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.

Sidecar Discussion #2

Been a little light on this blog. My real life is keeping me from hitting the tour as much as I would like. Also, I have five bars to write up, some are pretty long in composing. The next one I am posting is from three months ago. Thanks for all those who read this, I appreciate it.

American Legion Providence Street Post – #40 on the Tour

The Bar: American Legion Post

The Address 267 Providence Street

The Day and the TIme Wednesday at 11:50 in the morning

The price 2.50

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No and I didn’t get one, but that’s okay, because the guy had one arm and I was happy we finished the drink mixing transaction.

What was the type of gin It was Gordon’s but that was through some talking and bandiage. I was asked what  I wanted and the bartender said, “Gordon’s” and there was a loud jovial guy interrupted “Tanqueray, he wants tanqueray” and I quietly said, “Gordon’s sounds good.

What was the gin and tonic like: I don’t think I ever had a one armed bartender before. Nothing wrong with that, just a new experience is all. He was slow and deliberate and at times I think he had a hard go of getting the caps off the gin (not used too much) and then he had to find some bottle of tonic to open and pour. It was a long process, not like I had anywhere to go, so patience was the sidecar of the day. He got the drink poured into a 10 ounce plastic cup and he laid in front of me and happy I was. Because it was a fine gin and tonic. This is the kind of G and T I remember having when I was a teenager and my grandmother was offended that I never had a high ball so she made a drink for me and that was the drink I was having here. It was the right mix of ice, gin and tonic. Also, the guy put more effort in my cocktail than most other practitioners of the mixing arts, so it felt practically artisanal.

The Joint: It’s an American Legion Post with a large function room and a run down bar area. It was what you want it to be. There was only a few guys there when I went in. One of the tables had a few bottles of Pepsi on it. This is where three of them sat down to play hearts. I love a place where people sit down with a deck of cards to while the day away. There needs to be more places like this. Every bar needs several Bicycle decks ready for everyone to socialize.

General Impressions The day I came in I was wearing a fedora and the loud gregarious fellow saw me and said, “Elvis Costello has entered the building.” I have rarely been mistaken for post-punk era musicians so I stopped and said, “Me?” I got a nod and I said, “Wrong accent.” I was worried going into a social club like this, my first club on the tour, and I was concerned how I would be received. After that crack, I realized my presence was alright. I drank and watched the end of Price is Right. It was a laid back place. People spend time there, lives there. They were older, they were welcome here. IT was their place after all. I was just visiting. They were happy to see me enter and wave and drink and leave.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back Probably not. I liked it. I liked the guy giving me guff. I liked that there is a place to play cards and feel accepted. But I have other places to do those things for me.


Pleasant Cafe – #39 on the Tour

The Bar: The Pleasant Cafe

The Address 318 Pleasant Street

The Day and the Time Sunday at 7:30

The price 3.50

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime He did and he took it out of a tupperware in which it was hiding out and squeezed it in for me. I could almost hear the lime slice shout “They found me! They found me!”

What was the type of gin He just made one for me with the only type of gin they had, which was Beefeaters.

What was the gin and tonic like He made a very strong drink, though a small glass thankfully. It was not a bad gin. The decent brand helped of course. I drank it quickly (get out Dante get out) so the ice didn’t have time to dilute it. Yes, the scariest dive I’ve been too had a fine drink of gin and tonic, tell the family.

The Joint Wow. You want to know what a Dive bar is like, go here. Wait, don’t go here. Just believe it without seeing, like faith. I was anxious walking in, but this silly little project I am doing is giving me more courage than I should have. I have to be at every bar in Worcester, and nothing is going to stop me. Yes. I know. I’m an idiot.

It is small, and cramped and dirty. I sat on a stool that was made during the year they discovered Naugahyde. There is a sign saying that all cash machines are emptied every night. There was no one present who walks erect, the weight of the place brings your shoulders down. By the time I finished my drink, I think I had a stoop. The bartender was fine and people left each other alone. A weathered woman sitting at a table picked country songs from the jukebox. She listened to them with stony stoicism. By the front door, shoved in a corner, was another jukebox machine. A dead one, last year’s model. Even music is unplugged here.

General Impressions I was waiting for the dessicated corpse of Charles Bukowski to amble painfully into the joint and say, “My friends, get me a beer and a shot, fuckers.” This is a place that would be better if you could smoke on premises. You would finish your days faster and see nothing past five feet from your nose. There is a need in every city and town for a joint like this. People with broken backs and broken futures need a Purgatorio to sit and drink in. There might be times when this place is dangerous, it wasn’t when I was there, just a place to wait for that damned bus that don’t ever come no more.  

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back No. I hope I won’t. No


The Center Bar and Grill – #38 on the Tour

The Bar: The Center Bar and Grill

The Address 102 -106 Green Street

The Day and the TIme Wednesday at  9pm

The price Five dollars

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No, he did not, he just put it in and not only that, he gave me a wedge of lime and a wedge of lemon. This was unexpected and unprecedented. It was more than I ever imagined possible. This was the Donnie and Marie Show of gin garnishes (it is a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll)

What was the type of gin I asked for whatever and got whatever.

What was the gin and tonic like It was fine. It had that syrupy feel that a lot of bar gin has, but I liked all the citrus I got from the Donnie and Marie (I’m trying to make it a thing) It had too much ice, but it was a nice drink.

The Joint This is a restaurant bar, but the restaurant section was closed shut, so we had a dark room with a relatively short bar. People there and it was mostly a young crowd. Country music was blaring. There were some tables and they were taken up with couples in conversation. One set of women held on to the styrofoam leftovers containers from dinner while still talking and drinking. The bartender went up to two young women and cajoled  them pleasantly into trying a shot, it was cherry, tasted good he assured them. They came in plastic cups.  

General Impressions This was an okay place where people meet and talk and drink and no doubt shout out “Whooooo” when a favorite song comes on the jukebox machine. There is a need for this young leaning bar, and this was a decent one. This might be a staging ground bar, where folk gather and plan what to do for the evening. A good receptive bartender and an adequate selection of spirits. Not my kind of place to settle roots in, but fine for what it is.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 minutes

Will I come back No, not a slap on the face, just a statement of preference.

Tweed’s Pub – #37 on the Tour

The Bar: Tweed’s

The Address 229 Grove Street

The Day and the TIme Monday at 8:45

The price 6.95 (The print out said it was a 6.50 drink with 45 cents for the man)

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No, he just put it in

What was the type of gin House, by request

What was the gin and tonic like. Is gin lighter than tonic? I don’t know much about bar physics. But this was one of those drinks that had more of a gin taste on top than it did on the bottom and I don’t think that it had to do with the ice melting (at least, not a lot) It was harsh to start and then got alright. Like one of those layered drinks they say is soooooo easy to do at home, yeah right. the gin and tonic certainly didn’t impress me for a drink on the pricey end of the scale.

The Joint This is a restaurant with a large bar. The bar was a long thin oval and the bartender had a lot of real estate to contend with, he did fine. There were 10 or 12 at the bar when I got there, but petered out as I went along, just like my drink.  It had sports on the tvs. He had tired waitresses wandering to the bar, cashing out.

I am getting to the end of the neighborhood and dive bar part of the tour (though some are still waiting for me) and now we turn the corner to bar-restaurants. There seems to be people who make these bar stools their own, so it is still a valid leg of the tour, but the feel is different. People are eating and  talking, there are dates going on, there is bad day at the office wind downs. It just feels like I am on a different tour now, not bad, just different. The waitresses looked tired, so did the place.

General Impressions It was mostly folks talking among themselves. I watched some baseball while trying to listen to what I think was two young people having a date, or it was two friends out for a drink with one of them (the guy) hoping for a little bit more. They talked about missing college, one talked about the lousy job he had at his father’s company. She talked about how she had to focus in life. Why do I think this was a date like thing? They both had the same colorful mixed drink. I guess that might be adorable when you are young and in lust, having the same drink, but as you get older and you want what you want and the hell with fruity drinks with umbrellas (for me, I will have a gin and tonic, thank you). I wanted to go over to the guy, when they ordered their second fruity concoction, and tell him no! No! don’t do it, have your own taste, that is more attractive in the long run. Have a beer for god’s sake. Get a whiskey neat! Do it, buddy. But of course I left before the end of the evening for those two was decided.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 or 20 minutes

Will I come back No. The place didn’t appeal to me too much. It wasn’t a bad place, just didn’t excite me. All that wood and old feel. I was happy to check out a place I have never been, but if I ever came back it might be to try the food, not to settle down on a bar stool.