Thursday, June 27, 2013

Heron Bay, Springfield, NE -- REVIEW

21215 South Highway 50
Sure is blue

Springfield NE 68059

I actually don't remember why I decided to find a bar in Springfield, but that was my plan for an overcast Sunday afternoon.  While performing my usual half-assed "research", I came across a few reviews for Heron Bay...and noticing (in no particular order) that it was right on the Platte River, received some very mixed reviews, clearly sounded like a dive and that it was hard to find I knew that I had found my place for the day.

Thinking back to the last time I was in Springfield, for anything, was to go to the now defunct (and lame as hell) Christmas Wonderland.  So, my only real impression of the area is from a rundown, overpriced shitshow.  Clearly this trip south will be far better...OR...was that my lame attempt at foreshadowing? Oh, just keep reading then...will ya'.

PROS:  Right on the river.  Fun staff. The band for the day looked awesome
CONS: Price of beer.  The entire area looked like the campground the day after Woodstock.  The band for the day got SCREWED by the owner.

Nice deck
First Impressions:  It's not really in Springfield, I guess.  I get to the Platte River and cross the bridge.  Shit.  I went too far.  I cross the bridge and make the first left.  DAMN that's not it either.  I head north on 50 and now go too far the other way.  WTF!  Where is this place?  Finally, I see an unmarked road on the left (once again heading south) and turn into a hillbilly village complete with assorted junk, more mud than the Warrior Dash and scattered beer cans aplenty.  20, (or so) bikes let me know that either I'm in the right place or about to forced to do the Pee Wee Herman "Tequila" dance within the next three minutes.  I find a place to park my car in "parking lot", open my door and step right into a sea of mud.  And yet...so far I kind of dig it.

The Bar: The entrance is around back facing the river, so make a walk around to the right, dodge some assorted debris and walk onto the huge two-tiered deck.  And, if you don't really look too far to your west, so you don't the bridge or the industrial buildings on the Louisville side, it feels rather secluded. I take a seat at the small, but kitschy bar and notice there are a few tables inside to sit, but the main attraction is all of the deck seating.

Could use a scrub
The bar will seat no more than eight, and is in need of of a good power washing to remove a higher-than-anticipated level of grime.  The bar does have a good crusty, beach-bar feel and look to it, but quickly turn your head and the tables and chairs look like they purchased from a Ramada in Cedar Rapids.  Of note...they have one nasty looking tap for beer in the back corner of the bar...stick with bottle or cans when you are here.  Of course, the cooler does not look much better.

The Crowd:  A good mix of older and younger bikers, complete with a dude that looked a lot like Wade Garrett from Roadhouse...down to his limp.  I would guess that 85% of the bikers here, at least when I was, were real, hard-working blue collar folks.  The other 15% were the West Omaha "biker"types that like to go slumming every now and again to remind themselves why they are better than most people who hang in local bars like this one.  There's no crime in driving your Range Rover to Whole Foods six days a week, so why every now and then act like you don't?

Service: Tim, and his super cute co-worker, were fantastic.  Fun to talk to, quick with the refills, and generally seemed to like working there which made for a great time sitting there watching the river go by.  Tim is the kind of always-happy type of bartender that when someone found something that they were looking for and said "Oh, thank God!"...Tim immediately shot back.  "You're welcome."

From the Ramada?
Price:  Because it's in a very obscure location, is kind of a dump, and frequented by a lot of blue collar people so I naively assumed the prices would be cheap(ish).  Want a domestic bottle..that's $3.25.  One of the band members (I'll get to them in a bit) payed $4.25 for a Corona...and if he thought it got screwed on the price of beer...it only got worse for Honeyboy Turner and his band of merry blues men from that point on.

Food: They have a full menu, and do take credit cards, but I didn't order anything so I can't really help on this one.  I will say that the burgers did smell pretty damn good, and a few Yelp reviews seem to back up the notion.

Entertainment:  They have a cool CD jukebox.  OK...now let's get into how to fuck over a band 101.  Long before I could legally get into bars, I spent almost every weekend in one from the age of 12 because my brother was the drummer in a bar band.   So I know for a fact there is always an inherent dislike between bands and bar owners. Bar owners always think the band should have started by now, should take shorter breaks, charge far too much money and end the set 45 minutes too early for what they are being paid.  On the flip side, most bands just think than the majority of bar owners are cheap assholes and move on with their evening.

Rat's nest
Enter Lincoln's Honeyboy Turner Band.  Unlike most bands, they showed up at least 90 minuets early and were looking for where to set up.  Seems simple enough.  I hear a rather odd discussion that the owner THOUGHT it might rain and that they should have called HER to see if she was going to cancel the gig...for no apparent reason.  For the record, it rained at 5:00 AM on that Sunday morning and not the rest of the day...IN FACT...a quick look AT THE WEATHER CHANNEL in the bar showed NOT ONE single chance of rain in a 500 mile radius.

Insistent that the band was at fault for not calling, she cancels on them...ON THE SPOT...and then refuses to pay them a dime.  Cheers to Honeyboy for being calm, cool and levelheaded about this complete lack of integrity, because let's face it, if the bar cancels the show...THE BAR NEEDS TO CALL THE BAND!  Her argument?  "The phone works both ways."  These dudes wasted a day of their time, drove from Lincoln, showed up early on a beautiful day and were told to go home.  Yes, the stage is outside...but who gives a shit IF IT ISN'T RAINING with no chance of it anywhere in the forecast!

Honeyboy, seemed resigned to the fact that the band would not get all the money for the gig, and decided he would settle for $30 in gas money.  The response from the owner?  "NO. I will not give you one dime."  Really?  This is how you run a bar?  Really?? Show just one ounce of personal ethics.  Did I mention that the bartender was really cute?

Most people sit outside
Local bands, think twice before you book a gig here and get royally screwed out of an honest day of pay.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled review.  

Bartender Chat:  It's hard to be nosey and have a good conversation, but at one point I went to order another over-priced beer and Tim asked me, "Do you want me to get it or the pretty girl to get it for you?"  No offense to Tim, but given the choice, who can guess what the answer was?

Restrooms:  Small and cramped, but, a big open window does give everyone a great view from the muddy parking lot.  On the other hand,  I guess it doesn't smell for too long if someone drops a deuce.

How Far Did My $20 Go:  Well, it sure as hell went a lot further than the gas money Honeyboy Turner made for the gig...but not much better.  20 smacks was good for six beers, but I liked the staff so much that I didn't blow through all my money to give them a good tip... because my guess is they don't get paid shit to work here.

It is what it is
Final Impressions: You know, this place has potential.  Good view of the river, plenty of room to hangout and a staff that I enjoyed to be around.  But, man, there was just sort of junk and clutter all over the place, drinks priced way too high, AND to top it off...when I went to check out the restroom...someone was in my bar stool talking to the owner...even though my beer, sunglasses and keys were sitting right there.  And I was the only one at the bar!  So I left with a pretty bad taste of overpriced beer in my mouth.

Should you avoid this one?  I wouldn't.  Add it to your list of places to stop by on a nice day.  But do keep in mind the words, oh so many years ago, from the Gin Blossoms..."If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down."

Dive-O-Meter


Owner's Business Ethics
0

Great view of an overpriced beer








Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Brass Monkey Poker Run and Party -- MAKE-A-WISH

5611 South 36th Street
Omaha NE 68107

Make-A-Wish
I sat down with friend, and new bar owner, Barry Hoffmaster yesterday at his bar...The Brass Monkey.   As if being a first-time bar owner wasn't stressful enough, Barry is getting ready for the fourth annual Make-A-Wish Poker Run and Parking Lot Party this Saturday.

Which begged the first  question I asked Barry...basically...why even worry about the poker run this year when he has more than enough going on when it comes to learning the in's and out's of running the Monkey.   Barry's answer is the exact reason so many people spend countless hours making this one of the most rewarding bar events of the year.  "That would have been the easy way...but I'm not built that way."

You see, unlike other events that may (or may not) actually do any real good, the Brass Monkey event  directly helps a sick child who has simple dreams in life.  100% of all proceeds made on Saturday will go directly to Make-A-Wish.  That includes, the money made from every sale, employees hourly wages, and every dollar in the tip jar.

It's not too often these days that you can attend a fun event, and at the end of the day, KNOW that it's all going to a cause this worthy. In addition to every dime of revenue that will be donated,  Barry said he has been overwhelmed by the countless people that are volunteering their time to make sure the event is its usual success.

Monkey!
Why is this event so important to me?  Simple, I see the hard work, tireless effort and genuine satisfaction from the Monkey Crew as they prepare for this yearly labor of love. Do they have to do this?  Hell no!  They do this because as Barry said, "It's a coming together of everybody in support of a great cause."

So, in short.  Take some time out of your day, stop by the Brass Monkey to hang out with friends old and new, have a few beers and eventually make your way home knowing you did the right thing for a child...while all at the same time having one kick ass day!  I will see you there on Saturday!

Here are the details...

The Brass Monkey Make-a-Wish Poker Run and Parking Lot Party is on Saturday June 29th. Sign up for the poker run will take place at Werner Cycle 14410 Frontier Road between 10am and 2pm. 

Cost for the poker run will be $15 per person $10.00 per passenger $25.00 with T-shirt. All stops on the poker run are in Iowa.

Back at the bar we will have food, vendors, silent auction, raffles and the beer garden. Entry without the poker run is $5.00 and we will have bands from 3pm including:
  • Righteous Pyle
  • It Factor
  • Johnny Reef & The Shipwrecks
  • Off the Grid
  • Erratic Behavior

A special presentation will be made to a previous Make-A-Wish recipient and her father at 7pm.

On behalf of the Monkey Crew...thank you for supporting a great cause!





Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Bar", Rio Grande, Puerto Rico -- REVIEW

State Road 187
Dive...Puerto Rico-style

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico 00745

Never one to shy away from adventure, I packed up the family and took them to a small town east of San Juan, Puerto Rico. To be expected, my kids wanted to know why we weren't going to Disney World yet again this year. Quick thinking on my part and I blurted out, "But Puerto Rico has monkeys!" And, oddly enough, that seemed to be enough to convince them to join along.

Yadda...Yadda...Yadda. I find myself in a bar, with no name, that looks a bit shady.  Did I also mention that I don't speak a lick of Spanish?  What could possibly go wrong in a small Puerto Rican town anyway...not counting what happened to Hector "Macho" Camacho of course.

PROS:  Easy to find a seat. Price of beer.  The bartender spoke some English.
CONS: The dude in a blue shirt.  A little girl laughed at my attempt to speak Spanish.  

Plenty of room!
First Impressions: I drove past this bar for a few days in a row, and there were always a few shady looking characters out front.  I ultimately decided that I can't leave here without at least poking my head to see if someone will attempt to shoot it off.  There is no parking, so I drive down a side street and park next to a row of houses all with more steel bars over the doors and windows then your typical maximum-security prison.  Remembering a line from the movie Nobody's Fool, "This is where a smart man would stay in the car," I get out of my car and walk through an opening where I assume a door would go.  I grab the closest seat to the "door" and look around...I am the only one in here.

The Bar:  In a word, sparse.  A decent-enough collection of some no-name booze behind the bar, no beers on draft and assorted 10-ounce cans of beer in a cooler.  Yes, you read that right, beer only seems to come in 10-ounce cans in Puerto Rico, so it always feels like you're drinking out of a Red Bull can.  There are roughly 8 mix-and-match bar stools and not a single table or chair in the entire building.  It's more than a bit run down, but not in horrible shape necessarily.  There's an unlit back room that I assume would be where restaurant seating would go, but currently it looks more suited to hide from the local police.  Of note, there are a few signs on the walls, but I have no idea what they said other than one that I'm pretty sure said no smoking.

Owner/bartender
The Crowd:  Not much to say on this one.  While I was there it was just me, the bartender and her daughter that mocked my attempted to tell her "hello" in Spanish.  Also, every few minutes or so, a dude in a blue shirt and sunglasses would walk in and stand behind the bar looking none-too-pleased that I was sitting there.  I would have only stayed for a beer or two, BUT, since "El Hefe" seemed insistent in running me out of the joint...I stayed for a few more just to be annoying.  Ha!  I would have given him a piece of mind, but boy is he lucky I don't speak Spanish.

Service: Being the only person in the bar, it was pretty easy to get a beer as needed.  And even though they never taught this one in middle school Spanish, I am bright enough to remember the phrase "Una cerveza, por favor" so service wasn't a problem...even with my horrible attempts at Spanish that make small children laugh. 

Prices:  Two good things about the prices in Puerto Rico when you're not at a hotel, it's pretty cheap everywhere and the currency used there is the American Dollar.  Not knowing to ask how much "una cerveza" costs, I just threw some money on the bar an counted up my change.  As it turns out, a 10 ounce Medalla Light (the local beer of choice) was a whopping $1.35.  I can live with that considering at the hotel we were staying in down the street charged a ridiculous $7 for the same damn thing!

They sort of all match
Food: All I saw were some chips and gum behind the bar, but oddly enough, on my way back to the airport on our way home, they had some kind of outdoor food cart set up.  On a side note, make it a point to visit Puerto Rico just once in your life to eat some of the best food anywhere in the world!

Entertainment:  Well, there was a TV on.  Other than that...nothing.  For all I know, I was the entertainment for the dude in the blue shirt.  But damn-it dude...I'll leave when I'm good and ready!  Unless you throw me out first, of course. 

Bartender Chat:  I learned a few things.  One...crime is pretty bad in this area, hence the iron bars on every house and business.  Two...I was one of the first tourists to stop into this bar in a long, long time. Three...the bartender is also the owner.  Four...the dude in the blue shirt is a "regular".  And five...the bartender/owner was originally from the Dominican Republic.  That's all I got...hey what do you expect...my Spanish SUCKS!

Restrooms:  Sorry to disappoint on this one.  I didn't see an area that looked like they had any, and actually, I felt safer by the door than being cornered in the men's room by the blue shirt dude.  I guess that's just my way of saying that I blew it on this one.  On the other hand it gives me a reason to go back...right?

I don't know the Spanish word for "shots".
How Far Did My $20 Go?:  If I had all day to sit there, that's more than enough money for 14 beers...and it wasn't even happy hour!  Or maybe it was and I didn't recognize the words on the sign.  In any case, that's a better price than $1 beer night at Werner Park...which is now $2 beer night!  (That's a complaint for another time).

Final Impressions: Let's face it, the chance of anyone reading this one and actually stopping by this bar for a few beers is pretty much zero.  So why did I even bother writing it in the first place?  Well, why the hell not!  As it turns out, it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it might be and somehow I felt like a regular old boy scout doing my good deed for the day by brining the owner some unexpected business (how nobel of me).  

Now, if you somehow stumble across this review and plan to check this bar out, send me a message, I can give you pretty good directions provided they don't need to be in Spanish! Golpear Esa Inmersion!  (aka Hit That Dive)

Dive-O-Meter
6

The Blue Shirt Dude!