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?


The Kas Bar – #49 on the Tour

The Bar: The Kas Bar

The Address 234 SW Cutoff

The Day and the TIme  Monday at Five (this was a Holiday Monday)

The price 4.75

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime She did

What was the type of gin Well

What was the gin and tonic like Just a run of the mill, though kind of a strong drink.

The Joint Big roadhouse. I could believe Patrick Swayze as Dylan in the classic film would show up. There were pool tables, there was a good sized bar. Tables around the bar that gave it a pushed in feeling. The pool tables helped with that cramped feeling, which is odd in such a large place. They did have a big ballroom where bands play, though it was deserted when I was there. It has a lived in look, which is not to say it is dirty and messy, but it certainly was not pristine and orderly.

General Impressions It all seemed loud and drunken, which is interesting to note because there weren’t too many people in at the time. The three playing pool would lean over to the bar and get a few shots. Shots were important, so were huge jumbo steins you could fill with beer. The bar felt like someone who had a crazy time of it the night before and didn’t bother changing yesterday’s clothes or do more than a cursory combing of the hair and a good breath check. That’s how the bar felt. Unkempt, a little tired, but ready for the night and the possibility of shouting out Whooooo! at random people. The pool tables were very close to the path from the door to the bar and I had to walk through the game players to leave, it felt cramped for a place with a giant ballroom.

I guess this might be a good time to talk about pool tables. In my tour, I have come across 15 or 20 bars with pool tables. This is only the second time I have seen people using them. In a place like Kas Bar, it is fine, but a small place, it takes up a lot of room. In this case even, it impeded my flow to the important things, the bar with the booze. At another bar, I was talking to Saloon Owner Salvatore and he said he’s against pool tables in small bars. He did comment that he has a pool table in one of his bars, his largest one, and it is a money maker. It makes money without any true work on his part. I mentioned that it took up a lot of space, and he agreed. I said wouldn’t dart boards be better when it comes to space, and he shook his head, and said, “You don’t make money on darts. You do on pool.” Okay, more on Sal when he joins the tour for the next two bars, but for now, that’s enough side talk.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 minutes.

Will I come back Probably not. It is not my place, but how nice that there is enough variety in town that there is a true road house bar around. For those who want that feel, this might be a good place for them.

Ken Chin’s – #48 on the Tour

The Bar: Ken Chin’s

The Address 272 Mill Street

The Day and the TIme Friday 3:45

The price 5.50

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime She did

What was the type of gin Well

What was the gin and tonic like It was in a classic high ball glass and it tasted sweet, but it was good. I enjoyed it. I almost wished it was in the big pint glass, but the size was fine and there is something nice about having a highball drink in a highball glass. I know, that’s so twee of me, but the shape of the glass works in the hand.

The Joint I wanted to go here because someone told me that this place was crazy. It has its regulars and they all eat the special which I hear is an egg roll with cheese in it. My friend told me it was one of the strangest places in Worcester. I think I came at the wrong time for that (I know, story of this tour) but what I got was interesting and good enough, so I forgive myself for my off-peak meanderings.

The layout for the cocktail lounge area is a little odd. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a good cocktail lounge feel, with a long bar and booths behind, it does. Its just that this seems to be a Keno-centric place (or at least those that were present were Keno folk) and the Keno machine was not in the bar area. It looks like the rule is that you fill out your keno card and then you have to walk out of the cocktail lounge to the front reception desk to process the bet. What made it doubly odd is that the bartender was also the front of the restaurant person. So someone would fill out their keno and slowly walk the length of the bar to the front of the restaurant and as they did so, the bartender would leave out a side door and take care of the transaction and then come back to the bar. It was like a long walk of shame, but with bad bets.

Two big screens had sports on, but the focus was on the screen to the side, the Keno. About five or so were there at this hour. One guy was not playing Keno, he was just slowly drinking beer, not looking at anyone, just working the bottle slowly.

General Impressions: I felt like I was in a Edward Hopper painting. People sat still and the lighting brought out that isolated in public feel. Hell, I felt myself go unmoving, I was frozen in place. The title of this work is: Still Life with Gambling Sheets.

One of the people had food and she was eating at a pace, saying she will never finish all this food. Everyone who talked didn’t seem to move their mouths, it was like life sized puppets. One person commented “Where is everyone? Its empty here?” The other one responded, “Its early, its not even four.” Time is fragile here. With all that, the sitting and not moving, was comforting, there was nothing odd about this slowed down world.

As I was leaving, the bartender (who I was told later was one of the owners) saw my progress and said, “Taking off?” I must say how charmed I was by the question. Who says that anymore? Taking off? You bet, I’m flying, I’m scraping tree tops. It was a friendly way to be in a such place.

Amount of Time in the Joint: 20 minutes or 17 hours, its hard to tell when you are visiting The Cocktail Lounge Zone. I was almost expecting Rod Serling to show up behind the buffet table and give an outro.

Will I come back: You know, I might. I can see myself going for the Jimmy Chin special. I can see myself killing an afternoon at the lounge like it was a minute.

The Blarney Stone – #47 on the Tour

The Bar: The Blarney Stone

The Address 79 Maywood Street

The Day and the TIme Friday at 3:45

The price 3 dollars

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

What was the type of gin It was industrial strength jet fuel. Yeesh

What was the gin and tonic like Well this one tasted of gin I can tell you. The bar I went to before, the Canal Bar and Grill, I was not sure if I got any alcohol. This one left little doubt. I like a bar that doesn’t have time for subtlety.

The Joint Surprisingly roomy. The bar took up the center, though there was plenty of room around it. There were darts and games and what not. There was keno and sports. There was a taped paper saying that they had jello shots, as well as other oddly named concoctions that you can partake in a shot glass. It was a bar. It had 10 or so guys, probably just off of jobs. They had muscles and sleeves of tattoos. They swore a lot. The word fuck was the secret ingredient for this episode.

General Impressions Thank goodness for this place. For a stretch, I have had lame and dull experiences on this tour. I wasn’t going to give it up, but I was wondering if I was ever to speak highly of a bar again. This felt like a bar. It acted like one too. The guys were loud and happy to be there. The bartender was chatting with regulars. People were drinking affordable beers and shots. They were bunkering down for a long night of it. I had almost forgotten this flushed camaraderie that bars can have. In my work clothes, I certainly stuck out, but there was no problem with that. I was just another person looking to have a drink, maybe play some keno.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 minutes

Will I come back Probably not, but man, I am happy to have gotten here when I did. I needed this dose of bar-ness that the Blarney Stone had.

The Canal Bar and Grill – #46 on the Tour

The Bar: The Canal Bar and Grill

The Address 65 Water Street

The Day and the TIme Tuesday at Nine

The price This was a process, there were three young women behind the bar, all with Russian accents, and one got me the drink and then stared at the order screen and then she disappeared. I took out my money and waited, and waited. By my watch it was 5 minutes before another woman with a very thick accent asked me what I had. I told her and through another long process she told me the drink was seven dollars. I gave her a ten dollar bill, and she gave me three dollars and a quarter for change. 3.25 change. Man, I just don’t understand the new math one bit.

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No, bartenderess number one did not ask me and I did not get one.

What was the type of gin I don’t know, I think the type of gin was called tonic only.

What was the gin and tonic like Either she forgot to put the gin in or this was the most anemic weak ass gin and tonic I have ever had. Now readers of this tour through the levels of bar hell know that I am not a fan of overly alcoholic gin and tonics. I look on in horror when I just see gin and gin and gin poured into that pint glass of doom. I wonder how the hell will I stand after this, and why the hell am I going into every bar in Worcester and doing this to myself. But I am going out and getting an alcoholic beverage, and would like enough of it in the drink to taste it.

It was a tonic water.

The Joint It is a basement joint, which always is good in my book, but this is one schizophrenic place. There were college kids talking to the Russian bartenders at a small bar area. And down the hall was another world entirely in a an exposed stone room that felt like it would be great for storing and aging cheese.. There was a folk open mic. I know. Run. RUn fast and hard. But don’t stop running. I kid. Its nice that this Folk-n-A is still going after years. I am glad they found a place to settle. But its a bunch of olde people with guitars doing covers. It doesn’t bring in the crowds. And the way that the college kids stuck to the small bar in the other room was telling.

General Impressions: There was enough weirdness that made me uncomfortable. The space felt like an old speakeasy but the happy go lucky bartenders didn’t gibe. One tried to get me into small talk about football, but didn’t know the terms. It took her three times of stating something before I realized what sport she was going on about. Its nice they have music, I hope that helps them. But I had a weak or non existent drink and I waited over five minutes to pay for that drink and had to go through two bartenders to do so.

Amount of Time in the Joint 20 Minutes

Will I come back No. What I said above.

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?