Thursday, November 26, 2015

25th Annual BlackOUT Friday -- Thanksgiving Tradition


Being completely allergic to stores, and the people in them, BlackOUT Friday started as a way to NOT go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.

This year I am proud to announce that the tradition of not shopping, and sitting in a (strip) mall bar instead, will continue at The Good Life Bar and Grill  (TGL) promptly at 11:00 AM on Friday.

Here's what I had to say about TGL in my column earlier this year in the Omaha World-Herald...The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill. 

Come get your free HitThatDive shirt tomorrow. While supplies last!

Show up with a pack of Camel (non-filters) or wearing a cowboy hat and I, Scuba Steve, will buy your first drink and give you a HitThatDive t-shirt to proudly add to your collection!

But, what exactly are the origins of BlackOUT Friday? And, how does someone properly celebrate it...let me explain.  

Origins:  Thanksgiving of 1991, my college roommate (Smitty) and I (one year removed from college graduation) remained woefully unemployed.  To kill time over that year, we would meet every Friday at 11:00 a.m. at various bars and order the same thing…beer and wings.  (Keep in mind that this weekly habit led to the end of Smitty’s 10 month marriage to his high school girlfriend.)  

I too had recently ended a four year relationship with my college girlfriend…which meant that neither Smitty or I (being newly single and hopefully unemployed) were feeling very festive for the upcoming holidays. 

We decided that even though it was the Friday after Thanksgiving we should stick with our routine at the local “mall bar” The Ground Round…they had pretty good wings and 22 ounce draft beers.  

And we thought, “what the hell”, let’s see if we can find some Christmas spirit and hit the mall after a few beers and see what all the crazy people were up to.  In order to not look like complete degenerates, we enlisted one of our more upstanding friends (Chic) to join us.  To this day, Chic IS still married to his high school sweetheart.

Not the original
We had some wings, a few too many beers, walked around the mall, made fun of people that we knew there and eventually went home.  It was an amusing way to kill an afternoon and all agreed to do it again the following year.

1992:  I had moved out of the Pittsburgh-area, as had Chic,  so word got around town that we would all be at our same bar stools as the year before at The Ground Round the day after Thanksgiving.  A few more friends decided to join us, so it turned into more of a reunion than anything else, ultimately we decided to skip the mall and spend the afternoon drinking with friends.   

Smokes anyone?
1993-1996:  The new “rule” for the day after Thanksgiving was that you were not allowed to coordinate meeting at the mall bar.  It was a word-of-mouth invitation and either you showed up or you didn’t.  During these next five years, a few things happened:

  • We seemed to get progressively drunker every year;
  • More people started to “attend” our yearly ritual;
  • Shots became part of the tradition;
  • They put a bar IN the mall
Up until the opening of the mall bar (Ruby Tuesday), we would get fairly buzzed throughout the afternoon and call it a day.  But, the draw of a bar in the mall just seemed to be too much for the group to pass up.  Oh, we still drank the same amount at the first bar, which meant our decision-making once we took seats at the bar IN the mall were more than slightly impaired. 

1997:  We all took our same spots in the Ground Round, at this point the bartender already was expecting us, but there seemed to be an extra ounce of tomfoolery in the air.  By the time we hit the mall bar, we were all pretty ripped and hell-bent on shots once we got to the mall.  

Being their busiest day of the year, I have to assume that the management of Ruby Tuesday were not very thrilled to have a bunch of drunk rowdies in the place chasing off the customers that were there for a quiet lunch.  

How do I know that?  I believe we were asked to leave several times…which we promptly ignored.  Somehow we befriended an honest-to-goodness cowboy that we referred, oddly enough, only as “Cowboy”. 

3-2-1 RUN!
We decided that, since it was the start of the holiday season, we should join in the spirit of giving.  Not wanting to actually go shopping, we decided to buy a few packs of Camel (non-filters) from the vending machine and hand them out to all the mothers and daughters that were eating lunch. 

Who would have guessed that not a single one of them thanked us? It was evident that we would be forcibly removed from a Ruby Tuesday at 4:00 p.m.on a Friday (has that ever happened before?) so we promised the bartender we would leave after a few more rounds (and this time we mean it).  

As we get ready to leave, Cowboy asks us “where to next?”  To say Cowboy was a bit creepy is an understatement. 

It was then that a group of us huddled up and decided we had to “lose” Cowboy.  Those in attendance might remember it differently, but what I recall is on the count of three we all scattered as fast as we could in different directions throughout the mall.  

Things get a little fuzzy from there, but I do remember Cowboy being much harder to lose than my drunken brain had anticipated.  All I really remember about the rest of the day:

  • Not sure how I got home
  • Stopping at someone’s house because they had a beermeister
  • Smitty out cold in a car
  • “Falling asleep” and coming to just in time to watch Pete Gonzalez of Pitt beat West Virginia in the “Backyard Brawl”. Of note...this game is no longer even played. 
The gift that keeps giving
1998:  Mrs. HitThatDive caught wind of a few of the stories from the year before and implemented a new system.  Everyone who attended this year was given 6 drink coupons for a program that she would administer.  One coupon handed to her allowed you to purchase one beer, and handing her two coupons allowed you to purchase a shot.  

They were non-transferable, and once the coupons were all gone, she would drive us home.  Safe to say, the day did not end with a group of us drunkenly sprinting through a crowded mall to escape from Cowboy. 


1999-present:  I haven’t been in the Pittsburgh-area for Thanksgiving since 1998, but to this day the tradition of BlackOUT Friday proudly has continued in Northern Virginia and now for more than decade right here in Nebraska!

Whether in Pizzeria Uno inVirginia, the now defunct Draft House in Omaha, or even  Jerry's Bar in Benson...I have lived up to my word more than two decades ago that no matter where I am, I’ll be seated in a bar at 11:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving to have a beer(s) and toast all the friends from over the years that I wish were sitting there with me. 

Now...who wants some shots at The Good Life Bar and Grill. I'm buying! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Bar is OPEN -- Thanksgiving 2015 Edition

There's nothing like spending the day with family from near and far watching football and stuffing your face with home-cooked food. But let's face it, by about 5ish (or so) all that togetherness can get a little...well...let's just say you're ready for a break from your grumpy old uncle.

And this year, we have TWO bars on our list that get the fun started right at 6:00am!

So, with that in mind, we have yet again compiled a list of HitThatDive "Certified" bars that will be more than happy to sling some drinks on Thanksgiving...after everyone's food coma wears off, of course.

Go home grandma...you're hammered. 
The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill: Open from noon to 2am. Home of tomorrow's 25th annual HitThatDive BlackOUT Friday.

Blind Dave'sBar: 11:00 a.m. til 2:00 a.m.

Elbow Room: Ready to roll at 6 p.m. $2.50 domestic bottles/tap, $3.50 premium/import bottles/tap $3.50 shots/bombs.

The VillageBar:  HitThatDive's "Bar of the Year" is open from 7:00-2:00. $3 "You Call It" shots.

Sneaky Pete's Saloon: 6am -2am ALL DAMN DAY!! 38th L street

Addy's Sports Bar and Grillopen 6 pm to 2 am with full kitchen.

Hit That Dive!
Leavenworth Bar: Say hey to Kirk and the gang anytime after 8 p.m.

Maloney's Pub:  Opens at 7 and will have $3 Fireball shots all night. 

Buck's Bar and Grill:  6pm no kitchen. "If you need food that day, you're doing it wrong. No kitchen on Thanksgiving. Nikki, however, will be offering free family counseling at the bar.

Observatory Lounge : Opens at 7pm.

Lookout Lounge: will be open 7pm-2am with FREE COMEDY

Lighthouse Bar & Grill:  Thursday - 3PM to 2AM; Happy Hour 4PM to 7PM - $4 35oz domestic draws, $2 domestic bottles & pints, $2 wells. No Kitchen.
  • Friday - opening at Noon for the game - Happy Hour 4PM to 7PM - $4 35oz domestic draws, $2 domestic bottles & pints, $2 wells, 10 Jumbo wings for $6, one topping personal pizzas for $5.$3 Long Islands, Margaritas & Hurricanes - All Day, Every Day!


The White House Bar: Will be open at 5pm

Crossbones Bar: Will be open at 7pm with the lovely Cherie!

Happy Thanksgiving Uncle Larry...I'll be right back after 10 beers at the bar. 

Dundee Dell: Will be open at 5 pm.

The 108: Opens at 6am

Pheasant Bar and Grill: Open at 6 pm and the kitchen will be open too

Underwood Bar: Opens at 5 pm

The Sydney: Opens at 7pm.

Don't forget to read HitThatDive tomorrow as we name the location for our 25th annual BlackOUT Friday! A tradition so great, it's celebrated the same way in several US time zones.  



Nap time.




Monday, November 23, 2015

Omaha Wing Challenge -- Dudley's Pizza and Tavern

2110 South 67th Street
Omaha NE 68106
402-933-7511

Trust me on this, I don't make it a point to seek out bad wings...they just always seem to find me. Case in point, my first (and maybe only) trip to Dudley's in Aksarben Village. (Note to self...stop ordering wings when in this outdoor mall-like thingy-area as evidenced by last week's DJ's Dugout Wing Review).

Dudley's is a French word that means "bad wings"

Now, over the past year I've had more than a few people say to me that Dudley's has some great wings, but being a person that operates by the old Russian phrase "Doveryai, no proveryai" (Trust but verify) made famous by Ronald Reagan...the lovely Mrs. HitThatDive and I were off to the the shopping area named after Nebraska spelled backwards...



Scuba Steve's Rules: I rate wings in five categories for a total potential perfect score of 50. The current reigning champion (by virtue of a committee vote) is The Pheasant with a total score of 48. 

But, for those that recall, the real reigning HitThatDive "King of the Wing" for 2015 is Ray's Original Buffalo Wings by virtue of our roving band of wing judges earlier this year.  Read it all right here...HitThatDive King of the Wing 2015

And, for shits and giggles (mostly to get the shits) the worst score has been the severed toe wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. Just click right here to get the complete list of HitThatDive wings reviews. Even the ones that I'd rather not remember. 

Ummmmmmmm

First Impressions: Before we get to the wings, let me just say that our server was great! (It always makes me feel better to say something positive before everything else I write is completely negative.) Now, for the rest of it. As is the standard, I ordered my wings with traditional Buffalo sauce....from this point on it all gets a little strange. 

Now, quoting directly from their menu, "Golden fried wings tossed in one of our many signature sauces, char-grilled and then sauced again. Available boneless. Choose from 7 sauces created with an award winning BBQ chef we call Dad:" 

Looking for that extra plate

Not only were these wings not fried, char-grilled or even tossed in anything...they were served up on a fancy plate at room temperature after being hosed-down with a few squirts of what surely was Sriracha.  And hey Dudley's, I would highly suggest that you shop for your celery somewhere other than Goodwill.  

Score: 1 out of 10 

Sauce: "Signature sauces"?  Squirting some Sriracha on wings and then dumping some black pepper on for good measure does not even qualify for being called a sauce.  

For the first time in my life, I may need to take a break from wings AND Sriracha after belching these things up for most of the afternoon.  Not sure I even need to waste anymore time on this part. But the question always remains...why did I just keep eating? 

Does this appeal to anyone?

Score: 0 out of 10

Crispy: The only thing less crispy than the wings was the celery at Dudley's...not sure that's ever been accomplished before...bravo! As I've said, there was no evidence whatsoever that these things ever saw a fryer or a grill as stated in their menu.  I'm not even sure these were cooked the day I was there. I could be wrong on this one, but these wings seemed to be reheated from the night before. 

Now, if this section was called "Luke-warm and Chewy" this would have received a perfect 10! As it stands...not so much. 

How old is that thing?

Score: 1 out of 10 

Size: All but one seemed to be wing-like size. But one oversized bad boy, while having the good fortune of being on the bottom of the pile and missing the Sriracha shower...seemed to have the misfortune of getting an extra dose of black pepper, caraway seeds, or ants....I'm still not sure which it was?

And one sad little guy was the right size, but was so withered it looked like the skin of a 90 year old man who just spent the better part of two-hours soaking his toes in epson salts.  Other than that...80% of the wings at least looked the part! (My form of a compliment)

What exactly is that?


Score: 4 out of 10

Extras:   See, this is where simple attention to detail really shows. If you're a bar or restaurant that has wings on the menu, several things should be fundamental.  One: Extra napkins. Two: An extra plate. Three: Serving celery from this decade. 

Throw in that the blue cheese that I ordered seemed to be some sort of chunky Ranch...as verified by Mrs. HitThat Dive...and they couldn't even get that right.  

Ultimately, I'm throwing five points to Dudley's for simply including celery...but immediately deducting three points because it was old and withered.  But at least it did make it to the plate. Yay!

Older than Dick Clark! 


Score: 2 out of 10 

Final Score: 8 out of 50

Scuba's Final Thoughts: Unlike a few places this year that actually served me still-frozen-on-the-inside wings...these were just a sad attempt to grab $9 out of my wallet without putting in an ounce of effort whatsoever.  

How lukewarm wings can make it from a kitchen to a customer's table is just mind boggling to me. Here's a tip...if you don't see steam coming off of chicken wings you're getting ready to throw in front of someone...you're doing it wrong! 

Chunky Ranch! It's all the rage. 

Now, Mrs. HitThatDive ordered some kind of wrap that she said was pretty good, and some of the other things in the place smelled fine enough to me.  But, at the end of the day, I can only write about what I was served...and these were a total failure from the second I saw them.  And yet, I ate most of them in the name of entertainment...what is wrong with me? 

PASS THE TUMS!








Friday, November 20, 2015

Omaha Wing Challenge -- DJ's Dugout (Aksarben Village)

2102 S. 67th Street
Omaha NE 68106
402-933-3533

I almost forget how to do this. Oh, but I bet I can get back into the groove of making snarky comments in written form as easily as sliding a LaVista Keno wing off a dirty plate and into the dumpster from which it came. (See...it IS easy to get back into the groove!)

Yep....it's a sports bar. 
Why haven't I done a lot of dive bar or wing reviews lately? I have no idea. At some point this year I just seemed to have lost my creative "mojo", so instead of  mindlessly cranking out reviews that I wasn't happy with...I just walked away from the whole thing for a while.

BUT...to the delight of some...and the dismay of others (I'm looking at you Finnegan's Pub and Grill) I'm back at it!

For those that might forget how this all works, and as a reminder to myself, here's how this whole shebang goes.

That's why I'm here. 

Scuba Steve's Rules: I rate wings in five categories for a total potential perfect score of 50. The current reigning champion (by virtue of a committee vote) is The Pheasant with a total score of 48. 

But, for those that recall, the real reigning HitThatDive "King of the Wing" for 2015 is Ray's Original Buffalo Wings by virtue of our roving band of wing judges earlier this year.  Read it all right here...HitThatDive King of the Wing 2015

And, for shits and giggles (mostly to get the shits) the worst score has been the severed toe wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. Just click right here to get the complete list of HitThatDive wings reviews. Even the ones that I'd rather not remember. 

Now...onto DJ's Dugout...why I picked this place...I have no earthly idea. But be that as it may...here we go!

First Impressions: Usually this starts when the wings come out of the kitchen. But on this occasion, I could not help but make a note of the front of the menu...because nothing says "Welcome to our all- male sausage-fest" more than three AXE-wearing douchebags on the front. Now THAT'S a great first impression! 

These guys! Don't bro me if you don't know me!

Why are we here again? Oh wings...that's right. And after about a 10 minute wait, the bartender (who also must double as a mime in his spare time) plopped down my order.  Ummmm...DJ's here's my first tip. Why not toss the wings in your sauce instead of just sort of splattering it over them like a like a four-year old with a paint brush? Just a thought. 

First bite and I could clearly taste a rubber chicken baked quality to these things.  My guess here is that they bake up a batch for the day and then toss them in a fryer for exactly 59 seconds to "crisp them up" and off they go.  Not awful...not great. 

Unoffensive so far
Score: 5 out of 10 

Sauce: As is my standard, I went with the "Buffalo" sauce to keep things consistent.  And, you know what, every now and then it seemed like that sauce was trying to play the hero and make these wings halfway decent. But alas, the overpowering baked taste, combined with the splattered nature of the sauce itself...just ultimately couldn't save the day. 

To their credit...the wings that DJ's splattered with more sauce (than less) did have a decent zip to them...and really wasn't half bad.  My biggest beef with the sauce wasn't so much the taste of it...but more with the lackadaisical application of it to the wings themselves.  Cest la vie. 

Splattered paint?

Score: 7 out of 10

Crispy:  Oh, you know, they were crispy-like. It's impossible to get an authentic crispy chicken wing if it's mostly baked. They weren't totally soggy or anything, but, they were overly chewy. 

It was almost like there was some type of film surrounding each wing that provided the impression that they were slightly crispy with each bite...which they weren't. But again...not the most awful wings in Omaha. 

Half baked? 

Score: 4 out of 10

Size: They were all fairly uniform in size and on the smallish side, which I actually have no problems with. Out of the six I ordered, there was really only one "outlier" big boy which was just slightly undercooked and more chewy then a fistful of Double Bubble from the bottom of last month's Halloween candy bag.  But other than that, not awful.

Double Bubble

Score: 5 out of 10

Extras: The mime behind the bar didn't ask me if I wanted blue cheese (because he didn't talk) so I ended up with Ranch...which was equally as unremarkable as trying to have a political discussion with the mime.

You know, to their credit here, there were plenty of extra napkins, an extra bowl, celery and not one but TWO wetnaps!

And remember kids, the real beauty of the wetnap is that the corner of the packaging can double as a toothpick to dislodge any wings that may have become stuck between your front teeth.

Score: 7 out of 10

RANCH?????

Final Score: 28 out of 50 -- Middle of the Road! 

Scuba's Final Thoughts: Overall, they really weren't awful, but definitely not the place to make a special trip to for the true wing connoisseur.  They were not messy in the least and if this is a compliment...they weren't offensive either. They were just sort of there.

These wings reminded me of the scene in Animal House where the member of Delta House are voting on new members and they get to Larry Kroger and halfheartedly basically say "sure why not" and someone says "We need the dues." That's exactly how I feel about these wings!



Look, a place like this only really wants to do one thing...make money on overpriced beer ($4 for a pint of domestic beer) and mediocre food from dudes that just HAVE to be in a "sports "bar with a zillion TV's as they look at their phones to see how they're doing that day on FanDuel.

The real appeal of this place was summed up perfectly with a conversation I was having on Twitter as I sat at the bar...




Dudes come here for this...not the food or overpriced swill beer



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

HitThatDive's 3rd Annual Office Christmas Party

For the third year in a row on December 6th at 1:00 PM, and then again at 5:00 PM, we are throwing a good old fashioned, KICK ASS, Office Christmas party, like you were always thought you would be part of as an adult at The Village Bar in Ralston.

Last year the money we raised helped families all over the city...and even generated some unintentional, but great, news coverage.




Get your tickets by clicking right HERE!


Bad Santa and his elves
From KETV:

"A citywide Christmas spirit may have started with a man's bar and a man's blog."We thought it was a good idea," Steve Gates, who runs the Hit That Dive blog, said. "Did we think it was an idea a few weeks later we'd still be talking about? No."

KETV met Gates and Brock Hatterman, owner of Ralston's Village Bar, when someone was being generous at local grocery stores.

Even the WWE was there last year

"There was no rhyme or reason to it," Hatterman said. "We just randomly picked out people and went for it, and it was the best feeling in the world to do people."


Raising $3,000 with a Christmas party using all of it to do good, but they said what's been truly incredible are the effects of that party.
It's ALWAYS a party

"It's amazing what $20, $25 per person does," Gates said. "We were able to touch people's lives around Omaha. I was getting calls from all over the country: people I knew, people I didn't know."

And a great way to help our community!