Jukebox Skipping

Friday, December 31, 2010

Let's Be Careful Out There Tonight

Happy New Year's Eve!  Let's be careful out there tonight kids...it's not known as amateur hour for nothing.  And always remember, that phone in your pocket is the perfect way to take embarrassing pictures of your "over-served" friends and loved ones to be posted on HitThatDive.com tomorrow.

"New Year's Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." Mark Twain

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blind Dave's Bar, Omaha -- REVIEW

5082 South 136th Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68137

I threw a dart at a map, and it landed on the Millard section of Omaha. I’ve never really spent much time there so I typed “Bars Millard Nebraska” into Google and immediately saw a place that caught my eye…Blind Dave’s Bar (The place to be seen). I love bars that come with their own cheesy tagline…so this place was a no-brainer. In doing my usual two seconds of research before I left the house, I learned that this place had been around for a while under the name Why Not Lounge… I like the new name way better.

First Impressions: Great…just a block or so before I get to the place, I have to pass an Omaha Police station, that is either a good thing or a bad thing. I’m still trying to figure out which one it is? From the outside, the place is kind of rundown and still has the neon sign for the Why Not, but only the word “cocktails” is lit. It’s busy for a Wednesday, the jukebox is cranking some type of Buck Owens tune, and I can’t help but catch a hint of what smells like a urinal puck in the air. So far…A-OK.

The Bar: Kind of what I expected, but actually a bit nicer that I though it would be. The bar seats about 12ish people and there are at least 20 tables scattered around the room. There are five beers on tap (all domestic swill) and one of the more sparse liquor selections I’ve seen in a while. But, what they lack in selection, they make up for with top-shelf choices like Patron, Grey Goose, Ketel One and even a single malt scotch. Also, there are more than enough flavored vodkas to keep Kitty Dukakis tipsy for months.

The Crowd: The male to female ratio was pretty close to 50/50. There seemed to be no middle ground in the ages, the people were either 55+ish regulars or under 25ish types that would get carded even trying to by a pack of smokes. What I did like about the people here is that they all paid the right amount of reverence to the older crowd. Older regulars should be given a certain amount of respect (they are dive bar rock stars after all) and even the youngest of the young in this place seem to understand that. Just who was the person that kept drinking white zinfandel? Yuck!

Service: I never did get the bartender’s name, but it was service with a smile to say the least. She was new to the bar, but she zipped all over the place making sure everyone had what they needed and always had time to talk to every boozer in the joint. Add to that she was Joan Jett cool (only with blonde hair) and you have a perfect bartender.

Prices: All beer, either draft or bottle, was $2.50...I can live with that. Mixed drinks and shots were going for $4 a pop. Keep in mind that they have mostly higher end hooch, and I have no problems with that price either. Not many specials that I noticed, only sign I saw was for $.50 off beers during football games. The regular prices here beat some bars happy hour prices, so hats off to "Blind Dave" for that.

Food: I did see bags of Doritos and a pizza oven…that was about it. One of these days I’m bringing my own frozen pizza to one of these places just to see if they will cook it for me. I can only assume at this place the answer would be “Of course!”.

Entertainment: The jukebox in this place kills! Well, at least the music everyone was playing killed. Hank Jr., Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakum and Johnny Cash…what else do you need. They have a dart board, pool table, and an pinball machine (circa 1982). Not a ton of TVs, but there are at least five around the bar which made it easy to watch the ridiculously named bowl game du jour (I miss the Weed Eater Bowl).

Restroom: Ooooops…sorry old man…I didn't mean to barge in on you. Use the lock next time. A single seat restroom, and as it turns out, the old man didn’t use the lock because there isn’t one. If for some reason you have to take more than a quick whiz here, bring a friend to guard to the door. Better yet, just see if you can wait until you get home.

Bartender Chat: A little of everything from Lady Gaga in Omaha (can we give this story a rest already) to dealing with kids that wake up early. But, this is how great the service is, Blind Dave’s does not have any of that Smirnoff wine-cooler stuff, so a patron asked what the bartender could make for her. The bartender said she would make her a few different things to see what the woman liked and that they would just figure it out from there. How cool is that. Now that’s service!

How Far Did My $20 Go: Had I gone the route of the guy next to me, I could have had two pitchers ($7.50) and two pints…all for twenty bucks. Even though I just went the regular pint glass approach, that will still bought me eight beers. Not too shabby.

Final Impressions: This is the perfect place to hunker down on a cold night. Cheap drinks, great service, killer jukebox…I could easily spend an entire night here again. As Hank Jr. lamented on the jukebox on my way out the door “nobody wants to get drunk and get loud… and all my rowdy friends have settled down”. Well maybe they don’t get too loud here, but they still love to get drunk at Blind Dave’s Bar…with no signs of settling down any time soon.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 5 Most Dive-Worthy Bars of 2010 -- YEAR IN REVIEW

There is no easier way to crank out a new post than the laziest of all lazy approaches, the ever-popular "Best of the Year" list. Technically it's really only the best of half the year (I didn't write my first review until sometime in July) but I only point that out because some wise-ass in the bunch is sure to bring that to my attention.

Five seems like an odd number to me, a six-pack is a much more appropriate number for this site, so I will give you the top five and then then bottom one.  Think of it like a game of "beer hunter" where you put a six-pack in the fridge and five are great and one of the them has been shaken for15 minutes and will explode all over you upon opening...aka  the "dud" that should be avoided at all costs.

The HitThatDive top five for 2010 are:

The Elbow Room -- A truly great Omaha dive. Friendly people, cheap drinks, cool dive atmosphere…what more could you want? (Well, if it also had the world’s greatest wings that would be nice too…but now I’m being nitpicky). If you love dive bars, do not hesitate to belly up at The Elbow Room…you’ll thank me when you do.

Doghouse Saloon -- Out in the town of Waterloo, Nebraska is one of the best times you will have in a bar. This place has everything you need including a great deck, great staff, fun owners, friendly people, reasonable drink prices…I could go on and on. At the very least it is a great place that, if I didn’t have prior commitments the night I was there, I could have easily stayed at for several more hours.

Crescent Moon Ale House -- This is a bar that other (and more expensive) bars in the country should aspire to be. It’s hard to find a flaw with this place. Great service. Great crowd. Incredible beer selection all in a relaxed dive bar atmosphere. I cannot stress enough that you should HIT THIS DIVE!

The Tune Inn -- DC's home of getting hammered since 1947.  It is a dive bar classic. When you're in DC, or if you live here now, go to the Tune Inn, chat with the regulars, drink really strong drinks, sit on a bar stool and belt out “Rosalita” as it’s cranked on the jukebox. This is the kind of a dive you though only existed in bygone eras.

And our number one should be no surprise...

Brass Monkey -- Our first perfect 10!  There is nothing more fun than being critical of a bad bar. Unfortunately, I loved everything about this place, and can’t think of anything to criticize. Great beer, great people, great atmosphere…you name it at this place…it was great! I’ll let Toby Keith take it from here… “I love this bar. It's my kind of place. Just walkin' through the front door puts a big smile on my face. It ain't too far, come as you are Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar…

And finally, the dud of 2010...

The Rusty Nail Inn -- Oddly enough, this has been the most read post of the year.  Bad service, weird vibe and no drink specials to speak of…why in the world someone would come in here more than once is beyond me? Do not hit this dive! This place can easily be summed up by the writing on its own restroom wall “Here I sit all broken hearted…”

This picture below is from the Brass Monkey...it needs NO caption.  Thanks for a great year everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Pug (Round Two) Washington DC -- UPDATE

1234 H Street NE
(between N 12th St & N 13th St)
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 388-8554

This isn't a full review of the place, I did that a few months ago, but I had the chance last week to stop by The Pug again (by invitation of owner Tony T.) for a shot (NOT a shooter) of whiskey. 

So let's just consider this an addendum to my first review, and I even when back and changed the original score...considerably.

Why The Pug is great:
  • Let's start with owner extraordinaire Tony Tomeldon...a guy who offered to buy me a shot next time I was in town...and then made good on his promise.  In a time of shitty bar owners (running shitty bars) Tony is a throwback owner to an era when running a good establishment was job number one.
  • There is no jukebox, the music seems to be whatever The Pug staff likes to hear. So, will you hear the Pogues?  Of course!  Will you ever have to hear some Top 40 crap?  NEVER!
  • Be a smart drinker, by sticking with the affordable prices of the swill beer, and you can drink cheap...even for DC.
  • All the free UTZ cheese balls you can eat.
  • The rules of the bar:  No idiots. No specials. No shooters. No politics. No bombs. Relax. Be cool. Drink. Behave.

I'll admit it, my original review completely missed the charm of this place.  Here's a tip if you ever get a chance to stop by The Pug, ask for Tony, tell him you read about his place on HitThatDive, and then buy HIM a shot.  I guarantee after doing that,  you that you'll have one of the best times you could ever have in bar.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nick's Bar, Pottersville -- PREVIEW

Coming December 24...a full review of the biggest gin joint ever!  Nick's in Pottersville.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Pug...Round Two -- PREVIEW

A few months ago, I stopped by The Pug in Northeast DC and was underwhelmed.  However, I did see a kick ass street musician, and was told by the owner (Tony) that he would buy me shot the next time I stopped by.  How did it all turn out?  Check back tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hit That Dive For The Holidays

Thanks to longtime dive bar wingman "Chic", I now have the perfect hat to wear into any bar in the world. My brand new cowboy hat made out of a MILLER HIGH LIFE 18 PACK guarantees that anywhere I go, someone will offer me many rounds of drinks in exchange for this swill beer masterpiece.  Hey Chic, next round of $1.00 margaritas is on me...you buy the cheap cigars as usual!

Leavenworth Bar, Omaha -- REVIEW

4556 Leavenworth Street
Omaha, NE 68106-1419
(402) 551-4850

I received a comment on our Facebook page that I needed to check out a place called the Leavenworth Bar from a guy who tends bar there on Sunday and Monday nights. According to his note, Sunday is “funday” at the place, so how could I not go and check it out.

This, however, was the first time I ever announced in advance where I was going to be. Part of the beauty of Hit That Dive reviews is that they are completely anonymous. No one (as a general rule) knows who I am, so they never know when I am doing my review. That way I get to see how people really run a bar and I can pass my findings on to those who are curious. So, let’s see how this one goes knowing that my cover could be blown at any time.

First Impressions: Leavenworth Bar is a stand alone building that clearly has been around for quite some time. There was plenty of parking space, so I parked the car and walked it. Inside is a little better-looking than the outside, but this place screams dive no matter where you look…and that is just what I love! Although, if this is “Sunday funday” I had expected a few more people in the joint.

The Bar: Exactly what you would expect…it’s almost like a bigger version of drinking in someone’s basement bar when you were younger, just on a larger scale. Eight beers on tap including the usual suspects but a few higher-end choices like Smithwick’s and two tap handles that I didn’t recognize. The bar has roughly 15 seats and there are eight sets of tables and chairs throughout. There’s an old pair of boxing gloves hanging in front of the mirror behind the bar and some hockey and boxing memorabilia hanging on the walls. So far looks like a prototypical dive.

The Crowd: A friendly mix of people. When I walked in there were four regulars sitting at the end of the bar, as well as a yuppie-ish couple that showed up. Later in the night two college dudes walked in to shoot pool and drink a few pitchers. I did however get to see my first fight! Not as good as you would expect, the male yuppie (complete with a preppy sweater) lost his cool with his phone and began slamming it off the bar and swearing loudly at it. Kick some ass dude…that phone had it coming! A bit of an odd scene in an empty bar on a Sunday night. (Angry yuppie 1 -- Smartphone 0).

Service: Solid. What you would expect from a bar that clearly has a lot of regulars, me not being one of them. The longest my glass ever remained empty was less than 30 seconds. My bartender for the evening was Rob R. (the guy who got me here in the first place) and he knows his way around a bar. As it turns out, he’s a bit of a local music legend from playing in several Omaha-based bands including one from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s named Janglepop…obviously he has been in a dive or two in his day. Friendly but not overly outgoing…he does seem to know each and everyone of his regulars. Maybe that’s why they keep coming back, because it’s sure not the prices!

Prices: I will start with the good. Stick with the specials if at all possible. Happy hour (that runs from 2-7) will get you $7 pitchers or $2.25 pints of Bud or Bud Light. They sell $2 Schlitz in a can all day and may have another special or two as well. But now the bad, a bottle of domestic beer will set you back $3.25 and a pint of Smithwick’s (that’s what I ordered) will set you back $4.25...each. Not good prices at all. I’m pretty sure I pay less than that at the Midtown Crossing Cinedine movie theater…a place I would expect to pay in excess of $4 a pint. Bring extra cash or show up already with a cheap buzz if you’re goal is to tie-one-on here.

Food: I saw a few bags of chips on a back wall by a refrigerator. That was it. There is also a Bronco’s next door and the yuppie couple ran over there to pick up a burger and some fries to bring back…there did not appear to be a corkage fee for that convenience.

Entertainment: Like I mentioned earlier there is a pool table along with a dartboard and jukebox…all fairly standard issue. There are five TV’s, and as I can attest, it’s not a bad place to watch a football game.

Restroom: If you take a look at the preview of Leavenworth Bar, you will see just how crammed the mens room is. It’s the size of a big closet…I couldn’t even move back far enough to take a good picture of it. One urinal that is situated right next to the sink and one toilet behind a short wall with no door. Did I mention that there’s a Bronco’s next door?

Bartender Chat: I’m not a regular, the Steelers were on TV, and Rob R. seems like an all business type of bartender so not a lot to report here. The yuppie couple next to me were easy to talk to about sports, so that consumed most of my chatting in-between commercials. I thought about revealing my identity, but did not want to somehow taint my review.

How Far Did My $20 Go: Ugly. Four pints and a tip. I could have opted for Schlitz in a can and had nearly 10 of them, but it was a Sunday night and I was not in the mood to feel like shit on a Monday morning.

Final Impressions: Not as great as I had hoped. Fine place, Rob R. is a well-traveled barfly, and the people in the Leavenworth Bar all seemed like good folks. But those prices…maybe that’s a typical price for beer in that part of Omaha…but if that’s the case why are drunk driving arrests on the increase? My only bummer of the night, I was the only one who didn’t get a basket of peanuts placed in front of me. Again, maybe one has to earn them by being a regular, or maybe I just need to start brining my own when I do a bar review. In any case, stop by if you’re ever in this area, but no need to go too far out of your way for this one.


Leavenworth Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leavenworth Bar, Omaha -- PREVIEW

One is the sink and one is the urinal, BUT, can a drunk guy tell (or care about) the subtle difference?  Check back tomorrow for a review of Leavenworth Bar. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Nest Lounge, Omaha -- REVIEW

2638 S 158th Plaza
Omaha, NE 68130
(402) 330-4855

A few weeks ago I was reading one of Omaha’s weekly city papers and saw an article for a place that said “The lounge chairs and bar stools are exceptionally comfortable, and encourage guests to kick-back, relax and stay for a while.” The article (I’m sure it was really an ad disguised as an article) also stated “They have a fun and welcoming environment that has yielded a loyal clientele, and become a favorite watering hole for many.” Then I realize…this is the place connected to a pre-school! I’m going!

First Impressions: Yep…this place is in the same building as a pre-school. Unless the playground in front of the bar is for the patrons? Walking in the door I immediately thought the place smelled like an old Vegas casino, you know the places way (way) off the strip where they still have $2 blackjack. But, it looked like a lounge should look and did seem rather comfortable in a 1970’s loungy sort of way. So far so good.

The Bar: They weren’t kidding, there are a lot of places to “kick-back”. The bar seats 20 people or so comfortably, and there are roughly 20 tables with padded kitchen chairs on coasters at each table. They do look rather comfy I suppose in a groovy 70’s way (hey this is getting “loungier“…is that a word?). Five beers on tap including Sam Adams Winter Lager and the usual domestic stuff. But, in what I can only assume is cardinal sin of Omaha bars, they ran out of draft Bud Light (not that I was drinking it …but still). They have the standard issue Jager machine, but in a new twist I had never seen, they also have its next of kin …a Southern Comfort machine (just writing that gave me the shivers)

The Crowd: When I got there (which was around 6:15 on a Wednesday) there were 10 people in the place all over the age of 50. By the time a left, several beers later, there were at least another 15 people that came and went including a younger couple and a dude in his 20s drinking alone. By 7:00 pm, a loud table of drunks behind me were leaving to go to another bar (wait….drunk at 7 on a Wednesday?) and if I overheard them correctly, wanted to go to a bar closer to home so they don’t have as far to drive while hammered. Can’t argue their logic I suppose.

Service: I was barely even in my “comfortable” bar stool before my bartender for the evening swooped in for my drink order. Nice! This is how great of a bartender she was the entire time I was there…if my pint glass had a low-fuel indicator like my car does, she never even let the glass get to ¼ of a tank before asking me if I was ready for another one. Loungy feel…good service…this place is growing on me.

Prices: They have some specials listed like $2 PBR all day and $1.75 Miller High Life bottles at happy hour. I, however, was a bit disappointed that I was paying $3.25 for a run-of-the-mill domestic pint. They seem to have some decent weekly specials including $1 draft nights, $5 pitchers on Sunday, and $2 wine, wells and domestic draft on Tuesday. Make it a point to ask about specials when you sit down…that can greatly impact your drinking dollar here.

Food: No menu…but it seems like they do provide free food every so often including during Husker football games. I also read that they have menus behind the bar from other restaurants that will deliver and they’ll let you order food right to your bar stool. I like that idea.

Entertainment: The standard issue Golden Tee game, a dart board (with the throwing line directly in the path of the way to the restrooms) and a pretty kick-ass jukebox. There are 7 TV’s in throughout the bar, although some are on the smallish side. According to the ad I read, “Regulars of the bar boast that the place has one of the best jukebox selections in town.” Not sure I would go that far, but it had a great speaker system, and I guy I assume was one of the owners, was playing some great tunes. The place really seemed to pick-up when the music kicked in (or maybe it was the beer kicking in).

Restroom: Kind of confusing to tell which was the men’s and which was the women’s. As it turns out folks, men’s is on the right. But, the door to each was open, and as you wash your hands in the men’s room you can see the sink in the women’s (Why I point that out I have no idea.) As far as a useable restroom it was fine. Standard size and not all the dirty. Fine enough as far as I’m concerned.

Bartender Chat: In an attempt to change the "kicked" But Light keg, bartender extraordinaire Joanne removed a bottle of “Sunny D” from the cooler. I asked her how many drinks she makes with a kid’s juice, and her answer was “none“. Now, I’m not a bar owner, but if I was and my bar was next to a pre-school I suppose I would keep the stuff on hand too. Not sure why, but it just seems like it would be the right thing to do. If nothing else, who’s meeting me there for a Sunny D Bomb some day?

How Far Did My $20 Go: Not as far as I had hoped. At $3.25 a pint, that’s just enough  for five domestic pints and a tip…not quite what I though I would be paying. On the other hand, if you’re not loyal to one drink or beer, always go with the nightly special at The Nest. You will clearly get more bang for your buck.

Final Impressions: They were right…this place IS comfortable. At one point, and maybe it’s the time of the year, I felt like George Bailey having a few at “Martini’s” bar. This is a good place to come with friends and get loud and drunk, or a place you can come to by yourself and just sit without anyone hassling you. The more I was at The Nest, the more the place grew on me, which is why I am struggling to give it a final rating. Anything above a 5 means you should Hit This Dive…and this place clearly scores above that. If the non-happy hour prices were better, I would like it even more. As it is, it comes in better than the Wet Lounge but not quite Zogs…two other places in the same general area.


Nest Lounge on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Nest Lounge, Omaha -- PREVIEW

Wow.  A few months ago I reviewed a bar that was across an alley from a pre-school.  But this is a place that's ATTACHED to a pre-school.  Is that even legal?   In any case, check back tomorrow for my review of Omaha's Nest Lounge.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dive Bar Song Hall of Fame -- VOTE

Last week I asked Hit That Dive Facebook fans to name their favorite dive bar tune of all time. For their hard work, one lucky wino will win an original, first-run, Hit That Dive t-shirt...if their song is the winner of course. The voting rules are simple:

1. Give each of these songs a listen
2. Go to http://www.hitthatdive.com/
3. Vote
4. Don’t bitch to me about the song selections if you didn’t submit a song

So, in no particular order, I give you the first-ever HTD choices for dive bar song Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turfway Grill & Bar, Florence, Kentucky/Cincinnati Airport -- REVIEW

7134 Turfway Rd
Florence, KY 41042
(859) 918-1002
There is nothing worse than checking in to a crappy airport Hilton close to midnight and seeing that their overpriced “lounge” has already been closed for two hours. I figured why not ask the guy behind the front desk if there was any place close that’s still open at 12:00 am on a Monday night...assuming he would say no.  Without hesitation he said a place called Turfway stays open until 2:30 am every night, and it’s right up the street. My choices were to go to bed and risk getting bitten by bed bugs while sober, or, making the short trip to Turfway for a few beers before returning to a bug-infested hotel room. It’s safe to assume we all know which option I picked.

First Impressions: Why am I at the Cincinnati Airport Hilton but I’m in Kentucky? Anyway…I’m not even 10 feet from the door and I can smell some serious cigarette smoke coming from inside. I make my way through the wall of smoke to find the place pretty packed for a Monday night and everybody is hammered. On the plus side, this crowd seemed like happy drunks, so being the only sober person in the place didn’t bother me too much.

The Bar: A no frills bar area. The bar itself seats maybe 10 people, but the rest of the place can easily handle 100 people. Beer choices were the usual Bud, Bud Light, Blue Moon sort of fare. This is clearly a shot and a beer type of place, but for what it is, it’s pretty big and pretty clean-looking it almost looks new on the inside. (A little detective work once I got home revealed that Turfway had been completely remodeled during the summer of 2010)

The Crowd: A mix of all day (and all night) older drinkers along with people in their twenties. Much like the bar itself, the crowd was a no frills bunch that didn’t have a whole lot to say…well not to a stranger anyway. Most people seemed to hang out in groups of 3-5 and didn’t really seem to have an interest in talking with anyone else. That’s fair enough, it’s late…you’re drunk…and your plan to get drunker. Fine with me.

Service: Bartender Joy was fantastic. She was cute in an “I’ll kick your ass” way. Kind of a modern-day Carla Tortelli from Cheers, just better looking. As fast as I (or anyone) could knock one back, she was ready to go with your next round. And this was even while watching the Monday Night Football game and checking her phone for incoming text messages.

Prices: Everything seemed to be two bucks. The beers I had that night were $2. The signs on the wall for happy hour prices said $2. Even ladies night Smirnoff Ice drinks were $2. If the local strip mall by your house has a $1 store, I guess we could call this the $2 bar. And, in my book, that’s never a bad thing to call a bar!

Food: This is the Turfway Grill & Bar, so they did have a pretty extensive menu of the usual bar food including wings, burgers and sandwiches. I didn’t order anything and couldn’t smell anything either through all the smoke. You may want to eat elsewhere if you’re not a smoker…it’s that bad in there.

Entertainment: Six big TV’s and a dartboard. This looks like it would be a great place to watch a sporting event…especially if you’re a Bengals fan. They also seem to have the usual Karaoke on Thursday nights and live music every Friday night. Plus they have most of the usual DirecTV sports packages as well, so it seems there’s always something to do here more than just drink and reek of cigarette smoke.

Restrooms: The place has recently been remodeled and that must have included the rest rooms too. Not very big, but very clean and new looking. That was kind of a shock.

Bartender Chat: Not much really. Like I said, Joy was great but not much of a talker. But, I did overhear one of the other bar staff comment that he doesn’t usually doesn’t consider the thought of leaving a bar until he’s had 8 pitchers. If nothing else, they hire the right kind of people to help out around the place. Hard drinking regulars served by hard drinking employees.

How Far Did My $20 Go: Since this is the $2 bar…that’s an easy question. 20 bucks buys you 10 beers…even I can do the math on that one. Just make sure to save a few dollars to tip Joy, if she's your bartender, I’m sure she’s earned it.

Final Impressions: If you’re ever stranded at the Cincinnati Airport for a night I would definitely recommend this place. Or, if you somehow stumble across this review and you live in the area (and don’t mind smoke) this is a decent little place. I would come here to watch the Steelers kick the Bengals ass if I lived in the area. Again, the big warning with this place is the smoke. I forgot just how disgusting your clothes can smell in the morning after marinating in smoke for an hour or two. But, in any case, HIT THIS DIVE.



Friday, November 19, 2010

The Draft House Sports Bar and Grill, Omaha -- REVIEW (Sports Bar Edition)

The Draft House -- Sports Bar Edition
1201 S 180th St
Omaha, NE 68130
(402) 884-2845

This is the first in a series of weekend reviews of places that claim to be "sports bars". As a Pittsburgh sports fan, that no longer lives in that part of the country, I rely heavily on sports bars to watch Steelers games during the season. But, as you quickly learn, not all sports bars are created equal.

So with that in mind, first up is West Omaha's Draft House that claims to be a sports bar (and grill!). Now, I've been in the place more than once in the past and know for a fact that it also can claim to be a meat market, a good place to see a fight, or a place where the bar staff, at one time, would flash their tits for $5. But, is it really a good sports dive? I decided to put the place to the test on a Saturday afternoon before the Huskers played a night game. Knowing that Omaha is a big college sports town, I figured this was a good way to see how good of a sports bar/dive the Draft House really is…or isn't.

First Impressions: I've been in here many times so I know what to expect (at least looks-wise) when I walked in the door. For 2:00 pm on an action-packed afternoon for college football the bar was quiet and had a whopping 6 people in the place. The upside is that I will not have a hard time finding a seat, the downside is that empty bars usually make for boring reviews. Oh well, the show must go on.

The Bar: There were three people sitting at the bar and another group of 50 year old gamblers at a table on the back wall. The Draft House lives up to its name with roughly 20 beers on tap including the usual list of swill beers, but also a few other higher end choices like Bass, Smithwick's 2 Below and Guinness. Like most bars these days, they carry enough vodka to drown a horse and they also have the seemingly required chilled Jager machine. The room is a big "L" shaped area with a long bar, DJ area, tons of tables and now even comes equipped with a stripper pole (is stripping considered a spectator sport?).

The Crowd: While the place only had a handful of afternoon boozers, they were all very into the games that were on TV. Even the one and only woman in the place seemed to be watching the various games on TV as intently as the dudes she was there with. By the time I left, the crowd grew to about 15 people….but keep in mind…if you're coming here for a Husker game arrive early. I have seen this place packed for a Big Red game before.

Service: Since the Saturday afternoon crowd can be described as sparse, there was one bartender on duty for the entire place. She too was a football fan, cute (like most Draft House staff seem to be), and pretty good about keeping my pint from getting empty. Although, how hard is that to do when I was one of seven people seated in the place?

Prices: I was drinking nothing more than Miller Lite pints and paid $3.25 each…not a great price. I asked about any football-based specials and found out that there are NO specials on Saturday afternoon. However, I did see a sign for a Miller Lite "special" during the Nebraska game. The "special" is that they take a whopping .25 cents off of the regular price making it three bucks. WOW! They also sell $10 buckets during Husker games too. A few signs in the bar alerted me to a few other specials during nights where there are big sporting events. Monday Night Football has $1 Bud cans. Thursday night football has $10 buckets. Sunday night football offers $10 buckets along with 25 free wings. And even though Wednesday nights aren''t a very big sports night, they have their best special of the week then which is 34 ounce beers for three bucks.

Food: I didn't eat there this time around, but have generally always liked their food. Of course all I've ever ordered there are wings and french fries but both are usually very good. They have a full bar menu and the food is generally well-priced…unlike the drinks.

Entertainment: There are TVs everywhere, but it seems like they are always hard to see no matter where I am sitting. Another problem is that they have DirecTV and COX as their cable provider which means the feeds come in at different times even for the same game. So it's not unusual to be watching one TV and notice that the same game on a different TV in the bar is a good 10 seconds ahead of the one in front of you. It's odd to hear people in the same bar cheering for a touchdown (in the same game you're watching) long before it happens on the TV you're sitting in front of. Other than that oddity, they have the usual Golden Tee and a new boxing machine along with a juke box and the aforementioned stripper pole. (Editors note: Knowing what this place is like on a Friday or Saturday night when it goes from "sports bar" to "meat market" I can only bet that stripper pole sees action the entire night.)

Restroom: I remember the men's room in the Draft House being cleaner than it was on this trip. In any case, it's big, pretty clean and has a TV above the sink so you never have to miss sports action even if you have to take a whiz (or is it wizz). That's a nice touch I must say.

Bartender Chat: Maybe it's just me, but in the few years I've been gong to the Draft House, I have never really ever had a conversation with any of the staff. They usually bring you your order than go stand at the end of the bar checking their phones for new text messages. So other than "What can I get you?" "Do you want to start a tab?" and "Do you want another beer?" There is never a lot of bartender chitchat going on…but like I said….maybe it's just me.

How Far Did My $20 Go: This way pretty disappointing. Even at the height of the college football-watching day, you can get roughly 5 pints of domestic beer at the Draft House, depending on how much you're going to tip. And even had I stayed for the Husker game, I would have only been saving a quarter on each beer I ordered. Definitely NOT the best prices in town.

Good Place for Sports: Ummmmmmm…sure. Is it a great place for sports…(Other than Nebraska games?) not so much. It's not awful, but it is no way like going to DJ's Dugout where the place is usually packed with loud cheering sports fans. You'll never walk out of here after watching a sporting event and claim to have had a bad time…it's just there's not really anything going on during the day that would make you think you had a great time. I'm not really sure I would classify this as a sports bar…it's a bar that plays sports on TV…but I think more than anything it's a place to come on weekend nights to try and score a drunken hook-up…and that is a sporting event of a very different nature.


Draft House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stoli's Lounge, Omaha -- REVIEW

Stoli's Lounge
715 North 120th Street
Omaha, NE 68154-4212
(402) 614-2662

As you can tell, I have a very scientific approach to how I pick bars to review (that's a joke), but, I am always a sucker for a place that has a martini glass (with an olive) as part of its logo. It just so happens that as I was stopped at a light on 120th Street, and looked out the car window to my left, there it was…the sign for Stoli's Lounge...with a martini glass! My kind of place! Well at first glance it's my kind of place…that's why I actually go in to do the reviews, but I digress…

First Impressions: It's yet another Omaha bar in a strip mall (I have to get over this hang up some day). Walking into the place it's a lot bigger than I thought it would be from the outside, it's actually very clean and there are a ton of signs for specials all over the walls. So far, so good.

The Bar: It's a big bar, with a lot of places to sit…not only at the bar itself…but at tons of tables in the bar area as well. I took a seat at the bar with HitThatDive logo designer Nate Voss and we both asked the same question at the same time "Is the bar really tall, or are the seats really short?" Either way, it feels like your first time eating at the "adult" table for Thanksgiving after spending your entire life eating at the "kiddie" table. Behind the bar, Stoli's Lounge is very well-stocked and very, very orderly…nice work. Looking around they have about 10 beers on tap, just about any kind of vodka you can name, and they have the always dangerous machine that serves chilled shots of Jager.

The Crowd: For a mid-week Happy Hour crowd, the bar was pretty packed. Most of the people seemed like regulars, but, everyone was very friendly and willing to jump into any conversation that I was having. It was for the most part, a late 20's early 30's crowd, mixed in with a few other people that clearly headed straight from the office to bar. The conversation of choice, at least this night, was clearly quotable movie lines. One of the friendly regulars also told me that thebartender pours with a "nice, heavy hand." Are there any better words to hear about your bartender than that?

Service: In a word…great. The bartender (who was hilarious by the way) never let our beer get cold, could quote lines from any movie mentioned (I'll have a diablo sandwich…), and generally seemed like a funny guy. It's been all too rare lately where I walk into a bar and can shoot-the-shit with my bartender…question….isn't that part of the job? Well, maybe not, but if you're looking for a good tip (or review for that matter) it should be part of the regular job description. In any case, the bartender at Stoli's Lounge knows what he's doing, and even has time to update his Facebook status without missing a beat!

Prices: Come for the service, but stay for the prices! Like I said, there are signs for specials all over the place. I was there on Wednesday so it was $1 drafts and $3 Jager bombs. But, pretty much any weeknight there are killer drinks specials: $2.25 domestic bottles on Monday, $6 pitchers on Tuesday, $3 Captain Morgan's on Thursday (plus Karaoke)…you get the picture.

Food: Come here thirsty, but not hungry. No food. Not even sure that I saw potato chips.

Entertainment: A few TVs throughout the bar (tuned to Top Gun when I was there), a separate room with pool tables (free pool on Monday night by the way), a pretty cool-looking boxing machine, and a juke box. Not sure how good the sound system is because Top Gun was on, and with the crowd that was at the bar…we all knew every line of the movie. "Iceman: You two really are cowboys. Maverick: What's your problem, Kazanski? Iceman: You're everyone's problem. That's because every time you go up in the air, you're unsafe. I don't like you because you're dangerous. Maverick: That's right! Ice... man. (Come on, you know the rest….someone fill in the blank.)"

Restrooms: Big. Clean. Nothing great, but nothing that should be avoided either. And again, why don't more bars do this…they had signs for drink specials all over the walls. I mean, why not give your customers something to read while they're in there and also promote your bar? 

Bartender Chat: You name the topic (pop culture-wise) and we covered it. Lines from Predator…check. Lines from Smokey and Bandit…check. Latest in sports news…check. A discussion on the Top Gun volleyball scene….check. Did we delve deep into our thoughts on how to achieve world peace? NO! We were in a bar…this is a place for meaningless banter! And, that was never at a loss the entire time I was here.

How Far Did My $20 Go: It was $1 draft day…even with two of us drinking from my 20 bucks we dinged up a grand total of $8. Most of the really good specials seem to be Monday-Friday, so read the wall when you get here and you can tie on a pretty nice buzz and still have some cash for Taco Bell on the way home.

Final Impressions: This is a great bar. Good crowd of regulars, great bartender, cheap specials…not sure what else you could want in a place? It's in a bit of an odd location, but other than that, next time you're leaving Costco in West Omaha you should most definitely Hit This Dive!