Cocktails and Dreams

Back again foodies. So recently I began thinking what makes a bar great? Or rather what makes you choose one bar over another? Innovative cocktails? The ambiance? The smell of stale beer? There are hundreds of bars in area and they all sling the same booze, the same light beer, the same delicious Fireball; yet I seem to always frequent the same watering holes. What is it they say, of all the gin joints in the world? So what is it then? The witty banter of a barkeep, the Cheers factor of being Norm…”where everybody knows your name” or is something as simple as location and accessibility? For one, everyone loves being a regular, it’s as simple as that. What’s not to like though? Having a bartender remember your face, your drink of choice, etc makes you feel important, like you are better than the rest of the patrons. There is a definite comfort aspect when deciding where to imbibe. I’d much rather go to some dive bar or a tiny whole in the wall where I can just relax and unwind. As they said in Bull Durham, “I just want to be.” I think being in an intimate space, it forces you to chat up those around you. Having limited bar space you overhear what everyone is saying around you, for better and for worse. You end up seeing the same faces day in and day out. You get to know the people around you. Strangers becomes acquiantances. Eventually you put a name to the bleary eyes of the guy or girl next to you.  I’m not just a barfly, rather as Charlie Mars once wrote, “I am just a fly on this bar of dreams.” You take pride in the bar, you treat it as it’s your bar. When you see strange or unfamiliar people in your seat, you wonder what they are doing in “my bar.” With the intimate setting, comes fewer bartenders as well, so you get to know the person across the bar stool from you. It’s not a stranger handing you a beer, it’s not just a person you are paying to keep you company, they’re your friend. As you take pride in your bar, a bartender takes pride in their regulars. People show up to see you. It’s like a chef who has a cult following. Everyone loves to be the center of attention, it’s flattering. The proximity element is also in play as well. Since I have moved downtown, I get to some spots that I normally wouldn’t have frequented. Not saying they were bad spots, but the ease of being to walk has definitely added them into the rotation now. Why take a 10 minute Uber ride when I can walk five minutes to a multitude of bars and restaurants? I’m sure Glenwood South has popular and trendy spots, but who wants to deal with douche city? Other than C. Grace I’m staying far away from that neck of the woods. I’m too old to fight dudes for a seat at a loud ass bar. I ain’t trying to be five-deep with a bunch of bros tryin’ to get a Heineken. You’re just a namless face they are trying to make a buck on. Give me a friendly face and a comfy chair.  Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.” Cheers foodies!

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The Ail House?

So I ventured out to the new Ale House on Glenwood Sunday after work. It’s only been open a week, but it seems like it has been in the works for years now. Massive is not an appropriate enough word to describe it. I was exhausted by the time I finally sat down at the bar from walking up the three flights of stairs. The 96 beers on tap are impressive. No Champagne of Beers or Icehouse though. I was saddened that the Ale House on Creekside was closed, obviously because of the impending opening of the downtown compound/location. For Raleigh natives or those who have been around for a while will remember the Creekside location as the original Ale House. I don’t know how many State games I watched there or how many times I made it my last stop of the night on my way home. The TV’s were shit, but there was a sense of comfort there. It was convenient, never that crowded, and the food was decent for a sports bar. It had character, the feel of a dive bar; the direct opposite of the Glenwood location. This seems to be a problem we’re experiencing in Raleigh unfortunately. Some people would call it progress or modernization. Not me. Look at Hillsborough St. for example. Gone are Sadlacks and The Brewery. Enter hotels, mixed-use apartments, and impending high rises. It is revitalization or a loss of character? Hillsborough St. needed a facelift, not reconstructive surgery. Cameron Village has also gone through its share of changes over the years as well. Look at it now. Gone are the hideous blue awnings. Now it’s the dream of every ITB’er. All I’m saying is there needs to be some sort of happy medium between the old and the new. Is there a need to tear everything down and start from scratch? Does Raleigh really need more mixed-use developments? I understand that any property inside the beltline is treated like gold. Just look at the street I live on. In the last year they have torn down two smaller houses to build huge brand new homes. Property values increased; charm decreased. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll check out the Ale House again, just not on the weekends. Glenwood South on a Friday or Saturday is a nightmare. I’d much rather go to Player’s Retreat, a place full of charm and character that hasn’t been changed in the name of revitalization. Plus they have a High Life waiting for me when I walk in. Cheers.

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