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.

Dive-O-Meter
6

 

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.


Dive-O-Meter
5

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!


Dive-O-Meter
7.5