22 August 2010

Denver Snubbed: Playboy Proves It's Not Even Worth It For the Articles

And now, a very special Denver Dives editorial report.

No one likes being snubbed.  And no one likes one of their beloved getting snubbed.  So you can imagine my salt when The City of Dives got a finger in the eye recently.  Playboy just came out with its Guide to America's Greatest Bars, which included a list of their 15 all-time favorite dive bars.  Denver, with its well chronicled, well seasoned, and well respected (if having a large variety of dives can be called respectable) received a grand total of zero bars on the list.  Perhaps we can just blame Playboy - I see this sloppy bit of journalism as just another sign that Playboy is falling on hard times

Here's the list, for those who care:
  1.  The Saint, New Orleans
  2. Mean-Eyed Cat, Austin
  3. Subway Inn, New York
  4. Lee Harvey’s, Dallas
  5. Specs, San Francisco
  6. Jasper’s, Lompoc, California
  7. Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, New Orleans
  8. Ted’s Hideaway, South Beach
  9. Lucky’s Lounge, Boston
  10. Cal’s, Chicago
  11. The Big Hunt, Washington, D.C.
  12. Kirby’s Beer Store, Wichita
  13. Springwater Supper Club, Nashville
  14. Ernestine and Hazel’s, Memphis
  15. Milano’s, New York
I will grant you that I personally have never had the pleasure to sleaze my way into any of the places on Playboy's list.  I'll also grant that there are many great dives outside of Denver.  In fact, one of my personal all-time favorites is a place called The Wheel Bar in Estes Park, of all godforsaken places.  However, Denver has the quality and quantity to deserve a token mention on the list.  Maybe I'll make up my own list of all-time favorites at some point, sans naked chicks.  Though that might get me a few more readers....

If anyone that has a history with any of the 15 joints that made Playboy's list, and would like to sound off on their quality versus some of Denver's hometown favorites, please do so.  Regardless, I'll bet that none of them has an airplane made of beer cans....

    16 August 2010

    Taco Dive-Off Part 2: Los Trompitos

    I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid.  What better way to keep a bored kid from Iowa engaged than to give him a book that allowed navigating choices like A) Dive into the toilet, or B) Escape out the door to avoid catching something from the flies buzzing around the stool.  Yes, I did once read a Choose Your Own Adventure book that gave the option of jumping into a toilet.  With this in mind, I'd like to present you with the following, a mini-Choose Your Own Adventure, dive-style.  Choose wisely, though, or you might end up in the vicinity of a toilet yourself:

    You're heading east down Montview Blvd. and you're hungry, desperately hungry, and starting to get feisty.  Something small and quick will do, delicious would be nice, but at this point you're willing to settle.  You are unfamiliar with the area and aren't sure what to do.  You can:
    A) Quickly pull into the corner gas station in search of a rolling hot dog.
    B) Continue east on Montview, in the hopes that you'll soon run into a fast food crap merchant.
    C) Head south toward the safety and plentiful food choices of Colfax, with the risk of becoming thoroughly salty along the way and blindly driving your car into a pole.
    D) Venture inside the adjacent orange and white building, the one with the crazily dancing carrots on the sign that is questionably barred up like a prison, because you think there is a sign in the window saying something about tacos.

    Hopefully your dive-senses were tingling when you read choice D, and didn't get thrown off with the option of going to Colfax - that's usually a good choice.  My dive senses were definitely tingling upon going to Los Trompitos, the lucky establishment that I picked to take on El Taco de Mexico in the first ever dive-off. 

    There wasn't a soul in Los Trompitos on my maiden voyage in, other than the person lazily working the counter and one sitting around the kitchen that was jammed up into one corner of the building.  Both were pretty interested in the Univision that was jamming on the TV attached to one of the walls.   I stepped up to the counter, a granite one, no less, something I found extremely unnecessary in a place with bars on all the windows and doors, and perused the menu and its handy pictures.  I went with a trio of tacos - one Bistec (a special recipe!), one Al Pastor, and one Carnitas - similar to my order at El Taco de Mexico to keep things fair.   

    While waiting for the food to arrive, I perused what appeared to be a salsa bar sitting under the TV. The spread was pretty lacking, and only included a red salsa, a green one, onions, cilantro, and some dried out looking limes.  Not nearly as extensive as some salsa bars I'd seen, but a nice touch nonetheless.  The tacos came out wicked fast.  The steak one was unremarkable, special recipe or not, and was made doubly so with the addition of the useless red salsa.  Al Pastor was pretty much made up of dry little chunks of meat, that wasn't interesting, though I managed to save it somewhat with a massive slathering of the decent green salsa.  Finally, the Taco de Carnitas, which was absolutely the standout at El Taco de Mexico.  Los Trompitos version, one that lacked juice, flavor, and most everything else, fell well short of the bar.  

    I sat for a bit in the brightly colored dining area, trying to make sense of the blaring from the TV before wandering out, disappointed.  This dive-off goes resoundingly to El Taco de Mexico, a very nice blend of interesting crowd, an atmosphere propagated by the taco ladies that will keep you guessing, 100% washable ambiance that sets a dive standard, and a spectacular carnitas taco to boot.  Los Trompitos, despite all the promise of its dancing carrots, bars, and 99 cent tacos, was bland overall, and dulled the tingle of my dive senses to the point of considering a rolling hot dog across the street.

    Los Trompitos is located at 9755 Montview in Aurora.  Unless you are interested in green salsa tacos, go somewhere else.

    16 July 2010

    Taco-Off! El Taco de Mexico vs. Los Trompitos

    I've been away for a bit.  Of course there has been time spent on some of the more mundane and painful aspects of life, a couple heroic garage sales to be exact.  Garage sales, especially ones like ours that featured vast boxes of random junk selling for pennies, a guy on a bike hauling away every last item in the Free box (including a grill) and all sorts of miscellany strewn across the front lawn (I was selling a car as well, but couldn’t be bothered to put it out in the yard on blocks for the sale), can’t help but be a bit divey, so at least we had that going for us.  I have also put in extensive hours pondering the collective wisdom of Ricky from the Trailer Park Boys, and trying to figure out how I could apply his unique handle of the English language to writing about dives.  It seems like it would be a good fit, but for now I am sticking to my Grade 10 book learning and brain thinkin stuff, which probably makes for better prose.  I have also been working on taking my dive examination show on the road, but more on that at a later date.  That said, what better way to jump back into things than a dive-off?  Even better still, one bound to be a Denver epic, a taco-off.

    One might think that picking the competitors would be extremely tough in the case of tacos, as Denver has more dive tacos than you can shake a dirty mop at.  Rather than agonizing over the decision, I took the easy way out.  For the first competitor, I had someone tell me where to go.  I typically get little or no feedback to my blog posts, which is probably a good thing.  One of the few times I did, though, the lovely reader mentioned El Taco de Mexico, and since it was a joint I had not had the opportunity to check out, I figured that it was a shoe in for contender #1.  Number 2, getting whipped into a froth in the stables as we speak, would be a place from my neighborhood that I’d driven past before called Los Trompitos.  Picked at total random, basically.  Let’s start by getting dirty at El Taco.

    After seeing the wall menu running the length of the restaurant, you would agree that El Taco de Mexico to could very well call itself A Whole Bunch of Stuff de Mexico.  From breakfast burritos to posole to gumballs, you can get it at El Taco.  Fortunately we aren't talking about information overload like the hundred plus items at the Breakfast King (winner of the last dive-off), and fortunately I had already narrowed down my focus to what the sign outside the restaurant told me I should be eating: tacos.  I ordered a three taco variety mixer, comprised of one cabeza, one al pastor, and one carnitas. The unsmiling waitress took my cash money (cash only!), a pretty steep $1.70 each, and went back to ignoring me.  She couldn’t even crack a smile when some extremely blanco guy came in and asked for ‘mas tacos’.

    Don't be intimidated by the Wall O' Menu

    While one of the surly ladies in black hacked up my tacos with a mean looking cleaver, I checked out the place.  The dining area was small, encompassing only a handful of booths, especially when considering the enormous modern stainless steel clad kitchen.  What caught my eye was the large copper cauldron bubbling away on one of the burners, a sight that left me slightly moist in anticipation of the carnitas, which are traditionally cooked in a cauldron of boiling oil.  The walls were plastered with all sorts of local dining awards and such from years past.  Really, though, I don’t care if someone voted El Taco de Mexico the best taco in the city back in 2007.  Three years ago?  There's got to be some prevailing rule of thumb on how long one should be able to display awards.  I suppose if I ever won a plaque, though, (I am pretty sure that one is coming for Dad of the Year soon) I’d display it until the end of time as well.  Heck, I still have my Royal Palm Beach Recreational Soccer league champion trophy from 2001 displayed on the mantle.  But still, unimpressed.  More impressive was the walls themselves.  While the kitchen was decked out head to toe in stainless, the dining area, bathrooms, pretty much everywhere else was covered in FRP.  Fiber Reinforced Plastic is the white stuff you put on the walls when you want to be able hose down the entire place in lieu of actually cleaning.  It's especially handy for when people spontaneously fire food at the wall or in case of vomit.  That's got dive written all over it.

    After working El Taco over, and taking in the general salty vibe, I came to a realization.  El Taco isn’t about us...  it’s about them.  The ladies.  The ladies run the show at El Taco, and you are granted taco goodness at their behest.  Quiet gruffness forcing even the squarest gringos to try and order in Spanish (when they speak perfectly good english)?  You are there for their amusement.  Gigantic sparkling kitchen while the customers sit in decor usually reserved for truck stop bathrooms?  You should appreciate what you have.  I decided to sit patiently, looking straight ahead, and wait for my tacos.

     Be intimidated by a lady in black wielding a cleaver

    El cabeza came first.  One word for the cabeza taco:  greasy.  The Al Pastor taco was stained red with spices and tasted strongly of chili powder.  It was slightly spicy, but not overpowering.  Decent enough.  Last was the carnitas.  The juices from the pork had soaked and softened the double corn tortilla to the point of chewy deliciousness, but not past the breaking point.  The taste was phenomenal, rich and salty and wonderful.  The included salsa added a touch of smokiness that was nice, but unnecessary, as I found out when I ordered a second with no accouterments.  I left immediately after the second serving of carnitas, not wanting to draw any unnecessary attention to myself by uttering a 'holy shit, that's a good taco' out loud.  Maybe the ladies would have appreciated it, but I didn't want to risk it.  I wanted them to allow me to come back.  But first, I had a date with Los Trompitos...


    El Taco de Mexico is located at 714 Sante Fe Drive, down near... well, it's not really near anything of interest.  There is a bus stop on the corner and you can get your tires inspected across the street.

    El Taco de Mexico on Urbanspoon

    30 April 2010

    Fleabag of the Week: Motel 9

    Before I-70 came steaming through Denver in the 60's, Colfax was the main east-west thoroughfare through town, and as such many ancient road side motels can be found along the route.  I find these relics of Colfax's past life to be extremely interesting, with their unique neon signs that - when working - light up the blackness of Colfax, and with names like the Sand and Sage and Circle-K, the motels of Colfax have got charm beyond the fact that most have deteriorated to the point where they have qualified for inclusion on a blog about Denver's dives.  They provide a glimpse at what Denver and Colfax once were, and probably never will be again.  To commemorate these bastions of Colfax ambiance, I present a new segment of the Denver Dives blog that will run from time to time that I am calling Fleabag of the Week. It'll be more of a photo montage, to the best of my limited photographic ability, than the usual dive chronicles, but will definitely include bits of useless snarky commentary.                      
    First edition: Motel 9.

    I always go for a motel room with the mirco and frig included.

    The Russian style N is key.


    Maybe they should try something like 'Motel 9: We're better by 3 than Motel 6'
    Lots of signage at the Motel 9.  Someone want to run by there at 10 pm tonight to check if the gate is closed?

    The area between the back of the motel and the fence has been designated a drugs free zone.

    Convenience is, being able to throw stuff that you don't want outside the door.

    23 April 2010

    Hangar Bar

    Several years back, I was on a European vacation that included 12 hours in Paris.  We attempted to go to the Louvre, but the line to get in was too long so we waffled and moved on to score a croissant filled with horse meat.  Like most people, we were going to the Louvre for one reason, other than to be able to say that we'd been to the Louvre:  to see Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.  Sure, the Louvre has heaps of other stuff, and surely some fabulous art by one of the other Ninja Turtles, but I challenge you to name something you are jazzed up to go see at the Louvre.  It's just a fact that there are places that you go to for one thing and one thing only.  The Hangar Bar is one of those places.

    Despite the marketing, you don't go to the Hangar Bar looking to score.

    Neither do you go to the Hangar Bar for the music on Saturday nights, though you probably could.  Hangar Bar regularly has live blues and no cover on Saturday nights, and in my experience the music is pretty solid and brings out a decent crowd.

    You also don't go to the Hangar Bar for the great food.  They do have food, but it is the type of fare that doesn't become remotely interesting until about 12:30 a.m. after a few cans of whatever.  Think back to stuff you might eat while sitting around your dorm room drinking Mad Dog 20/20 and watching Jeopardy (those were better days, simpler times, weren't they?).  Bag of chips?  You bet.  Meat stick?  A taste sensation.  Hot dog warmed up in the micro on white bread?  I'll take two, with mustard please.

    You go to The Hangar Bar strictly for the decor, and one single piece of decor to be specific: The Beer Can Bomber.  You heard me right.  The Beer Can Bomber, an airplane made of beer cans.  

    And not just any beer cans.  It's a veritable wrecking crew, an all star lineup of low grade beers represented, in the original vintage cans.  You've got those beers that are still hanging around like Blatz, Schmidt, PBR, and Hamm's, and other older hall of fame options like Rainier, Special Export, and Schafer.  

    The aerodynamic aluminum pull tabbed beauty hangs over the bar as if it were coming in for a landing on top of one of the pool tables.  It dominates the landscape such that regardless of anything else that is going on in the bar, my eyes never stray very far from the lightly swaying beer cans, always making possible a comment along the lines of 'Holy crap, is that a can of Billy Beer?'     

    Maybe someday I'll make it back to the City of Lights and gaze into the eyes of the Mona Lisa.  Until then, I'll make due with the City of Dives and its own artistic treasures like airplanes made of beer cans.  The best part?  I won't have to stand in line.

    The Hangar Bar is located at 8001 E. Colfax, and has a website which lists its specials.  If you can't get to the Louvre any time soon either, settle for the Beer Can Bomber... you'll be happy you did.

    This one is like Where's Waldo, only fun and it involves beer instead of a dude in a red shirt.

    Hop'n Gator? I'll bet it's fantastic with a steamin bowl of gumbo.

    Everyone is welcome at this club.

    15 April 2010

    Little Panda Chinese Food


    There is something not right about food by the scoop.  Food by the pound like you’d get at some salad bar joints doesn’t bother me, but food by the scoop is odd.  I feed my dog a couple scoops of food each day and she doesn’t seem to mind it, so maybe I shouldn’t either.  On the other hand, I once caught her getting after one of my son’s pooped up diapers, so using her as an example might be the wrong choice.  Whatever your opinion of food by the scoop, be ready for it and some other interesting bits if you are willing to venture into the Little Panda. 

    The restaurant itself has a lot of character, mainly because it has no character.   The most defining characteristic is the $1 scoop sign outside featuring the namesake little panda looking happy enough despite being exploited in the name of a greasy restaurant with lousy food.  

    Poor sucker.

    A coat of paint would help out on the outside, but would do nothing to draw attention away from the drive through window that is currently boarded up.  Inside, crappy wood paneling (a dive staple) adorns the non-descript interior that is little more than the buffet of food and a bunch of tables.  There wasn’t even a menu with questionable pictures of food on it, which was a big let down.  I did notice two security cameras, one pointing at the food, that were ensuring the security of who knows what.  Maybe ensuring you didn’t plate an extra $1 scoop when the scoop lady wasn’t looking?  The window next to my table had what appeared to be a bullet hole and some greasy hand/face prints – always a nice touch and something to ponder while choking down some fried rice.  And as for the bathrooms, don't be fooled by the three containers of bleach (sitting on top of a pile of miscellaneous restaurant related debris) in the dark hallway leading up to them.  Hold it if possible.

    From what I could tell, the Little Panda is a two-person operation:  one guy in the kitchen schlepping the food, and the scoop lady tending the buffet and taking your cash.  The buffet contained all of the Chinese classics we Americans know and love - sweet and sour stuff, egg rolls, beef and broccoli, fried rice, etc. – and some we don’t – ie. the ominous looking whole fried fishes.  I am not sure how you'd manage a scoop of whole fried fish anyways.  I decided on the fried rice, sesame chicken, and some beef and broccoli.  Total price for a debilitatingly large container of food = $3.57.

    Let’s consider the scoop pricing arrangement for a second.  While at first glance the sign along the road draws you in with the $1 scoops, a sign on the door told a different tale: ‘Due to the rising cost of water, heat, gas, electricity, food, and cleaning products, food will now be priced at $1.10 a scoop’ (ok, I added the bit about the cleaning products).  Greed knows no boundaries, apparently.  My three-course extravaganza ran $3.57, so in actuality we are talking about $1.19 per scoop.  Stay with me.  Watching the scoop lady running the line, quite efficiently I might add, I noted that with each food selection I received three scoops, for a total of nine.  This brings the per scoop price to somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 cents each.  What does all this mean?  Absolutely nothing, other than the fact that this is some cheap shit.  

    And apparently cheap food is a draw of intercontinental proportions.  At 2:30 in the afternoon on a Monday, Little Panda enthusiasts were lined up to the door awaiting their scoops of joy.  Those in line were a pretty extraordinary cross section of society: young, old, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, hip-hoppers playing loud music on their cell phones, and dudes dressed all in black and sporting exciting tattoos.  A smorgasbord at the smorgasbord, if you will.  I challenge Colt & Gray to bring this kind of crowd in with their pomp and circumstance.  Hopefully they weren’t all getting the beef and broccoli, though.  The broccoli was fine, actually surprisingly well cooked, but the beef was mysterious.  I don’t think it was actually beef, but I did not venture to ask.  The fried rice was lifeless.  It was certainly cooked rice, but aside from the pea and carrot mixture the chef threw in there it could just have easily been greasy plain white.  Even my mundane glass of water had to be set aside due to the fact that it was shimmering like an oil slick.  The sesame chicken, however, saved my $3.57 from being a complete loss.  It was true to cheap Chinese food form, one of those chewy breaded little morsels of meat covered in glistening sauce that tastes just about right, and what you would expect - a bit gingery, a little garlicky, and just a kiss of the MSG.  Not too shabby at all.

    The Little Panda is lousy on almost all counts, a dive of epic proportions that serves epic portions.  Take it for what it's worth though.  If you're in the mood for heaps of low-grade Chinese food for uber-cheap, with some interesting people watching thrown in, this place is for you.  Just don't touch anything. 

    The Little Panda Express is located at 523 Havana in Aurora.  You wouldn't know it flying by on Havana, but the Panda doesn't lie about the scoop pricing.

    Little Panda Express on Urbanspoon

    20 March 2010


    Denver Dives Denver restaurants

    Damn it feels good to be #17.  
    For fun one day I linked up some of my posts with the website urbanspoon, which basically offers restaurant information in the form of formal reviews from reputable sources like the Denver Post or Westword, and then from blogs by less reputable sources like myself.  Decent enough stuff on there, but you have to sift through the bullshit.  Come to find out urbanspoon also keeps tabs on its bloggers in the form of a leaderboard.   Denver Dives is currently running #17, behind such heavyweights as The Well-Tempered Chocolatier, Gluten-Free Foodie, and the Kansas City Traveling Gourmet.  Dives are not for everyone, and as such I feel pretty contented to be in the teens.  If everyone went to the dives I frequent, wouldn't they at some point cease to be dives?  A thought to ponder for another blog post, specifically the Dive Manifesto that I am currently working on.  I am sure I could write one post about Colt & Gray, which by the way has to be one of the stupidest restaurant names I have heard of in a long time (seems to me it is more fitting of a cocktail consisting of malt liquor and dishwater) and jump up the standings a couple of notches, but I will remain true to my craft and subject matter.

    I will say that it salts me a bit to be running behind The Kansas City Traveling Gourmet, some clown who stopped by Denver a year ago and wrote one useless post about some place in Boulder, no less, and iEat DC, similarly written by some guy from DC who visited Denver for a day in November.  At least the DC guy is within gunning range - I am pretty sure that if all five of my readers checked out my page and posts on urbanspoon that together we could pimp the out of towner and send him back to the grime and bad weather of DC. 

    Go to the polls, kids.  I am sure it'll feel pretty damn good to be #16 as well. 

    24 February 2010

    Wolf's Motor Inn

    'I've driven past this little cafe before that we can hit,' I told Matt, cranking a U-turn to head east on Colfax.  We were in Aurora, returning from a night out and looking for a quick bite.  After a couple blocks, to the point where we were in danger of getting out in the sticks, the sign for Wolf's Motor Inn glowed on the left, happily adjacent to a seedy motel.  The parking lot was packed.  I had no idea it was such a popular late-night food spot.  As we approached, hip hop music could be heard bumping inside, which was not at all what I expected coming from a diner at 11 pm.

    Some folks might be deterred by a homemade sign posted to the front door stating 'NO WEAPONS OF ANY KIND ALLOWED!'.  For us, however, it was only a slight inconvenience, as Matt had to return to the car to drop off his nun-chucks.  A sign reading 'No Weapons' obviously leads one to assume that there had been weapons brought to the party at some point in the past, and with less than desired results, or else why would Wolf's be asking for people to refrain?  And the fact that it clearly specified weapons of any kind made me picture someone trying to get in the door with a flame thrower.  'Seriously,' he would say. 'It's a cigarette lighter.'   The sign was a slight cause for uneasiness, but we were already standing on the stoop.

    Not the Least Bit Ominous

    Inside was a big surprise.  While we were hoping for bacon and eggs, or a burrito with green and red, instead we got drafts, shooters (of the alcoholic variety), and a couple pool tables.  It was extremely well it by any standard, which helped to alleviate some of the uneasiness.  There were booths lining the windows, which suggested that Wolf's may actually have played a diner during the day, and that I may have to make a return at some point.  The crowd kind of caught me off guard as well, as it seemed a pretty low-key, happy bunch, packed with folks blowing off a little stream after a week of working hard - not at all what I had expected of a place worried about its patrons bringing in different varieties of weapons.

    Wolf's did have other charms as well.  It appeared as if someone on the staff really enjoyed using their dot-matrix printer, as the printed signs were tagged all over the bar area like it was a telephone pole.  Posted specials, Christmas parties long past, and the ubiquitous 'No credit' sign.  A box of wine sat proudly in one corner of the back bar, I assume only for that special night out at Wolf's.  Speaking of special, Malibu sat prominently on the top shelf with all the best liquor, and why wouldn't it?  Rum with coconuts should be only be enjoyed once and awhile, for obvious reasons.  We grabbed a cheap beverage from the barkeep and sat back, enjoying our stay.

    Then the cops showed up.  Maybe the sign on the door had revealed an ominous undertone to Wolf's that was obscured by the bright lights and jovial atmosphere.  It made me think of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indy is sitting in a bar somewhere in Cairo with the hated Bellock, and unbeknownst to our hero the other patrons of the bar are secretly passing pistols back and forth.  Maybe this was going on right now over at the booth in the corner and Matt and I didn't even know it.  Whatever the true identity of Wolf's, I could feel my stomach quietly telling me to give it some love, so we finished our drinks and moved off in search of that late night bite to eat.

    Wolf's Restaurant & Lounge is located at 15691 E. Colfax in Aurora.  For all of you closet Tesla fans, head on over and hum to yourself about all the signs.  Just leave your crossbow in the car.

    Wolf's Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

    08 February 2010

    The Denver Dish

    I was chatting with a friend Mike over beer and chicken wings one afternoon, and discovered that he, like me, is a closet blogger.  His choice of topic?  Denver food.  Who knew?  Maybe everyone is doing it.  So I checked out his blog, The Denver Dish.  My overall verdict is that it is good stuff.  The pictures on The Dish are better than mine, no doubt (my application with National Geographic is still pending), and fortunately it deals in reputable dining establishments, which means that he's not directly competing with me for my 3 regular readers.  The Dish covers the types of places you might take your mom when she comes to town and is not game for the Chunky Soup you usually whip up for her.  It presents a nice balance to my roster of cheap beer joints and greasy spoons, a sort of fab to my shab.  Check it out next time you have a moment.   

    09 January 2010

    The Beer Warehouse

    I once knew a place where dreams would come true.  Where the impossible would often be possible.  Where you would walk in the door sure to be a loser, but emerge a winner.  Where a guy with a 6-pack budget could give himself a taste of the 18-pack life.  As of today, however, that place is no more.  I speak, sadly, of the The Beer Warehouse.

     Behind That Door: The Promise Land

    The news I heard this morning that The Beer Warehouse was closing its doors brought the memories flooding back.  Of course it was Matt that first introduced me to the secrets and mysteries of The Warehouse.  That first time in, early one Saturday morning (it was only open Saturday mornings), I wandered around staring in awe at all the possibilities.  The sign by the door gave the pricing, wonderful in its simplicity:  $10 per domestic case, $15 for a case of imports, and $50 for a loaded up blue tub.  Cases of beer were stacked high, alongside scattered six packs, cans, bottles, 40s, and every so often a puddle of spilled beer and a pile of glass.  The smell of stale beer and the way my shoes stuck to the floor reminded me of my old frat house.

    It did not take us long to develop a tried-and-true two-pronged strategy for getting the best out of a trip to The Warehouse.  One person would stand by the stack of beer that was being collected, while the 'runner' would wander looking for undiscovered stash of good stuff.  Standing guard was most important, as if you did not fiercely guard what you were planning on taking home, other wanderers would find their way over and take it.  I was turned away from many a pile by a salty 'That's mine!', accompanied by an icy glare.  In my experience, one could easily come to blows for pilfering another's stash, as I once witnessed.  Scouting around for the take was more fun and where the glory was at.  It can be best described as a scavenger hunt where your goal was to find a 6-pack of Newcastle Brown Ale amongst 50 cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon, MGD and Old Milwaukee.  It required a keen eye and a methodical touch that left no case unopened (you could easily find a case that said Miller Lite on the outside that was filled with Sam Adams) and no bottle unexamined for possible damage (much of the beer sold at The Warehouse was either approaching its quality date or had been damaged in transit, thus the propensity of broken glass).  And no matter the day or time or how picked over the stash of the day appeared upon first glance, if you looked hard enough you could always randomly find something good, whether it be a couple Pilsner Urquels left in a case of broken glass, a 6-er of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter lost in a corner, or that one time I found a lonesome 4-pack of Duvel.  The good stuff was always in less supply, but there was also less demand. 

    We didn't come in to a trip to The Warehouse with any preconceived notion of how much money we were going to spend or how much beer we would come home with, as by the time you got in the door all that planning went out the window.  There might be too much Heineken Dark to pass up, or the proprietor may call out that everything is 2-for-1.  Our discovery of the wonders of the blue tub, not unlike cavemen discovering fire, also threw all possibilities and economics out the window.  It took our Warehouse experience to a whole new level.  The exact stats of our best take during the blue tub era escape me right now, but it was 3 years ago that we brought home about 20 cases of beer for a mere 60 bucks.  I think I am getting a little misty....

    One Worth Calling Home About

    Coming home from The Warehouse with a smorgasbord of good beer for cheap was only part of the draw, however.  It had a culture all its own, and every time in I looked forward to seeing what crazy thing would happen.  Idle threats once turned into a shouting match.  I saw a runner, obviously a rookie, come back to his stash after looking for beer with a hand bloodied by broken glass.  There was that asian family that would show up early and leave with at least 30 cases of Heineken in tow.  Then there was the time that, upon seeing a new pallet filled with Tecate brought out on to the floor, a group of gentlemen who had been milling around quietly worked themselves into a frenzy tearing the cellophane off the pallet and diving on top to claim their stake.  Finally, one of my personal favorites was the time we painstakingly filled up our blue tub to the point where it was overflowing with every good beer under the roof, only to have it violently rejected by the proprietor due to a rules violation.  One was not allowed, apparently, to just fill up a tub with just anything you could find.  The intent was to fill it with the dregs of the day that no one else wanted to buy.  We went home with our tub only after my friend Jeff swung a deal with the boss, agreeing to buy a second tub from him, site unseen, that had been filled the previous week but not purchased.   Only after getting the tub home did we discover that not only was it chock full of first rate labels like Beer-30 and Evil Eye Malt Liquor (which we expected) but that probably a quarter of the beers that had been swimming in the swill at the bottom of the tub were covered in mold.
    You never knew what was going to happen at The Beer Warehouse.

    Today's take, my last one ever:  52 beers and one large random bottle of corked (yes, a real cork!) belgian ale (really from Belgium!) for $20.  Not a bad mornings work.  This just brings home the fact that it is all over now.  I am sure the sting will wear off after the first couple of times I purchase beer at retail prices, but I cannot help but mourn just a bit.  For now, the dreams are just that.  All I am left with is a fridge full of cheap beer, a scrapbook in my head full of memories, and one large blue tub, empty.  Empty.

    Don't Go Into The Light!