Birkbeck’s Waterfront Grill- #61 on the Tour

The Bar: Birkbeck’s Waterfront Grill

The Address 242 Mill Street

The Day and the TIme Friday after Thanksgiving at 8:45

The price 5 bucks (but I don’t know if that’s what it will say at)

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No, it just came with it, like peanut butter and jelly, like ham and eggs, like Cagney and Lacey (they just are inseparable.)

What was the type of gin Well

What was the gin and tonic like: It was a fine sweet gin and tonic. Nothing special, but fine.

The Story: I was driving around, looking for a place to go, because the place I intended on going to was open, but no one was in, not even staff. There was a big open sign all red neon and there were lights on and a sense of bar ready, just add people, and bartenders. I didn’t know what to do about that, so I left without evening trying the door (more on that place another time) and got in my car and saw this place. This used to be a few other restaurants right on the lake. It was Joey’s, and then it was Lago’s and then when that placed was forced to close, it has been empty for something like two years. Good to have something there. I saw lights on, I saw people at the bar. I went in and I could tell that something was off. Not bad, but off. What I mean is that there was no one in the dining area, only the bar and the kitchen looked unused. Almost unfinished. Not all the shelves on the bar were filled with glasses or bottles.  There were some holes in the walls. It felt like the paint was still wet on the High School Play sets. There were about 10 or so people there. All talking to the bartender. One group of three guys were loudly talking near me, which makes it a bar. One of the them seemed to be trying to leave the entire time I was there (he never did).

The bartender came over and asked how I came here. I said I saw the lights and decided to try it. He told me that they just had a soft opening two days ago and right now they only have drinks, five dollars a drink, cash only. I complied, which is also why I think if you come back to this place the drinks might not be that price. I liked the place from what I could imagine when it was finished and full of folk. My one complaint is that the bar was sparkly, there was some kind of shiny stone thing going on I think. It was the glitter bar. The picture I posted is from a search of the former iteration, Lago’s and the place looks very similar. The lights and the set up seem identical. If it ain’t broke…..

Now I don’t know if this is going to be an awesome place (the location is great) but I won’t be checking it out for another review. This is not the way to be a bar reviewer, but I am not a reviewer, just a tourist. I got my gin and tonic, and that’s all that matters to this endeavor. It is a strange list of activities I set out for myself, but that’s what I created. Who did I see here, friends of the owner, people who want a bar in the area. I wish it well, I hope it all goes off they way they want it to.


Sidecar Discussion – An Open Letter to Bartenders

Dear Bartender,

There are a lot of words for being inebriated: drunk, wasted, blotto, gone, pissed, smashed, sloshed, shitfaced, plastered etc, etc, etc. So many names for something that happens so often. In the bar world, its the equivalent for the 50 words of snow in the Inuit language. But just because its so prevalent, doesn’t mean you have to contribute to it.

What I mean to say, is don’t make the drink so strong I won’t be able to stand afterwards. You don’t have to overload your cocktail for me to like it. I like cocktails. I like bars. I like remembering where I live and the names of my loved ones.  Those three things can co-exist together.

Yes, I am at a bar ordering a drink which can cause of intoxication, but you are working for a business, why make a drink so strong that I won’t be able to order more than one before I am legally cut off? If its decently poured, than I can have a couple. Maybe order some food. Talk to the other patrons and be a positive part of the bar scene. Which won’t happen if I’m shitfaced. IF I’m shitfaced I will yell at the TV screen, even though I am looking at a mirror. If I’m shitfaced, I will start fights, cry over the friends I don’t have anymore, or worse, I might quote you favorite scenes from Anchorman or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If I am shitfaced I am not a paying customer, I am a lump you have to deal with and trundle into a cab later on.

These things happen of course just through the course of working at a bar, but you don’t have to contribute to the problem. Don’t over pour my drink. I ordered this drink because I like the taste of the spirits and the mixers combined. i like the way it looks, feels and tastes. I like the way it warms me. I am ordering an item that has measured parts. Let me enjoy the proper flavor. Let me be able to have more than one. Please.

I am aware that some of your customers will come in annoyed that you are making a weak drink. That they want a stiff one, they want a man’s drink. The kind of a man’s drink that turns you into a blubbering little girl. I know these guys exist. They will not tip well if you don’t over pour. For these monsters, do what you need to do. But remember, we are not all these cro-magnons. To lump us all together as a wannabe lushes is unfair and unwise.  If I was looking to just get wasted, I would lock myself at home with a bottle of vodka and watch ESPN or Lifetime Movie Channel all day until I woke up in the next century. But I choose to go to a public space to drink, not just for the drinks, but for the company. Let me be able to recall both.

Now nobody appreciates a weak drink, but it takes a true drinker to appreciate a well proportioned one. Let us strive to be that drinker.

Thank you for your time, and your judicious pouring of my next drink.

Sincerely, Dante of Worcester

Smokey Joe’s Cigar Bar – #60 on the Tour

The Bar:  Smokey Joe’s Cigar Bar

The Address 373 Park Avenue

The Day and the TIme Sunday at 5:45

The price: It is of two prices. I went in, ordered my drink (it was a gin and tonic, if you were curious) and she poured it and then she asked for 4 dollars. This was surprising, because I figured this place was going to gouge, and here I was paying small change. I paid and started drinking (slowly, but more on that later) and then she came back and said, “its really eight bucks, but between 4 and 6 we have half priced drinks, so that’s why I charged you four. But its almost six and I didn’t want you surprised when you ordered another and got charged eight.” That was really nice of her, I must say. So the answer for price is 8 bucks, mostly, but come at the right time and its 4. Of course, the way she poured her drink, you don’t need a second one.

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime  No. She just put it in. I really like how that’s happening more often. I mean I look like a lime wedge kind of guy, they should just know.

What was the type of gin I think it was Tanqueray

What was the gin and tonic like Alcoholic. It was a hell of a lot of gin. She took out a pint glass, put in ice and then poured the gin. And kept on going. There was only an inch and a half of pint glass remaining before she stopped the gin bottle and squeezed in the small amount of tonic. It was a fine glass of gin, not a gin and tonic. And I was wobbly. There were diet cokes in my future. It was fine for what it was, but what it was was a hell of a lot of booze. As I valiantly had at the drink I thought of an open letter to bartenders. (which I wrote and I cut out of this post and will post it as its own)

The Joint It has signs outside declaring it as Rumors Night Club and Smokey Joes, and it has a giant phallic cigar sticking out from the building, menacing the people walking on Park Avenue. Inside, it is all cigar bar. They have a room where cigars are purchased, that was not opened or used the time I was there.  It is a good sized room with a few seating areas. By the windows are groups of leather chairs where people can sit, smoke and chat. In the center of the room in a large area where there are couches set up in a U shape. This area was taken up with gentlemen speaking Russian. The front area had a young-ish group of folk smoking and kibbitzing. Then there was a smallish bar. I sat there with a few others. They had hookahs but no one was using them at the time (does that make this my third Hookah bar of the tour?) The guy next to me had a pipe. Most everyone else was smoking their own packs of cigarettes.

Which brings up my ignorance about cigar bars in this new era of anti-smoking. When I first started going to bars, a quarter century ago, all bars were this cigarette centered. But times, they have changed. The only other cigar bar i have been to, which was quite some time ago, had a policy of charging you for smoking your own pack. I thought this was the norm. I guess this is not the case, for people were coming in here with their packs and smoking with no worries. No one was buying cigars, They were getting drinks and holding their packs for the world to see. I guess the high price of drinks is to pay for the priviledge of smoking and drinking. It’s like a natural wildlife preserve for smokers. The air filters did a decent job, I could see everything, nothing was hidden away through a fog of smoke, but I still left there with my clothes smelling of cigarette.

General Impressions If my question is, why do people go to certain bars, the answer to this one is easy. Because I can smoke my Newports here. There was a big age range here. Next to me were two older people, then young folk at the chairs upfront. The older woman near me was going on to her companion about how she wouldn’t use a hookah, doesn’t like them, doesn’t trust them. I’m with her.  Like I said, this has a feel of a last outpost, a stronghold of smokers fighting back against the tide of unwanted public opinion.  The bartender was good and friendly. She made strong drinks for everyone asking and even had to make an espresso. People greeted her with familiarity, this place has its regulars.

Amount of Time in the Joint 25 minutes (took a while to finish my drink)

Will I come back No. Not my place. We select the places we need, and I don’t need a bar I can smoke in. I don’t need to pay high prices for my drink for that opportunity. For those who do, I think its decent enough.

Bennie’s Bar and Grill – #59 on the Tour

The Bar: Bennie’s

The Address 13 East Mountain Road. This is off of West Boylston Street, not far from the Worcester North Movie Theater and the 99 and the Community College. I don’t know, I just want to put it in its place. Its one of those little known bars, that I figured I might want to give you an idea of its location.

The Day and the TIme Sunday at 5. It was a game day, but the Patriots had already finished the game and their opponent. So the mood was high and airy.

The price 6

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

What was the type of gin It was well gin

What was the gin and tonic like It was a little harsh, but I liked it. Go figure. I like the bar and I tend to like the drink. You don’t need deep psychological knowledge to suss that out.

The Joint A narrow place that is divided in two, with a bar on one side and tables on the other. The bar is just a long lunch counter with a classic old bar railing in front of it, it does look a little odd having a bar staple attached to a formica counter, but hey, that’s what this place is, you got a problem with that, go somewhere else buddy-o. What I really like about the layout is that the grill part is just the front part of the bar area, right by the window. There is a microwave and a grill and a place to make sandwiches. That is all. The menu is based on things that can be made there. I love it, so old school. Burger and a beer joint. And sports. The place is about those three things, at least for my visit. It is an older crowd, all talking and discussing football. They kind of all know each other, but that’s not to say the place was exclusionary. There were a bunch of flat screens above the bar that played the games. It all felt like a lunch counter from an old movie, I liked the feel. On the other side, people were ordering and eating burgers. I think they could see the tvs as well, so no one was left out of the fun.

General Impressions There is something quite nice about a place where people know that this is their kind of place. You of a certain age and want a no fuss place for some drinks and some grub? Well this is the place for you, welcome. You like sports? Bonus! I am not quite sure how it works that this is a bar for older sports fans while others places will be for the younger sports freaks. I am not quite sure how that self-selection works, but people go to where they are most comfortable and this joint is definetly old school, hence the old school clientele. But you don’t need your AARP card to come in, its here and happy to help. Okay, I like these throw back places, sue me.

Amount of Time in the Joint 15 minutes.

Will I come back I don’t know, I am not in that area often. But I liked it. I liked leaning on a lunch counter with a drink to watch the game, knowing I can get a burger. Knowing that if I had an obscure question about a Pats game from 18 years ago, the fella next to me would have the answer, or at least give a decent bullshit response. Who can ask for more?

7 NaNa – #58 on the Tour

The Bar: 7NaNa Japanese Steakhouse

The Address 60 Shrewsbury Street

The Day and the TIme Friday at 10pm. And yet, I still missed the party. When I came in the hibachi chefs were cleaning all their stations and what was left were people in the main front room at the bar and four or five of the outlying tables.

The price Nine dollars. Then with charged tax it was 9.60. Then we had to leave a tip. I should stop saying what the most expensive gin and tonic will be, I mean I still have a score or so of bars to visit on Shrewsbury Street and that restaurant row is going to surprise me with the exponential nature of pricing, I think.

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No. I got one though.

What was the type of gin I asked for the basic and she said “Tanqueray” and I nodded. Who I am to doubt the acumen of alcohol technicians?

What was the gin and tonic like: For the most expensive gin and tonic (for now) on this tour, it was kind of light of flavor, and when I went to the bathroom and came back two minutes later they had already cleared my drink, which was half filled. I saw it on the well and asked, is that my drink. I got it back and it had watered down to no flavor in just those two minutes. How is that possible?

The Joint Let me be blunt. I knew I didn’t like the look of the place as soon as I approached the bar stools. The place is attempting a high end ultra modern look and esthetic with high ceiling, indirect lighting and a huge glass bead chandelier over the large oval bar. Actually the chandelier reminded me of the fringe on a go-go dancer. (“Attack of the 50 Foot Go-Go Girl!!!! The Thrills! The Chills! The Maki Rolls!”) They have large hibachi rooms in the back and a sushi chef working the side of the bar. I approached the bar stool and saw that it was worn and some of the fake leather of the seat was gone. I looked around  and all the other stools I looked at were similarly worn. So you have a swank place with last year’s stools. Its like a dowager getting her fifth face lift and two months later already getting new wrinkle lines. Friends, the stools at some of the dive bars I have been to, like the Nines or even Pleasant Cafe, were in the same shape if not a little better. And I paid a hell of a lot less for my opportunity to sit there at their bar.

General Impressions Couples were having drinks and food in amorphous dishes. One couple were bravely having a scorpion bowl with neon shaded three foot straws. Three folk at a table took a selfie of themselves. The bartender had a friend at the bar and that was her focus. He received the bulk of the conversation and her attention. I was not asked if I wanted anything else. But of course, I went to the bathroom and they took my drink away, so I think they were happy I didn’t stay any longer than I did. I am sure the food is nice. I am sure the prices are insane. I am sure the staff would be friendlier if I came in with an expense account.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back (SIng it with me now) Na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na Hey Hey Hey No way!


Peppercorns – #57 on the Tour

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The Bar: Peppercorns

The Address 455 Park Avenue

The Day and the TIme Friday at 4

The price 6.69 (that’s right, 6.69, just three cents more valuable than the sign of Satan, I feel quite expansively evil when I consider that point)

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime Nope, he put it in with no muss and fuss.

What was the type of gin I think it was a well gin.

What was the gin and tonic like It was good. It was fine. It was adequate. It was sufficient. It was.

The Joint. They did something to the bar area, which is a good sized room and a decent bar. I think it looked better before. I think they refurbished it. It is very light fake wood. Even the walls have that light wood pannelling thing. Okay, let me say it, the place looked and felt beige. It might not have been exactly beige, but that is what  I would say if asked ten seconds after leaving. I would have said, “The place? The place? Beige, right?”

General Impressions I used to like this place. That is not a stick in the eye. Just a statement of fact. I used to like going here. Hell, I had the rehearsal dinner for my wedding here. I liked it. But it went through changes. It built a front room that for a while was an ice cream place and then it was Wormtown Brewery. They changed their menu. They upped their prices. I didn’t really enjoy the last time I was there. My wife met friends a few month back there and was shocked at how pricey it had gotten and it wasn’t that great. That kind of thing. Nothing terrible, but it was easy to find myself not going. There were other places to be and call “my place.”

The joint, for early Friday happy time, was alright with 10 or 15 people. Near me at the bar, two people were talking about their kids and things at work, which was obviously Clark University. This ain’t a Clark bar, but a Clark faculty bar. Two young guys at the bar both got a flight of beers and were both consulting the beer menu and their smart phones, and taking pictures of beers after they tried them. Hey! Wait a minute. I’m the only one blogging about bars here, buddy! Just kidding, they were beer folk getting all foodie on their hops and malt. They were quiet and didn’t seem to be having too much fun while doing this.

I listened to after work conversation and kvetching. I watched serious beer drinkers drink seriously. I waited for the paint to peel. The bartender was good, checking to see how I was, making sure no one was left adrift.

Amount of Time in the Joint: More than 10 minutes less than 15. I pinched myself to attention and got out.

Will I come back: Huh, what wait, I drifted off, what? Oh can you ask that again, I missed what you said.

Will I come back: No.


Parkway Restaurant and Bar – #56 on the Tour

The Bar: Parkway Restaurant and Bar

The Address 148 Shrewsbury Street

The Day and the TIme Four on a Sunday

The price 6.75.

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime No, he put it in, with no problem all by himself. The clever lad.

What was the type of gin He was looking for well drink, like I asked, and he shrugged and took out the tanqueray. That was nice.

What was the gin and tonic like It was good, I liked it. It had a kick but it had flavor. But let’s be fair and true here, I liked being at this place, and surprise surprise surprise (say that like Gomer Pyle) I liked the drink. Like the place-like the drink. Coincidence?

The Joint This is a clean, straight forward restaurant with an el shaped bar. The tables are basic, so are the chairs. The walls have sports memorabilia on it. It looks like a basic diner style joint, because brother it is a basic diner. And that’s good. There is nothing here you haven’t seen in a bunch of other places, but those other places are probably where you like going for breakfast or lunch.

General Impressions A sports bar! A sports bar! A sports bar! What a joy to see a decent exemplar of the idea. Yeah, its a diner restaurant, but what a nice thing. People were here to see the Pats play the Broncos and they were all invested and happy and wearing the correct colors, there was no Denver Orange in this place bucko. A couple stops on the tour ago I was at Scorz, and I thought that that was not a good sports bar, but I couldn’t say exactly what the key points of good sports barness could be. I now have a good one to compare and contrast with. When I got in there, the Patriots and Broncos game was getting close to start. There were three people working the bar, all in official Pats gear. The bar was mostly full. The tables had a groups of folks getting pitchers and food. They were busy but there was no wait time for my drink. All the people at the tables were sitting in a way to see the screens behind the bar. There was shouting and talking and a general feeling of good will. The bartenders were good and attentive, even though they had no slack time.

Everyone here was present for one thing, to have a good time. And this group had decided that a good time was gathering here, in a brightly lit space, with room enough to sit and stand, to watch a game and shout together. To triumph together, to (we hope not) lose and blame the team together. It was a raucous welcome.

Amount of Time in the Joint 20 minutes

Will I come back You bet. A good time. The food looked good. The staff were on their game and the place was open and fun. I guess the real clue to how I felt was that  I debated staying, about getting another beer and pushing down roots.