The Red Lantern – #101 on the Tour

The Bar: The Red Lantern

The Address 235 Shrewsbury Street

The Day and the Time Sunday at 6:30. Easter Sunday and people were coming out from their family obligations and getting a drink or two.

The price 5.50

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No, she put it in without any muss or fuss from yours truly.

What was the type of gin Well

What was the gin and tonic like It was harsh, but fine considering.

The Joint Someone who knows of this tour I am on asked me where I have been lately and I said, “The Red Lantern.” She stepped back, shocked. “That’s a strip club.” “No, its a chinese restaurant.” After a few minutes, we figured she was thinking of the Lamplighter, which is not on the list of the tour, in case you’re wondering.

But that’s the kind of place it is, nice but easily forgotten and misidentified as something else. This is a good sized Chinese Joint that is clean and decent looking. I don’t know anyone who has eaten here, so I can’t say much about that. On this Easter evening, people were coming in, happy to be out. A gaggle of regulars were playing Keno. And there it is, not a strip club, but you are still tipping a dollar at a time to the Keno balls shimmying its groove thang on the video screen ( know, that’s a lousy analogy but its the best I got, so I’m keeping it.) Two women were seated near me, catching up, but most were drinking and playing Keno. The bar is on one side of the restaurant, and it had one Keno screen, though I can’t see why they don’t have more.

General Impressions Here’s the story I heard. One of the Keno regulars was telling another regular why the bartender (a usually lovely woman, full of infinite jest and all that) was in a sour mood. The woman said that some drunk came in and ordered a bunch of dishes, like Garlic Shrimp and other expensive things and then five minutes later changed their mind, canceled the order and split. The regular said that because the bartender put the order into the kitchen, she’s on the hook for it. “The night just started and she’s already forty bucks back, no wonder she’s not happy.”

Its nice to have a place where people like to come and feel welcome, if only that could happen without the need to Keno.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes.

Will I come back Not a bad place, but no.

The Hotel Vernon – #100 on the Tour (wow, I don’t believe it)

The Bar: The Hotel Vernon

The Address 16 Kelley Square

The Day and the Time Thursday at 8:45

The price 4

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No and I didn’t get one

What was the type of gin Well

What was the gin and tonic like It was a lousy drink that I ignored for a while. Was I expecting brilliance in a glass? I do not think so. At this place you get drinks not for flavor but for strength and fortitude.

The Joint Ah Dive Bar, thou has been discovered. You can’t get any more perfect than this unclean gem.It is the bar of a welfare hotel. It doesn’t get more dockside gritty than this. There are tales of its life as a speakeasy, but what people really know is that you can get dollar drafts (in mostly clean glasses). It  is three room, the front room where the bar is. It has ugly dirty paintings of pirates that are just fantastic. There is a back room where the pool table is and then the ship room where bands and what not happen. That’s a good place to hangout, I have always liked that space, but it was closed this evening.

Two female bartenders made sure the cheap drinks were flowing. One was bubbly and flirty. One was a little brooding. I liked the yin/yang of it. These two handled the crowd well. I do remember being here once when a pretty young bartender was working and a guy was being uber creepy to her, telling her how pretty she was and how nice she was over and over. YOu could watch her get paler and paler as the hour passed. That bartender left the employ of the Vernon soon after.

While I was there, a very tall man slowly came and set up in a corner speakers and set it up to his laptop. He was the DJ (he is what he plays) There is not a lot for DJs to do lately. He didn’t smile, just tap away at his computer. I was there to hear Pet Shop Boys doing West End Girls and then Black Sabbath came on with War Pigs. People ignored the music. This would be the place to hear Sinatra, but that’s just me. I mean, War Pigs is a fine song.

General Impressions : The bar was mostly occupied. People came and went, depending on their schedule and their budget. Some moved about with spry step, some slower, with hunches and shuffled feet. One young woman took out a cane to get to a side table to play chess with an insistent man who wanted to play chess and had asked several women if they were up for a game. She was willing and moved with some deliberation.  The place had a feel of a hidden picture. It looks like a normal run down bar, but concentrate and look harder and strange delights appear, as if almost by magic. The guy I was sitting next to seemed like a normal chap, in a well worn jacket. He was quiet and focused on his draft of Gansett. One of the bartenders came over and asked him if he wanted another and then, suddenly, he devolved into a non-speaking nether creature. he might have mumbled an assent and then picked up from under his stool, a plastic bag and began to scurry through it, like Gollum searching for his precious. The guy mumbled a secret language to himself as he searched the bag and searched. The bartender waited and then crossed her arms and began to get bored as the guy still scurried into the bag. He finally re-emerged with a crumpled single. He handed it to her. She grabbed the bill and poured him another. I looked at him again with different eyes. When he got his beer he quieted down and began to slowly sip at the glass.

The place was felt like a genuine dive bar but with training wheels attached. Its beginners level drinking hovel. It felt like a place you can hang out in Dive Bar splendor and still feel safe. Relatively. I did mention the guy asking all the female patrons to play chess with him. This might be a fun place for men, but women might have a tougher time.

Amount of Time in the Joint 30 minutes

Will I come back Sure. Its a fun joint. I used to come in a lot. Not recently. There are times when it is filled with young hipsters acting cool and correct, but this time felt like a run down joint to get a drink and that’s a fine enough thing to be.

Jillian’s – #99 on the Tour

The Bar: Jillian’s

The Address 315 Grove Street

The Day and the Time Friday at 8pm

The price  6

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime She just put it in, yah!!! Go her!

What was the type of gin She asked if I want Tanqueray and I shook my head and said “Just the basic please.” Maybe the Ice Age that was to come was done out of spite that I was a Well Drink kind of plebeian. It was well. I don’t know how it was, though I think it tasted of the dreaded Gilberts gin.

What was the gin and tonic like It was a pint glass of ice. A lot of ice. I have had ice filled gin and tonics on this tour before, but this was the iciest. (Song of the Blog- You’re as Cold as Ice by Foreigner. Go ahead, sing along). I do understand that the bar owner wants to have the best amount of profit margin and one way is to give a small amount of product and putting gin in a ice filled pint glass is one way. This was a pint glass, but she filled it past the bridge with ice before pouring. There was a jagged dome of ice over the lip of glass. Some of the ice was over an inch past the top. I thought she was going to shake off some of the excess ice, but no, she began to pour. But she didn’t have to do it for long. A little gin, a little tonic and boy howdy you have a drink. Actually you have a glass of ice. Even after the liquid was put in there was still a good sized cornea of ice over the top of the glass. I know this is the usual tactic at McDonald’s, but there the soft drink is under three bucks and you can close the lid, not on this one.

A couple sips and the drink was over. It was not good gin, but I still wanted something for my six bucks. Let me put it this way, At Cisero’s, for 3.25, I had a gin and tonic in a plastic Dixie cup and I do not think I am wrong when I state I had more drink in the plastic cup than I did in the pint glass at Jillian’s. I guess this is how they get your money without paying a cover. For six bucks, you get to enter the vaunted halls of pool table land and you get a complimentary cup of ice. A bah-gain.

The Joint I haven’t been here in a long time and my memory is that it was a big place with pool tables and games and video games. I recall a nice balance of pleasant distractions. Now, it is still big but it feels mostly pool tables. There are a few other games and a couple air hockey tables, but it feels like a cool kid pool hall now. Couples playing pool. Its a fake pool hall. All the cool factors of pool halls are not present, but you have pool tables and you can order large glasses of ice.  Lots of young folk in black looking hip. There is something nice about a drinking place that also has things to do. Playing pool or darts. A band was setting up, so they did use the huge space well. It was clean and well lit enough.

General Impressions As I sat at the bar, playing a video trivia game, I got to hear another server and bartender conversation. The kind of conversation that does not take into consideration that paying customers are nearby. She said, “Yeah, so I went over to his house and yeah I stayed over. No. I didn’t sleep with him. He tried, but I wasn’t into it, not that. But you know its nice to know that I could if I wanted it. If I really need it. Nice to have the option.” And then she went off to a table to do some work I suppose. Hi, Dante of Worcester here, don’t mind me. Sorry I am here at your bar interrupting your discussion. I almost expected them to get annoyed at me for my presence in the midst of their bitch session.

While playing the video trivia game I got a high score and got to put my name on the top ten players. For my name I put down “Weakassdrink” but the computer would not allow that so if you go to Jillian’s you will see that my name being Bad Name. (I guess that’s their default for naughty words) But Bad Name is pretty good.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 minutes

Will I come back On this experience I will say no, but I can see coming here if friends want to gather. I would not recommend it, but I wouldn’t be adverse on going if asked.

The Raven – #98 on the Tour

The Bar: The Raven

The Address 258 Pleasant Street

The Day and the Time Wednesday at 9:52

The price  5

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime  He did ask and I got a thin slice to accompany my libation.

What was the type of gin It was well

What was the gin and tonic like Not a bad drink. Once again, the old Gin and Tonics Across Worcester Axiom – If the place is good, the drink will improve.

The Joint This is not a place with a lot of buzz in regard to no one mentioning it in the litany of rock clubs in Worcester, and that’s wrong. Sure, its in the worst part of Pleasant Street, but the joint is wonderfully deceptive. The outside makes it look like a run down house. Hell, you have to go into a side door, and as you enter, you get a huge large clean rock club. Hey presto, it appeared out of nowhere!

The place is big. And it has a hell of a stage and from what I have been told by multiple people, an amazing sound system. The bartender owner told me that they can have 100 people in and it doesn’t feel packed. That’s a good sized joint.  Its big enough for a couple pool tables and dart boards and a side bar and and….

This was open mic night and it was supposed to start a half hour before I got there, so of course it hadn’t started yet. But that’s open mics. They occur in a wormhole of broken clocks and discarded guitar picks. A large, older guy with a big beard was roadying the sound system from the stage. Playing guitars in different spots of the stage. He looked like one of the Hell’s Angels from the film Gimme Shelter 30 years late (but much nicer).

There were about ten adorable people in faux punk gear waiting for the music, soaking in the scene.  They were young and clean and dressed to be punk rock kids. You just want to take them home in your pocket.

Also at the bar were local faux tough boys from the neighborhood playing pool. One of them tried to act gangsta and impress the college punk girl at the bar. It was awkward. There is a strange dichotomy about the music kids and the local tuffs playing pool. I could imagine issues occurring, that they would all break into syncopated rumble dance routines like they were the Jets and the Sharks. I have been assured by friends who have been there, that though this weird divide between locals to Pleasant street and the kids coming for the music is there, the place is big enough for it to be amicable. I didn’t see any music, but I liked the strong rock club feel. Bartender Brian said that it reminds him of the clubs he ran into in LA. It felt a little like the Whiskey on the Sunset Strip. That’s high praise indeed. For me, it reminded me of the Living Room in Providence, though the Raven is bigger and cleaner.

General Impressions I came in older than most there, though the friendly bartender was about my age, which was nice. He was one of the owners of the place and he grilled me on why I showed up and what I think of the place. I lied a little, or a lot, but we had a mutual acquaintance and chatted about him and about music. He was welcoming to everyone. He made the place even a little better.

Amount of Time in the Joint 20 minutes

Will I come back I can’t imagine I won’t. I really enjoyed my time there. It was the better version of all those clubs I went into in my twenties when my friends’s bands were playing to almost empty houses. Its in a bad stretch of town, but I liked it a lot.

Greendale’s Pub – #97 on the Tour

The Bar: Greendale’s Pub

The Address 404 West Boylston Street

The Day and the Time Wednesday at 8:45

The price 5.50

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No I didn’t get one

What was the type of gin Well

What was the gin and tonic like It was a bland drink with a little bit of a kick. Nothing out of the ordinary anyway you look at it.

The Joint It is a big room. A bar on one side with tables on the other. I guess you can get food here but I did see a few folks bring subs in to eat. A pool table which was a center of attention. I saw one guy bring in his own pool cue. Does that really mean anything? Can you learn anything about the playe by the fact they schlep their own stick along? The main attraction was the large stage area where older men played blues. It was their wednesday blues jam open mic thing. I don’t know how it worked, because while I was there, it was the same band playing the whole time. But guys were signing up. All the musicians and the folks that brought in instruments were guys. The music was not too loud, and it was decent for Wednesday at  a blues jam. There were women there, just not playing music.

Everyone was a regular. Almost everyone coming in was greeted with familiarity if not a big shout and a hug. It was the place these people come on Wednesdays. One couple brought a large stack of Girl Scout Cookies, and other regulars picked up their orders. A few of them opened up the boxes and tucked in. By nine fifteen or so, I think we had 30 or so people in the house, which is nice.

The place is not immaculate. Its real run down. But do you want immaculate in a place like this. The ages of the patrons skewed older. I was one of the youngest people in their and I am in my mid forties. (when did that happen?) Someone told me that all the folks that hung out in Gilrein’s in the eighties have found refuge here at this joint (on Wednesdays)

General Impressions This was more fun than I care to admit. The friendly atmosphere, the worn by lively blues covers, the serviceable drink. This is what you want some time. I got a kick watching the older woman in the tank top, the dyed spiked hair, and the unfortunate tattoos dancing in front of the band, rocking out with her bad remembered self. Sometimes a guy would be dragged up to dance with her, but really, she seemed satisfied dancing solo.

Amount of Time in the Joint 20 minutes.

Will I come back Yeah. I can see it. I have been here before to see a friend play in a pick-up band a while back and had just as good a time. So yeah, not often I don’t think, but I can see it happening.

Pho Dakao – #96 on the Tour

The Bar: Pho Dakao

The Address 593 Park Avenue

The Day and the Time Wednesday at 4:15

The price 6.50

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime, No. She looked at the bar fruit and said to me, “I’m going to cut up some fresh lime for you. The lime here looks pretty sad.” I agreed and thanked her. No one wants sad limes. But that might not be fair to the lime slice. They might not be sad, they might have clinical depression. There is no reason to make  fun of a slice of citrus with a mental issue. I think we should start a fund. We can have a telethon. Please give for Happy Limes and Quinine!!! (which should be the tagline for this blog)

What was the type of gin House gin, as she said.

What was the gin and tonic like It was forgettable. There was nothing wrong with it. It was a serviceable drink that did its job, edged off a long day at work

The Joint This is a good Vietnamese restaurant that I have eaten at before. I really enjoy it. The bar was on the left side of the restaurant. A typical horseshoe bar, but with fake bamboo around it as an almost partition to make you realize that it is the bar area and not the restaurant, and that its the kind of place that believes in fake bamboo, to be fed to fake panda bears I suppose.

For the  time of day, the restaurant was starting to pick up. People were eating and having a nice time. I was by myself in the bar area though. So by myself that there was no one to man the bar. A watiress noticed my solitary status and came over to offer me respite, or at least a drink. She made my drink. Looked up what the price would be for such a concoction and then went back tot the lively restaurant part. I was alone to drink and watch ESPN on the TV and to be stared at like a museum piece.

General Impressions My solitude, without any other drinkers or even a bartender was fine. IT was a good sturdy bar, the place to have a good sturdy drink after work. After a long day filled with frustration, people have always gone to bars to drink it out. It might be one of those universal constants they talk about.  Sometimes at these after work sojourns, they want to talk about it and be loud with other patrons, sometimes they want to have appetizers to go with the anesthesia. But then there is the guy at the bar who sits with the drink square in front of him and you know that that is his only function. To drink and sit and not to speak. Maybe its these restaurant bars that are best suited for the quiet after work drink. The alone in public libation. The I will have just have one here and then off and back to my life type of cocktail. Maybe later it will get busy and raucous, so drink quickly, exit resolutely, leave a good enough tip that will allow you to do this near silent ritual at this restaurant bar again.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back Yes, but not for the bar. The food smelled amazing, and I know from the past that it tastes great as well. Don’t let my maudlin typing dissuade you. Its a good joint, and the bar, for what it is, was fine. We have a bunch of good Vietnamese restaurants in town, this is my wife’s favorite. So there.

Viva Bene – #95 on the Tour

The Bar Viva Bene

The Address 144 Commercial Street

The Day and the Time Sunday at 7:30

The price I can’t recall. Which is weird, because my memory is not that bad, but there was something about this place that just robbed me of thought. It was a drain of a joint and it did it to my powers of recall (damn you Viva Bene! Damn you!)

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime I didn’t get one. Oh wait, I think I paid eight bucks for the drink, I think that was the price point, because I have a memory of thinking, “Eight bucks and no lime.” So let’s pretend that I am a steadfast reporter and I know that it was eight bucks (I’m not quite sure, but I am steadfast)

What was the type of gin I think after some difficulty I got tanqueray because they were out of Well. It took the bartender a bit to realize that the bottle was empty so had to set up a fresh one.

What was the gin and tonic like It was fine. If when I state fine I mean I thought it was a placeholder drink. A drink of no consequence with the hope something better might appear on the horizon.

The Joint It is a long mainstay of downtown, a venerable Italian joint that has weathered the vagaries of time and every time I have walked by it, it has been completely empty. This is true, this is the fourth time I have walked by the place thinking I would go in and have a gin and tonic. The first three times, there was no customers in the place. I am not exaggerating, no one was there. And this wasn’t Monday at three in the afternoon, two of them was me walking by on a Friday around eight or so, and yet, still no one there. I wasn’t up for the sadness of it. I didn’t want to be so alone in such a large place. I wasn’t Dante enough for it. So I passed  This time I earlier had a conversation with a friend who hates the place. He hates the food, hates the service and hate hate hates it and was not surprised that it was empty, so I figured, this is the next stop whether people are present or not.

This time there were people. But for a reason. They were having a concert starting in about forty minutes, it was the Worcester appearance of that great band of the 70s, The New Riders of the Purple Sage. Yeah, I don’t know a damned thing about them. Not one bit. Wait, let me go to wikipedia and see if I know them. Be right back.

Well that was an illuminating two minutes. So Jerry Garcia was in the band in the beginning. Well he isn’t any more. I’m pretty sure.

But with all my ignorance, and I certainly do have that in abundance, people were out for the evening. There was about 40 or so older people present who had paid 35 dollars to see them, so what do I know. I think I, in my forties, was one of the youngest there. Let me just say one thing, they made everyone (not me, I talked them into letting me in for a drink without paying) wear one of those plastic bracelets that you see the kids wear when going to a club. I must say that I think its ridiculous they made a bunch of people in their fifties and sixties wear these impossible to take off ID bracelets. Were they worried there was going to be a lot of people sneaking in to see New Riders of the Purple Sage free? Was this a true security concern? .

General Impressions Despite the influx of people there that I had never seen before, it still felt lonely. It still felt sad. Maybe if the food was great Maybe if they had awesome forgotten bands playing every night it would be great. I watched one of the bartenders struggle with a beer tap that was sudsing up and seeing her frustration with the equipment and the establishment and I knew to leave.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back No. I don’t know how it is still in business, but good for them. I know that I left a half filled joint feeling like it was some barren outpost of a long forgotten Worcester. Remember when Viva Bene was great and vital? Remember when we listened to New Riders of the Purple Sage? Those were lovely times indeed.