each of the kids. Maybe they'll sleep for a while." The cup of coffee hits the table and, before the two bottles of Miller Lite the bartender holds can be opened, the mom joins the group. She looks at the bartender and smiles. "Ah, no. Just two root beers, thanks." And she grimaces at the dad for an instant before they both break out in laughter.

I wish for a fleeting moment that my kids were that age again, before slipping back into the comfortable contentment with life as it is on this afternoon in this place.

My favorite bar is a place where I can have a beer or two, a good burger; talk, laugh, and enjoy the company of others, and reflect on the goodness of life.

Where is your favorite bar?


  1. Christy's Landing on Lake Waubesa. Where my 24' pontoon sits during the summer :)

  2. @Garage Mahal - I'm considering a motorcycle trip through eastern MN this summer. What areas should I see?

  3. I don't have a favorite bar but if I did it would be the one you so vividly described. If I'm ever up your way, I'll buy you a stout. Or three.

  4. Where is your favorite bar?

    I favor dives. You can find one in every town. I always have.
    In Europe, my favorite Zurich dive was called the Rheinfelder Bierhalle.
    Now, beer halls in Switzerland and Germany are a little different than in the States. First of all, there really are those long tables with bench seats that kind of forces you to sit and have conversations with strangers, at first at least. German beer halls have what's called Stammtisch seating which translates badly, but loosely refers to preferred seating for regulars. So if you hang out for any length of time, you'll soon notice that the same guys (and they mostly are guys) sit at the same place every night. It's kind of like high school lunch tables or something.
    So we used to go to the Rheinfelder once or twice a week, every week for about two years. We never become regular regulars, but well enough to eventually be noticed by the indigenous locals. I'll never forget our last night at the Rheinfelder (it was nicknamed "The Bloody Thumb" for reasons we never did figure out). We told somebody that it was our last time. The manager no less bought us a round of Grossis (big beers). He let us sit at the stammiest of the Stammtisches and then asked us if there was anything else that he could get us. We had long admired a small rectangular sign that hung on the wall above one of the tables and which read "Frisch vom Fass" (fresh from the keg). He obliged without thinking twice and reached up high to remove the sign for us. The walls of the beer hall were so darkened by tobacco smoke and grime that the sign left a white "tan line" behind. The sign was actually of high quality (enameled steel) and it now hangs in our kitchen above the sink. It's a still a perfect reminder of good times.
    I don't really have a favorite bar now. My best drinking days are long gone, along with several million brain cells I'm afraid. But if I had it to do all over again...I would.

  5. I don't go to bars any more but I remember with great fondness The Stein Club on Peachtree in Atlanta. It was a real dive, inhabited by college kids mostly with the best, coldest beer and the best juke box in town. And amazing, enlightening, entertaining grafitti, at least in the women's bathroom. Alas, I believe it's been demolished along with most everything else from my younger days in Atlanta.

  6. We enjoy that bar too, you should join us this summer when we go to the 10th annual Polish Regatta,because Ya' gotta Regatta!Ps: Have you seen Johnnies card trick?

  7. I don't go as often as I like, but I love my bar... I nearly always have a great time, the staff is pretty cool, they do the bar standards excellently and always try something new. I was able to connect a specialist doctor with one of the waitresses whose son had the unusual medical problem this doctor could solve. Many free drinks came my way...

  8. Hey I have so many it is hard to choose. But as a general rule it is always the one I am in at the time.

  9. I joked with From Inwood years ago that I was going to write my memoirs called "A Remembrance of Things Pabst" about all the bars I have loved that have closed. And I have been doing it on and off for about three years now. It was a lot of bars. They have a certain life and then they die. I guess that is the way it is in New York more than where you live. But you have the sieze the moment because the joint can close before you know it.

  10. But if you ever come to New York, you and me are going to have a pretty good pub crawl.


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