Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crescent Moon Ale House, Omaha -- REVIEW

3578 Farnam Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68131
(402) 345-1708

It’s no secret that I started reviewing bars for one reason…to have an excuse to get out of the house on a weeknight and pound a few beers! Of course, that excuse has been wearing thin at home, so I graciously invited my wife out on a Friday night to have a few beers with me and help to review a bar or two. I decided to let her pick the place (within my price range of course) and with very little deliberation at all, we were off to the Crescent Moon Ale House.


First Impressions: This is pretty much a college hang out, but with people of all ages all around the place. The bar has real “old school” bar stools (a plus in my book), a big Pee Wee Herman-looking bike hanging from the ceiling and signs for craft beer everywhere. All I can say is “good call so far wife!”

The Bar: What is unique about this place is that it’s really three bars in one. Where we sat was the Ale House, but there also is a German beer hall downstairs and Belgian beer tavern attached to the other side of the Ale House. There are roughly 30 beers on tap and, and as best as I can tell, another 600 (or so) bottled beers available as well…including a Belgian strong ale that is 10.5% alcohol. This is NOT where to go if you’re strictly a But Light drinker.

The Crowd: College kids. Old dudes. 30ish couples. Some people in overalls and others dressed to the “Nines”. In other words, a little bit of everything. Everyone in the place was very friendly and fun to talk to. We were there around 8:00 pm, so my guess is that as the night wears on, it’s more of a college crowd. But who cares? With this many choices of craft beer and the diversity of the people having a good time in the place, I have to assume that there is never a bad time to come here.

Service: I will go on record as saying that this was the greatest bar staff I have encountered in many, many years. The staff behind the bar were mostly women, always hilarious and all of them looked like… that in a different era…they would have been the cool chicks working at the local eclectic record shop. But, better yet, the second we sat down our bartender told us the special of the night immediately ($2.75 Abita Turbo Dog). And then she went out of her way to tell my wife how to save some money on her food order AND insisted on pouring my wife’s Boddingtons (in a can) for her. Attention bar owners in Omaha, please send your staff here for lessons on how to treat customers properly.

Prices: For the extensive list of beer that this place has, the prices are surprisingly cheap. Like I said, I was drinking pints of Abita for less than three bucks. A pint of craft beer will run you between three and four dollars, and a pitcher of the same will cost you somewhere between $10-12. Considering the alcohol content of some of the beer they have in-stock…you’re getting a pretty good buzz for your buck. I even spotted a sign for $3 Hurricanes somewhere on the wall as well.

Food: Typical bar food menu…burgers, sandwiches, many things of the deep-fried variety. I had the Buffalo chicken sandwich and it was pretty good and reasonably priced. Mrs. HitThatDive had a burger (no bacon) that also looked pretty good. This is not a place to come if you’re in the mood for anything more than your basic pub grub. But even if you find a bar with better food in the area, I guarantee you that can't beat the service and beer list here.

A/V: There are six TVs around the bar area and the sound system (cranking out a variety of 80’s oddity music) was very good. There also is a dart board, pinball machine and best of all, a tabletop video game that has several classics…most notably Galaga. (Men, here’s a tip, if you go to the restroom and notice there are 3 credits on a video game, it might be a good idea to let your date know that you’re going to make a side trip on your way back. I was KILLING it on Galaga but then noticed my wife did not look all that thrilled with me once she spotted where I was sitting. You have been warned).

Restrooms: Don’t know why, but I really was thinking these might be the only letdown in the place. And to my surprise, I was wrong. The were clean and bigger than you would think…the men’s room was of the Chuck Woolery variety (two and two)…meaning two urinals and two places to have a seat.

Bartender Chat: We talked to all the staff about many things from raising kids to how drunk people get at the annual Oktoberfest that the bar sponsors every year. But the real conversation centered around one topic, “Do people with ugly babies know that their children are ugly?” At one point most of the bar staff and several of the people at the bar debated this topic for quite some time. The verdict was split. But, more importantly, you just have to love a place where everyone, including the staff, gets in on totally meaningless bar babble.

How Far Did My $20 Go: Sticking strictly with the special of the night, $20 would have bought me seven Abitas…not too shabby. Of course I had the old lady in tow, so that cut into my drinking money.

Final Impressions: 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!

DIVE-O-METER
9

Crescent Moon on Urbanspoon


Monday, September 20, 2010

Name That Logo Contest

Thanks to the talents of Nate Voss, Hit That Dive finally has a logo!  But, I somehow seem to think that the character in the logo needs a name.  That's where you can help.  So, from now until the end of the month, send me your thoughts on what the dude in the logo should be named...and if you come up with the winning name...you will be the proud owner of the first-ever Hit That Dive t-shirt!  Entries will be accepted via the HitThatDive.com site, Facebook, Twitter or via e-mail at hitthatdive@gmail.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Pug, Washington DC -- REVIEW

The Pug

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

**Thanks to Tony T of The Pug we now have clarification on the shot versus shooter debate**

The Pug is a place that’s been on my list for several months. If you ask someone in DC about a great dive to check out…”The Pug” has been the bar I hear mentioned second most behind the Tune Inn. It’s just down the street from the Star and Shamrock and right next door to a restaurant called Granville Moore’s (one of those places made famous by some cooking show in the Food Network. Yuck)

First Impressions: Not bad. There is a nice sort of dive wannabe feel to the place. It is decorated with a ton of cool shit all over the walls and even games you can play like Barrel of Monkeys and one of my all-time favorites Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.

The Bar: There were a decent number of people sitting at and around the bar, and for 10:30 on a weeknight, that seems pretty good to me. The bar area is pretty cramped but not uncomfortable and there seems to be a decent amount of tables in other parts of the place. Behind the bar I notice a sign that reads “No Specials. No Politics. No Shooters. No Idiots” Idiots and politics I can live without, but no specials and no shooters (do they really mean no shots?) that is not a good motto for a dive to adopt.

The Crowd: Twenty-something yuppies and the usual “hipster” types. Northeast DC really seems to be a magnet for people that like to express their individuality by looking and dressing like everyone else…but I digress. How to sum it up? One of my notes reads “no sense of danger whatsoever”…and that’s not a bad thing at all. I think in the back of my mind I thought the crowd here would have a bit more of an edge to it. But all-in-all a fine-looking bunch of eager young DC beavers.

Service: Great. No frills. Very quick with the orders. Nothing really memorable, which means even with a slight buzz the bartender didn’t do anything I found to be annoying. And that is hard to do, so that’s my way of saying I liked the service…even if it was a bit nondescript.

Prices: YIKES! Since this is a retro-hipster type of place, they have the usual PBR, Natty Boh and other retro swill beers. Assuming PBR is always a nice and cheap option I order one in a can. The efficient bartender brings it over and lets me know “that will be four dollars.” For PBR? In a CAN?? Keep in mind an entire six-pack of PBR tall boys is roughly $4! I was getting ready to ask if they had any drink specials, and then I remembered the sign that said, among other things, “No Specials.” F*** me!

Food: Adding to the kitsch of this place, the only food they have (not counting Sunday brunch) is prepared on a George Foreman Grill behind the bar. Well isn’t that a cute little touch. Wait, did I just use the word “cute” in a bar review?

A/V: A few TV’s around...nothing great. The Washington Nationals were on that night, so a few of us were huddled around one of the TV’s near the bar. They actually had a decent sound system and an affinity for playing The Pogues…always a plus in my book!

Restrooms: Again what's with the DC single-seater restrooms! This one, unlike many of the others, was pretty big and well-decorated with stuff everywhere. Check out the picture, you’ll see what I mean.

Bartender Chat: The usual sports and weather chit chat. Although the bartender seemed to be tight with a few of the cops who showed up to watch the baseball game on TV. Hey, are those cops drinking beer? In the words of Sergeant Schlutz…I see nothing!

How Far Did My $20 Go: A yuppie food stamp…aka 20 dollar bill…will buy you a handful of 12 ounce PBRs in a can. And NO SPECIALS (the sign says so, remember). It’s good to see that The Pug is doing what it can to pull this country out of its recession.

Final Impressions: It’s hard not to like this place, they’ve done a nice job of making it look old and funky, even if it has only been around since 2007.   (December 2010 UPDATE)  Please follow THIS LINK to the review of my second trip to The Pug.
So, to set the record straight The Pug does allow its drinkers to throw back shots...just not "shooters".  I'll let Tony say it in his own words: "As to the shot/shooter debate, i would go with a shooter being a mix of ingredients often with a clever name. Since i'm a crap bartender, i prefer the one bottle no chilled shot. Keep drinking keep reviewing, hope to see you sat for a "drink" of whiskey."



DIVE-O-METER (New score after my second visit)
8.5


SPECIAL ADDED BONUS



I ran into this guy outside the bar…the video sucks but just listen to this guy play!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Star and Shamrock, Washington DC -- REVIEW

The Star and Shamrock
1341 H St NE
(between N Linden Ct & N 14th St)
Washington, DC 20002


(202) 388-3833

**UPDATED**
I’m always open for a recommendation of a bar to check out, so friend and photographer extraordinaire Tom Williams mentioned that I should check out a place called the Star and Shamrock in Northheast DC. Seemed like a fine enough name of a bar to me, until I looked them up on the Internet and found out that it’s a Jewish deli/Irish bar. How can I pass this place up!

First Impressions: This time around, my first impression started when I got into a cab and told the cabbie the address. His response was “why do you want to go to this part of town??” Ummmm…I always hate that question. For those that don’t know, this part of DC was severely damaged during the 1968 civil rights riots and did not start to recover until a few years ago. We get to the address and I see a sign that has a Star of David with a shamrock in the middle…this HAS to be the place! Looks brand new too.

The Bar:  Looks for more Irish bar than it does Jewish deli. And as Irish bars go, this place had your usual wood and brick look to the bar area. They had roughly 40 beers on including He'brew Messiah Bold and  Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale…at least they keep with the theme of the place.

The Crowd:  Keep in mind, that this area is the new “in” spot for urban nerds. For the most part, everyone in the place looked like they were at a casting call for the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”, except for one douche who was sporting the 70’s retro look complete with mustache, tube socks with stripes and old-school ¾ length concert t-shirt. This most definitely is NOT my kind of crowd.

Service: No complaints here. Our quiet, yet heavily tatted-up, bartender was very efficient. She was never more than a few steps away to make sure that the overpriced beers kept on a comin’. There was a large bouncer dude sitting at the door, not sure why that was needed, but I’ll assume they have him there for a reason.

Prices: I asked my usual question, “Do you have any drink specials?” Answer…no. Which means I will have to pay $7.50 for ONE half and half. At this point, I put my $20 back into my pocket and reached for my credit card. This was not going to be cheap, or reasonable for that matter.

Food:  How could I not eat? I mean, if I’m really going to put a Jewish deli/Irish bar to the test, I have to see how their pastrami on rye tastes. For about $8 you can get a sandwich, BUT, any side you want costs extra. UUUGGGGH, why do bars do that! My pastrami was good (very good actually), but in no way would be confused with a pastrami sandwich from Manhattan. The French fries smelled good, but for two bucks extra I didn’t order any, plus, that is exactly ¼ the money I will need for my next beer!

A/V: A few smallish TV’s are in the place, but not many. I would not recommend this as a place to watch a sporting event. There was some music on in the background and at one point I even heard Weird Al Yank Vic’s “Polkas on 45”. Not sure why that was noteworthy but I wrote it down anyway...I always did like that song.

Restrooms: One unisex restroom. That’s right, much like Ally McBeal, the men AND women go to the same small room when nature calls. It’s a single-seater, so it’s not like you have to share at the same time, but I just have to assume that can’t be all that appealing to any women who visit this place.

Bartender Chat: Nothing that stands out. Like I said earlier, she was a good (albeit quiet) bartender. I’m sure we made small talk, but nothing that even made it into my notes.

How Far Did My $20 Go: For twenty dollars, you can get exactly one beer and a sandwich (no sides). I’ve seen better prices in the airport! Keep in mind that there don’t seem to be any drink specials here, so be warned if you decide to visit and bring your credit card.

Final Impressions: I still think the concept for the place is great. And it is a very nice “deli” that seems to be run very well. Now, on the other hand, I have no idea why someone would go out of their way to stop here? If you find yourself in Northeast DC and are hungry for a pastrami and rye with a pint of Guinness, you won’t be disappointed. But I just don’t know how often someone just happens to be in that part of town with those two cravings at the same time? Who knows, maybe it happens all the time…but I highly doubt it. I can’t recommend hitting this dive, but it’s a fine enough place for what, and where it is, I suppose.

Apparently I did not get all my facts correct (what a shock!) Please read the following comments I received that says there are TWO restrooms and the occasional drink special.

"There are TWO restrooms. One on either side of the bar. Plus there are specials on every Jewish and Irish holiday (every 17th of the month is St. Patty's Day, for instance), and they do specials about once a week as well as live Irish music once or twice a week. Try to do more research next time. Also, prices are normal for DC. And where else can you get a reuben egg roll? Oy Vey!"

DIVE-O-METER
4

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Murphy's Grand Irish Pub, Alexandria Virginia -- REVIEW

Murphy's Grand Irish Pub
713 King Street
Alexandria Virginia 22314
(703) 548-1717

The beauty of having so many meetings in the Washington DC-area, is that I get to revisit some of the places I once considered to be great dives but have not visited in a number of years.  Murphy's in Old Town Alexandria was a place I would stop by on occasion when A) I had a few extra bucks in my pocket as a poor working stiff on Capitol Hill or B) knew that there was a designated driver in the group.  It was a Sunday night so I decided to stop by to see if the place was as good as I once thought it to be, and even if it wasn't, it was only a few block walk back to my hotel.  It's a no lose situation!

First Impressions:  For a Sunday night this place is packed.  It's a lot darker than I remember it being and the place is LOUD.  Not as in music loud, but more like extremely high-volumed drunkard babbling. I grab a seat at the bar, the only one left by the way, and wait.  

The Bar:  Exactly as you would expect from an Irish-themed place, lots of dark wood, a nice fireplace, a stage where there is live music seven nights a week, and beer.  Lots of beer!  At my count there were more than 20 beers on tap including some type of hard cider as well.  There is an upstairs bar area and a ground level bar, tonight I am feeling lazy and decide not to make any more work for myself by going up a flight of narrow stairs.  As I look around the place, I remembered the time I almost got in a fight here, it suddenly dawns on me.  I'm still waiting for a beer!

The Crowd: Sadly this has a "douche-central" vibe going on tonight.  I am stuck next to many a young Washington tool wearing jeans, polos (with the collar popped) and flip flops.  Rhetorical question, do these guys still have their mothers dress them or is look all the rage at Hot Topic these days?  The only real conversation I can hear are a group of yuppies comparing how many consumer electronic devices they own.  What ever happen to bragging about how big of a schlong you have?  I will say as the night wore on, a REALLY drunk guy from Scotland showed up and pretty much made all the douches hightail it back to their Smart Cars…where was he when I got there?  Oh, and one more thing, where's is my beer!!

Service:  (Insert rimshot here).  The kindly gent behind the bar eventually saw fit to walk over to me and enquire about my drink order.  To his credit, after he finally took my order, he did make it a point to circle back from time-to-time…not often mind you.  But, in his defense, I've seen worse.  

Prices:  This is DC, I've been told to suck it up when it comes to prices, so I won't complain too much.  You're going to pay somewhere between $5-7 per beer.  Ouch!  I was drinking Smithwick's so that was setting my back $6 a pint.  

Food:  Damn, I'm hungry now too.  If a beer takes 10 minutes, how long will food take?  Realizing it's after 9:00 pm on a Sunday, and that there won't be many places open, I decide my best course of action is to order something here. So you guessed it…wings it is!  And, you guessed it again, they took forever to make.  Once they finally decided to bring me my food, it wasn't too bad.  Of course I would have eaten an old shoe at that point (Who knows the difference between Bea Arthur and an old shoe?).  My only complaint with the wings is they are mostly baked then thrown and then briefly deep fried, so they taste more like chicken from banquet hall then from a bar.  

A/V: There are a handful of TVs in the place.  All of them are pretty small and not in great areas to get a good view.  There was a football game on at the time, and it was pretty hard to watch even from my prime seat at the bar.  Can you watch a sporting event here?  Sure.  Should you watch one here? Only if you're not really interested in the game.  

Restrooms:  Small.  Cramped. But surprisingly clean.  Single seater so do what you need to do and get out. You get the picture. 

Bartender Chat:  Name, rank and serial number.  Again, the dude seemed OK once he decided to wait on me.  But, what is the point of making small-talk with a guy who royally pissed me off only a few moments ago by not waiting on me?  In fairness, he seemed like a swell guy, but he has a long way to go if he wants to star in the remake of Cocktail.

How Far Did My $20 Go:  Three beers and a bad tip.  My 20 bucks went about as far as my car would go in DC traffic on a Friday in rain…nowhere!  

Final Impressions:  Despite my complaining, I would still suggest you stop by Murphy's if you get the chance for one specific reason…the live music.  This place has had some of the best live acoustic music seven days a week for decades.  

As soon as the live music kicks in, the place feels like St. Patrick's Day 12 months a year.  Yeah, I didn't have a great experience this time, and it is a bit pricey for my taste, but if you like to throw back a few Irish beers in authentic-enough Irish pub, there are a lot worse places out there than Murphy's.  Should you HIT THIS DIVE?  Sure…why not?  Try as I might, I always seem to walk out of the place happy, even when I sit there and bitch for an hour before the music starts.

DIVE-O-METER

5