Ho Toy Luau Restaurant – #45 on the Tour

The Bar: Ho Toy Luau Restaurant

The Address 401 Park Avenue

The Day and the TIme Wednesday at 4pm

The price 6.70

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No, she put it in like mind reading.

What was the type of gin Well

What was the gin and tonic like It was strong. This is my first Chinese restaurant bar and I have heard that the drinks at these places can be alcohol intensive, and this made the case well. It was okay, but it felt a little like drinking aromatic lighter fluid.

The Joint I really was excited about going into this one, because I passed it for years, never seeing anyone enter or leave it. It was just this Pagoda fixture on Park Ave. So I went in and in front of me were old school red leather booths for diners, making me feel like the characters of Glen Gary Glen Ross were going to show up and start swearing in a majestically poetic manner. But my destination was to the right, the cocktail lounge. It felt like a waiting room. Kind of tight and a little shabby. There were boxes and supplies at one side (which is one of my turn-offs, please make the bar not feel like the broom closet if you don’t mind). The bar was alright, but it had a real neutral-cum-bland feel.

General Impressions This is the tough part of the tour I am on. I don’t have the time or inclination to make it to the bars at times that might be their big traffic moments. Sometimes I come at off times and no one is there, so I am left with a conundrum: should I come back when it is more like itself or should I just go in and see what an off-time is like at the joint. I still don’t have the answer to that.  With this place, I stopped in three times, during afternoons and one early evening and saw that it was empty. The first two times, I said, I want this place to be at its best and left without stepping into the bar area. But this, the third time, I stuck my head in and said, the hell with it, I know there is only one guy at the bar, but let’s get this one done and off the list.

Of course, the minute I walked in, the other guy at the bar walked out for a smoke. He was smoking his cigarette for the entirety of my stay there at Ho Toy.Leaving me alone with the bartender who was not mean or surly, but certainly not friendly, goodness no. Let us call her efficient. I watched a few minutes of Law and Order: SVU. I hate Law and Order:SVU. So the drink I had was infused with my dislike for a tv program that I was staring at.

I tried to imagine it crowded. Six o’clock on a Friday? Ten on Saturday? I don’t know. I was alone with possibilities I was not offered. I am sure those happy people would be drinking Mai Tais and Scorpion Bowls. But how much of a bar is that happy raucous time and how much is the time I was sitting in? The dead time? The too early for fun time? The where are all the good time kids and where have they gone to now time? If Purgatory is a real place, it would be like this waiting room shaped bar in an empty Chinese Restaurant at four o’clock in the middle of the week, in the middle of the State.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back: I don’t know, I don’t think so. Definitely not for the bar, and I have gone 15 years not eating at this restaurant, I probably can extend my streak of absenteeism.

Anokye Krom – #44 on the Tour

The Bar: Anokye Krom

The Address 687 Millbury Street

The Day and the TIme 2 on a Sunday afternoon

The Story When I first came up with this tour, it was to find a reason to visit every bar in Worcester. The first idea was to write a Haiku in every bar in Worcester. I know, awful idea. But I came up with a worse one. Why don’t I pick a ubiquitous drink, one you can get everywhere, and judge the experience from this commonality. I picked a gin and tonic. One because I like gin and tonics and will find myself ordering them on occasion. And two, and most importantly, because every bar has gin and tonic water. You can get it everywhere. There is no bar in Worcester without these powers. I can go into any bar or bar restaurant in town and get this drink they call a gin and tonic. Well.

I was wrong. I went to the bar restaurant that could not do it.

I have driven by Anokye Krom almost every day since it opened. Never stopped in. But the bar I was planning on doing for the tour was closed, so I scrambled. I saw a bunch of cars parked around the restaurant, figured they were open. I guessed it was worth seeing if they had a bar. It didn’t hurt to walk and in and see. It is one of the places that feels bigger than the outside would have you guess. It is brightly lit, with tables on one side and a small bar with 10 or so still on the other. Their floor was set with large black white squares and a little girl, in Sunday best, was jumping hopscotch on them. Most of the tables were filled and the food smelled enticing. Lots of spices. The bowls were large and people were talking and laughing, shouting across the room at each other, and eating, they were doing that.

The bar had a small selection of liquor but one of them was a big bottle of Gordon’s Gin. I am in! A few men were at the bar watching the first Patriots game of the season. Someone got up and shouted that I should take his seat. How could I refuse? I got the bartenders attention and told her I would like a gin and tonic and she replied, even before I was finished, with “We don’t have that.” I pointed to the gin and said, “Well there’s gin.” She asked about tonic, she didn’t know what tonic was. Then I made my mistake. I said, “Soda, soda water.” Yeah.

In a few minutes she poured a glass with some gin in it, and then brought over a can of Coca-Cola. “This?” she asked. What do my useless rules of this tour say about situations like this? I nodded and she spoiled the gin with coke. Yes. I drank it. It tasted as good as you would expect but I drank it. Paid seven bucks for it to. Call it a tithing.

Luckily, I had two gregarious guys near me, talking with me, taking my mind off my drink. They asked me about the game and they were loud and funny. One was a Jets fan and wanted the Pats to lose (he got his wish). They were good company. They kept calling me boss, which made a wee uncomfortable. One of them left and I talked to the other. His sister is the bartender and he said if I come with my wife I should have the chicken and rice. He, and most everyone here, is from Ghana. I noticed that every guy there was drinking Guinness, so I ordered one of those when my gin and coke was done (I needed to clean my palette). I chatted with him for a bit, watched the game and had a very nice time.

I do want to go back, but only to drink Guinness and try the food. Its funny that one of the worst drinks gave me a nice experience. Who knew?

Sidecar Discussions

I just posted one from six weeks ago, and I have six more bars I have been to that need to be written up. I hope to have them all set in a few days. I have number 46 finished, I just need to write up 44 and 45 before I get to it. But the thing is I just drank at the number 48 bar last night and so I am reaching 50 bars on the tour. When I started, I thought there was about 100 bars in Worcester and 50 was the half way point. Boy howdy was I wrong. No where near half done. But still marching along and 50 is a fun number. So here is my question, what bar should be #50. Let me know in the comments.

El Basha on Park Avenue – #43 on the Tour

The Bar: El Basha

The Address 256 Park Avenue

The Day and the TIme Friday at 8:30

The price Well that should be an easy answer but in this case, it was not exactly clear. I was sitting at the bar area, minding my business, thinking about world peace (like I do). And I noticed that I was across from the ordering computer. I noticed that all of the bar orders were up on the screen with the price included. (or I think it was) There was one that said Tanqueray and Tonic and showed a charge of seven dollars. That’s fine, I wasn’t expecting it to be less at such a swank joint. I thought seven got me off easy actually. When i was done I handed the bartender a ten dollar bill and told her I would be settling. She didn’t tell me how much it was, but I saw it on the computer, seven bucks. She took a minute and returned with my change, two dollars. Wait. Stop. Two dollars? My math sucks, I thought I was going to get three dollars back. I guess I was wrong. I guess the computer was incorrect. Maybe it had a wrong price. Because I had an eight dollar drink, despite what the new fangled computer machine would tell me. I am sure that was it, that there was nothing else occurring that I need mention.

So the easy answer is eight dollars. And don’t worry about computer screens and their false testimony.

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime She did not, she just put it in. Bliss

What was the type of gin Tanqueray, that was the standard at El Basha, baby.

What was the gin and tonic like It was good. Not too strong, but also, I tasted the gin, and Tanqueray is a nice one. I know it doesn’t have street cred anymore, but still, fine gin.

The Joint It is a lovely, clean, restaurant. It’s fancy. The food smelled wonderful. People eating were laughing and talking loud, it was a friendly restaurant. The bar area was divided in two, with a walk space in the middle for wait staff. It was a little cramped, but still good. When I sat down two women were next to me finishing their plates and lingering over their wine. There were others eating and drinking. The bartender looked tired and was a little hassled. She seemed put down by the man. One party in the back was very boisterous and were ordering more drinks.

General Impressions: On this tour of all the bars of Worcester, I am now only entering into the bars of restaurants. It is a different animal. There are different expectations of what the bar will do for you. This is a place for a few drinks with friends, some nice baba ganoush, a good wine, not to play darts and hit on the girl at the pool table. Under these guidelines, the place is good, it does its job. It is inviting, thought I felt a little too close to the moving of wait staff and hot plates at the bar area. But that’s just the nature of the beast.

If I had a complaint, it was the bartender and her friend. Near the end of my stay there, a young man sat next to me. The bartender opened up to him like fresh bread. They were good friends it seemed. And to him she complained on how tired she is, how bored she is, how she wished she was with him, hanging out and not working. And I got to say, “I can hear you.” I can hear that you don’t want to be here, but yet, I am your customer, paying for an 8 dollar gin and tonic, pretend that you like being here. Going out, having a drink, its a show, its a song and dance. The least you can do as the bartender is try to sing along, at least as long as I’m in listening range.

Amount of Time in the Joint 25 minutes.

Will I come back Yes, but not to the bar. I have eaten at one of the other El Bashas and its great. This place has a cool feel, sophisticated. I was a little put off by the bartender, so that’s fine, I will just get a table instead.

Loft 266 – #42 on the Tour

The Bar: Loft 266

The Address 266 Park Ave

The Day and the TIme Friday at 8

The price 5

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No, I just got one

What was the type of gin It was well gin

What was the gin and tonic like It was alright, just alright.

The Joint This used to be many things, but I remember from years back it being the Above Club. What a sad place I remember that being. No one there, ever. Its on a second floor and now its very schmancy. The center of the space is the bar and two women were tending, they were wearing black. I need to tell you this, because I was the only one not wearing black in the place. There were 10 people there and I had a red shirt on, I felt like an unbeliever to a cult I forgot to join. Black never goes out of style, but that’s the kind of place this, stylish, baby. Okay, just a little bit sarcastic. A guy was in the corner with a guitar singing songs, I didn’t recognize them so they were either originals or I should branch out from listening to the all Gregorian Chants station on my radio. He was fine and had a decent voice, he was the guy you talked over to have a conversation. Folks were having food, and they kept on coming in while I was there. All in black shirts (did I miss something in the invitation?) The place is clean and shiny. It has cool cat ambience. But to me, I didn’t buy it.

General Impressions A group were talking at the end of the bar about working at the DCU Center and how there is nothing booked in the summer. Others were gathering to check folk out or be checked. The people coming in were well put together. The evening might have turned into a raucous bacchanal, with hook ups happening and glances gazed at. I couldn’t shake how pre-fab, how constructed this place was. There was nothing organic here. I was sitting in a piece of marketing. But then my drink was done and so was I.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 minutes

Will I come back No, I’m fine and have a nice day.

Ralph’s Tavern – #41 on the Tour

The Bar: Ralph’s Tavern

The Address 117 Shrewsbury Street

The Day and the TIme Wednesday at 12:30 in the afternoon

The price 5

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime She did and i got it

What was the type of gin It was a house gin

What was the gin and tonic like It was alright. Nothing much to say for it. I got to say, I think that’s the theme of this stop of the tour, there is nothing much to say. I sat down. I ordered a drink. I had a drink. I left. Nothing much else to say…….of course I will say more (it is more curse to do so)

The Joint It looks out of place on Shrewsbury Street. The outside appears as if it is a very nice hardware store, or place where you can buy large rounds of cheese. It looks big on the outside but to go in, feels cramped and small, and there was not a lot of folk there at this afternoon time, and yet it felt like there was more bar and behind the bar than there was space for customers. It is designed like a square where the the bar is the large and inevitable center of the universe. You all have to flock around the large bar, like a high school exercise in gravity and force of attraction. It is strange and off putting that the bar area for staff is more than the area for us thirsty rabble. The bartender was good enough, but the place just felt odd to me. Uninviting

General Impressions The small band of merry regulars were talking and loud about it, they filled up the joint. One guy was going on about renting properties and heading off to a place in town he didn’t know. Another guy put the address into his smart phone and kept on shouting out directions that the first guy, the realtor, seemed to ignore. They talked about what properties are being developed, what ones are being ignored and how this town ain’t they way it should be. You know, fellas at a bar. Jawing.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 minutes

Will I come back No. It had a neighborhood vibe to it, but the sense of the place was just not right for me. It didn’t feel like you could settle down and take root.

Brooks – #10 on the Tour

The Bar: Brook’s

The Address 245 Lincoln Street

The Day and the TIme Sunday at five, this was Mother’s Day

The price I can’t remember and can’t find my notes, but I think it was five bucks.

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime Yes

What was the type of gin It was bar gin.

What was the gin and tonic like I must say, up until “The Incident” everything about the place was good and enjoyable. The drink was a pint glass number and it was good, it was not going to get mentioned in the gin section of the Wine Spectator, but it was nice company

The Joint They had stools by the front door outside so people can smoke while seated. Its a kind flourish I am sure. Going in, the carpet was dingy and the place still smelled every cigarette ever smoke in the place. It was ingrained in the very wood. There was a long bar on one side where everyone was. The bar was pretty well crowded, which is nice to see. There is a low wall that divided the joint, the other side where you place pool and darts, though no one was there. They were all drinking and talking. This was neighborhood all over. Everyone knew everyone else. Some were talking loud and joshing with the bartender. A couple guys would go over from time to time to the darts area to talk private like.

General Impressions Before “The Incident” I was composing in my head a pretty positive dispatch for this stop on the tour. I was composing in my head how every neighborhood needed a place to feel like you are part of the crowd. Early on a Sunday and everyone was just doing their thing. It was nice.

And then……

The guy, who was talking to a lot of folk, came up to where I was standing by myself, minding my business. He walked up to me full, so I couldn’t miss him. “Hi,” he said his name and put out his hand. I told him my name (I didn’t say Dante, for those who are interested) and took his hand. He didn’t shake it as much as imitated a pneumatic press. He smiled at me, but the smile didn’t get up to his eyes, ya know. “First time here.” I said it was. “What brings you here.” Now there are a lot of things I could have said, like “I’m a narc on duty” or “I go to bar to bar in town and have a gin and tonic and write about it” which are great ways to shorten my life span. Instead I said, “I was just driving by and saw the place and figured to have a drink.” The guy never stopped staring at me, he nodded with that smile and said “Yeah, this is a good place for that.” Its amazing all the things he told me that were not included in his words. Like, I dont know you and I don’t like that and I got me a strong grip if you didn’t notice before. What are you going to do about it.

He walked away from me, giving me the illusion of choice in the matter. I got the hell out of there. I didn’t leave, I retreated.

Now I could be wrong, he could have just been friendly. But, I’m not wrong. Since then I have been more careful on where my eyes are while I have my gin and tonic, but man, what a welcome. Sometimes a neighborhood bar is for whom the bar considers to be neighbors, so be careful how you look and present.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back No thanks. I don’t know who my welcome wagon friend was, if he is there all the time, but I don’t need the apparent risk. I was more welcome at Pleasant Cafe than here.

This was hard to write, and that sense of threat almost made me end this little project right there, but I am glad I continued.