The Shisha Room – #55 on the Tour

The+Shisha+Room (90×90)

The Bar: The Shisha Room

The Address 86 Shrewsbury Street.

The Day and the TIme Sunday at 4

The price This is kind of odd. I paid ten buck for it. The itemized bill showed seven dollars for gin, one dollar for tonic, sixty cents for tax and a dollar forty for an automatic gratuity. This makes it the most expensive gin and tonic I have had on this tour. (Settle your bets, we have a winner! For now!)

Let me stop and say, one dollar for tonic? How much tonic did I have? Was this specially grown quinine? I think he would have been better off not having the tonic line itemed on the bill, let me live in wonder I always say.

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime He didn’t and I didn’t

What was the type  of gin I don’t know, just what every gin they had.

What was the gin and tonic like It was fine. Nothing really memorable. For the price, you would expect it to be outstanding, but everything seems very pricey here. When I went to Electric Haze, another Hooka Bar, I was shocked to see the bowls of tobacco were sixteen bucks, I was aghast, but then I saw that here they were 23 bucks and a gratuity was automatically included, so it all went into perspective.

The Joint What is it with Shrewsbury Street bars, hooka and otherwise, with all their large, black leather furniture? Out of five places I have been on Shrewsbury Street, three of them had these same clunky couches and chairs. At the first meeting of the Shrewsbury Street Business Association, does a senior member tell them to get these man cave rumpus room pieces of furniture? “The customers love it, you won’t go wrong.” The place is well named, it felt like a room. It didn’t have a strong presence. An extended living room or den where you can smoke your very expensive smoke, and don’t worry about the tip, they got that covered.

Its a small place, made smaller from the big leather apparel. The bar/hooka area is a camped little space in the back where he mixes drinks and sets up smokes. I sat in a couch watching sports while I was here. I felt quite enveloped in the couch.

General Impressions: I was not planning on going in when I did, my plan was to hit a few sports bars on Shrewsbury Street. As I walked by the Shisha room I saw men, about 10 or so playing backgammon. This is not typical of a bar, so I had to enter. The guy working the bar/hooka staging area told me that this was a group of guys who booked the room this Sunday for a backgammon tournament. They were all just finishing up and they had used one set of couches to pile their coats and plastic bags on all higgely piggely, kind of added to the unkempt living room effect. The backgammon guys were not drinking or smoking, just playing. One game was still going on with one player quiet and steely and the other loud, real loud, shouting out every time he made a move. It was like they were playing two different games.

I had my drink, felt nothing about the place, I am sure on a weekend night, it could be something alright, but it didn’t feel much to me. Also, the most expensive drink on the tour.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 or 15 minutes, not long.

Will I come back No. If I had to chose between the Hooka Bars I have been to on the tour, it would be Electric Haze, but please, don’t make me chose.  How many more Hooka Bars do I have to do?

Scorz Sports Bar – #54 on the Tour

The Bar: Scorz

The Address 58 Shrewsbury Street

The Day and the TIme Four o’clock or so on a Sunday afternoon, a bit before the Pats game.

The price Six

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime She didn’t ask and I didn’t get one.

What was the type of gin It was Gilberts, which is the standard rot gut you see around, but with that said……

What was the gin and tonic like What makes this the worst tasting gin and tonic I have had on this tour? I do not know. But it was foul. Bad gin? Flat tonic? Bad room that altered my taste buds? The funny part is a guy sitting next to me asked me what kind of gin it was and Gilberts was mentioned. He asked me how it was, and in the nature of this exercise, where I always agree and say yes, I said it was fine. No problems. The bartender said, there really is no difference, they all taste the same. To myself, I must beg to disagree with that bar professional.

The Joint This used to be a desert place where you would find small rooms and anterooms to truly enjoy your coffee and tiramisu. But as a sport bar, its odd baby, its odd. There is no cohesion to the place, lots of little space, cramped and filled with big leather furniture. For a sports bar an hour before the team was to play on the TV Screen Machines, it was kind of dead. Dead like the Halloween decorations from the party of the weekend before. The decorations making it look more like a construction sight than as a fun house of horror. The bar was kind of small and propped up in a corner. The bartender seemed bored. Me too.

General Impressions I have asked this before, but what is a sports bar. I came across one later on this leg of the tour, but it wasn’t at this address.  But here at Scorz, with the quiet volume tvs and the dour hunched people at the bar, I wondered. Where were the people dressed in Patriots blue? The bartender was wearing a fuzzy sweater, that is not sports bar. The people were talking amongst themselves and not shouting angry and jubilant at the TV. That is not sports bar. Some weirdo was sitting at the bar having a well booze gin and tonic while making mental notes for a future blog post. That is so not sports bar.

To me I think a sports bar is a big open space to have a gathering of like minded idiots (in a good way) to drink beer and shout and cheer and swear. To show pride in your team. It is not a dark bar with a confused floor plan. You want a place where you are part of the game, because how can the Pats win if we are not at a bar 50 miles away shouting our lungs out? Now granted, the Pats game had not started.but shouldn’t we be buzzing with vicarious excitement and dread? Shouldn’t we be bubbling. No. Just talking about bad gin and long nights. That is not sports bar.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back No. It was nice to go here to see what a sports bar should not be so that I could compare it to a good one, which is coming in two more stops of the tour. This is the place to remind yourself what it shouldn’t be.

Compass Tavern – #53 on the Tour

The Bar: The Compass Tavern

The Address 90 Harding Street

The Day and the TIme Friday at four

The price 5.50

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime She just put it in, I like this trend.

What was the type of gin Well

What was the gin and tonic like Kind of like the bar, not too bad but slightly generic.

The Joint This used to be a big ass Italian restaurant, and then a big Barbeque restaurant, now it is two bar areas. One has a clubby feel, the other a hyper extended Irish bar. Both felt a little set decorated, but still, friendly staff, and space to breathe in, way too much space to breathe, I was feeling light headed.

The bar was only two weeks past opening when I got there, so I hope it finds its people. Find those who want to call this home. At that moment, there was me and about five guys who knocked off work early. You can’t make a homefront out of folk like us, but its a start.

General Impressions Oh, the dread of trying to get a sense of a place when it is empty. I don’t know, its two large rooms. In the larger one, the bar is huge. Good luck to the bartender running around if it gets busy. This place is designed to be busy, it doesn’t feel right when it is just you and five other people. Its like you are in a airplane hanger with a liquor license when its empty. When it is full, maybe it will have something fun. I am sure it would be loud. Its funny, I don’t think I would enjoy myself if this place was packed, but I also felt it was pretty lonely and not too comforting with it quiet. Ah well, the great conundrum of this exercise.

I felt lonely. I wanted to see people. I wanted something to occur. I am sure that it would, but I was moving on.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 minutes

Will I come back:I think no. Even if it was busy and filled, the place is so big that there would be no room to move and that would be its own problem as well. But I don’t know. I mean this place is brand new, infant pink and unfinished. Maybe it will turn into something great and unforgettable. Maybe. Here’s hoping.

Electric Haze – #52 on the Tour

The Bar: Electric Haze

The Address 26 Millbury Street

The Day and the TIme Saturday at 8:40

The price 7.50

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime He just put it in. A very thinly sliced piece, it was more a concept of a lime than an actual one

What was the type of gin: Bombay Sapphire. No really. Very posh don’t you think. He asked which one I wanted and I said (I didn’t say well, because it didn’t feel like the place where you say that I want well, this is a high endiish place) I just said the basic. He asked if Bombay was okay and I said sure. Then he looked at the gin bottle that was in the bar well and asked again, Bombay Sapphire? I said sure. Say what you want about this Dante of Worcester, but I am one accommodating tourist.

What was the gin and tonic like It was a 12 ounce glass and it was good. Very aromatic, as you would expect from Bombay Sapphire.

The Joint It has exposed brick, which is always a plus in my estimation. Their bar is in the back, and there are comfortable seating for people to do the hooka. There is a large stage and when I got there, a celtic band was tuning up. What the hell? Will I ever get to a bar late enough for the fun to be happening. But on closer inspection, I was okay with this because in ten minutes of me coming they started getting a seven dollar cover charge, so it all worked out.

There was art on the walls but none of strong interest and all hung in a haphazard fashion, so much so that I noticed it. People were sitting in groups of twos or threes in comfortable chairs talking about serious topics and smoking the hooka. Wow, let me just say that typing the phrase “smoking the hooka” is up there on fun things to type. You should try it.

A guy was at the bar reading a library book of Borges. How cool. Borges at a bar. Well, at a hooka bar, but still Borges.He wrote a lot of the labyrinths, both real and imagined and I had an epiphany that this tour of gin and tonics is a strange Borges Like Labyrinth, all the turns and twists and lime wedges all the posibilities that one highball drink can provide. These were my thoughts as I wandered around the room waiting for the fun to begin, just checking out the scenery.

And then there was the giant sperm hanging from the ceiling.

This is not a very fair comment about an art piece, but I don’t know what else to call it. Its a giant sperm. It is a large, three or so feet in diameter, sculpture made of thin plastic tube that changes color when light passes through it. The plastic wire like tube is twisted and entwined making a big circle with a tail. There is a light source with alternating colored filters by the tail which gives the sculpture changing colors. Big glob with tail hanging from the top of the joint. Its a big ass sperm. I would not want to have the chair underneath that. No one but me seemed bothered by this, everyone else was talking, smoking hooka,drinking beers; they were living in ignorance of the encroaching giant plastic sperm attack (call Hollywood, we have their new blockbuster)

General Impressions I feel very snarky about this place. Like I just want to shoot barbs at it, but I have to say, the staff were so nice and friendly. They were happy to chat and ask how my drink was, they made sure everyone got what they wanted. I’m sure they even had a helpful plan in case the giant sperm went rogue and started attacking the paying customers. They were that nice.

And yet the smoke headache was coming and the sense of being thrust in the middle of a particapatory theater peace gave me panic. Its a happening and a bar! It was a strange coolness endurance test: how hip can you be before you rip off your corduroy clothing and run screaming into the cold darkness singing Free Bird at the top of your lungs?

Amount of Time in the Joint 20 minutes

Will I come back No. Hooka bars are not my thing. I had a headache from my time there. This is not say that it was a bad place, perhaps a little hoity for my useless tastes, but those are my tastes and who ever has listened to me? I must say that the staff were the friendliest I have ever encountered, and that goes for a lot in my book. Not enough to return, but a lot none the less.

George’s – #51 on the Tour

The Bar: George’s (this is the bar side of Coney Island Hot Dog)

The Address 158 Southbridge St

The Day and the Time Saturday at 7:30

The price 5

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No. No Lime.

What was the type of gin It was well.

What was the gin and tonic like Okay. This feels like a beer place, not that mixed drinks are against the rules here, it just feels like you should order a Bud with your food.

The Joint Coney Island Hot Dog has two doors, one for the general public, and one for the general public that wants to enter into a small bar area. There is a small bar and there are booths behind it. Like the rest of the place, there is a wonderful lived in look. The bar area has newer, less carved up booths, but they have these great old art deco like paintings. Its gives it an old school grace to it. We were waited on by a guy who works both side, the dogs side and the bar side. It really feels that the bar is an afterthought, but a nice afterthought. Other people were in the bar, but they were all eating hotdogs and drinking soft drinks or chocolate milks. So this aint a place thats Hard Drinks for Hard Living Folk. It just feels like an extension of the hot dog restaurant, but with the possibility for alcohol.

General Impressions I was with my Virgils, Saloon Owner Salvatore and Chanteuse Cheryl, and they are great company. Of course coming into this place by yourself is pretty good company as well. It really is an arms wide open joint. I had my gin and tonic and even broke my rule and had food, a grilled cheese. The place is great. Its not a hang out all night and discuss the inner worked of life joint, but for a beer and some food, it’s great. Sal and Cheryl seem to know everyone and several people came up and chatted with them. My one regret is that it is not open later than nine.

Amount of Time in the Joint 30 minutes or so

Will I come back This is almost not fair. I have come here for years with my son. He loves it. I try not to tell him this is where he and I will have lunch, I let it be a surprise, and he is happy every time we wind up here. This just adds another way to enjoy, sans son. I can see myself coming in with a friend for a beer and a dog as we head some place else. It has to be that way, because it does close so damned early. Sal told me that he would always come here for a drink after going to the Registry for Motor Vehicles. This was his blow off steam place after wrestling such bureaucracy. This is a real, dinner and a beer place, not a beer with some food. But you got to love the paintings, and the booths and the years it holds. And the sign, every person should have a drink and a dog just so you can walk under that amazing neon sign. Am I gushing? I guess I’m gushing. Ah the hell with it, I am so gushing, and happy to have this place in town.

Guertin’s Cafe – # 50 on the Tour

The Bar: Guertins

The Address 139 Grand Street

The Day and the TIme Saturday at 6:30

The price 4

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No. I got gin. I got tonic. I got a glass. Should I expect such additional amenities? I don’t think so.

What was the type of gin It was Tanqueray. This is a nice drink for the price.

What was the gin and tonic like: It was strong, but not too strong. Not a bad gin and tonic. My friend Sal was sitting next to me and said “Watch this” as it was being poured. The bartender gave me a couple inches of gin and then stopped. Sal said, “Last time we were here, the bartender didn’t stop there, the booze went almost to the top of the glass. You’re lucky.”

The Joint When I first started this tour, my friends Saloon Owner Salvatore and Chanteuse Cheryl said I had to go to Guertin’s. It is a great old bar, but I shouldn’t go alone. As Sal said to me, “A lot of the bad bars in the area closed, so all those bad people go to Guertin’s.” That as nice of them to say, but I went to Pleasant Cafe by myself, this would have been fine, but company is always swell to have. They pointed out the great old touches of the joint, like the stain glass above the bar that seems to have patch work penis type shapes in them. (Always a conducive sight to heavy drinking) Sal was upset that they had taken out some of the other old time touches, and put in a space devouring pool table. The bar is long and solid, its a nice place to lean against with a drink. With all these new improved detriments, the place has a great old saloon charm. I liked being there.

“You should check out the bathroom” Sal said to me. This is never something I want to be told at a dive bar (or most other places for that matter) But who I am to say no? I went in and  instead of urinals there was that old style communal trough, the kind made of porcelain. Sal had a story about the bathroom here. A long time ago he was here having a few drinks with a friend who waitressed at another bar. This was the first time the friend was in Guertin’s. He told her he was going to use the men’s room, and that it was something to see. She said she wanted to see it then. She went in, looked around and began to lay down in the trough. She stretched out in it, she made poses in. Afterwards, Sal was amazed, he said he couldn’t believe she laid down in the urinal. The girl was aghast, that was a urinal she asked. She thought it was a bathtub.

General Impressions: There was loud people at the bar, one woman in particular was so loud I lost the conversation I was having with Cheryl and Sal. Two guys started raising voices at each other, but that soon subsided. As we were there, a handful of folk became more as the evening progressed. This was before Halloween so people were supposed to come in costume. A couple came in as a gangster and a moll. I am fascinated with costume parties at bars. That this is the place you want to dress up as a zombie in, or a naughty meter maid. This is the safe place for you to embrace your inner Gilligan or Skipper.

It was fun being there. It felt like a bar. It was loud like a bar. Too bad about the pool table though, it did eat up the floor. There was a sense of danger, of possible violence. But I have seen worse on this tour. Actually, the only bar fight I have ever witnessed was at a TGIFridays, so what’s really wrong with a bar with true style?

Have I said recently that I am loving being on this tour? I never even heard of this bar before I started my gin and tonic quest, let alone gone to look for and enter it. There are people who call it home, some I might not want to hang out with, but it has enough personality to make people call it their bar, their place. Isn’t that worth celebrating and discovering? It was also great to celebrate my 50th bar with friends. They asked if I had been to George’s the bar attached to Coney Island Hot Dog. I told them I had not. Can you guess what will be the 51st bar on the tour?

Amount of Time in the Joint 30 minutes

Will I come back I don’t think so, but I could be arm twisted into a late afternoon drink with someone interested. The place was kind of cool. Glad to have gone, but I can imagine never returning there. I am sure they will miss my company desperately.

McDonald’s Tavern (inside Worcester Fitness) – #29 on the Tour (very very late in writing this one)

The Bar: McDonald’s Tavern

The Address 440 Grove Street

The Day and the TIme 8:30 on a Tuesday in the Summer. The baseball All-Star Game was on, if that gives you an idea of when it was.

The price I think it was six bucks, but it was a while ago and I can’t find my notes.

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime Yes

What was the type of gin I don’t recall

What was the gin and tonic like Fine

The Story: This should have been an easy one to write, but for some reason or other, I have found it near impossible to write about this little known pub. Its attached to the Worcester Fitness Club, inside it, and its decorated all in dark clunky wood and little light. The first time I went to the bar, I didn’t order a drink, I just looked around and left. This was early in this tour, looked around and thought the bar too strange to do it at that day. Why did I think that. First, I have been to bars in athletic clubs before but this had a weird vibe. This was a Wednesday at nine or so and when I came in the bar was full of older men, not a seat was available. All older. This was something i wasn’t expecting. Now I didn’t stay long, but my memory was that they were all at the bar and they could see the cardio area of the gym and the men were looking at the women on the bikes and treadmills. When I went back a month or so later, I realized I was wrong, there was no easy way for someone at the bar to look at the people in the gym. My mind played tricks on me. Maybe I was trying to explain why they were all there.

The second time I was there I had my gin and tonic and listened to the few people talk to one another. It was not busy, but it did go to the older age side of things. They all seemed to know each other. This seemed like their place after work or whatever. But when I was there, I just felt sad. I don’t know if its because I remembered aspects of the place incorrectly, or that the dark setting and the wood just hollowed me out.  Maybe it was the old person’s bar surrounded by all this exercise and activity, an oasis of blessed sloth. Exercise for an hour or two and negate the whole process by having a few cocktails. Maybe it was because the bar smelled of chlorine from the pool (which is reason enough to not return). I don’t know.

As I went on with this blog and the months went by, it just got harder and harder to think of something to write about this place, and get my feelings straight on it. I even played with the notion of going back there again, a third time, have a gin and tonic and try to come up with something to say about it. But I have now gone to over 53 bars on this silly project and have about 60 or 70 more to go to, so I don’t fancy the notion of going back and giving this bar proper reporting. So instead, you get this rambling missive of a review.

About this project, its really not about the gin and tonic. Its about the act of going to a bar. Its me trying to figure out why we pick the places we like to go to. Why we socialize the way we do in these public spaces. What is expected of us when we are there and what do we expect in return. Maybe something about this bar, this space, cradled inside a large gym complex, made me think. In my forties, this is not the place I chose to be, to be a part of, but what about twenty years from now, will I be that guy at the bar in the blazer talking about my golf swing? Will I wonder where everyone is, because this place usually is filled and active? Will I begin to dream of a place where I can have a drink that mingles with the aroma of chlorine?