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.

Sidecar Discussion

The other day at work, I was particularly stressed out and a co-worker smiled indulgently at me and said, “Dante, you need to get a hobby.” I joked with him without saying anything else on the topic. But I was thinking to myself, I have a hobby! I go to every bar in Worcester and get a well bottle gin and tonic. Now how’s that with your model building, your show dog raising, your beer can collection. I am a collector of bars in the city limits. Not much to show for it out side of a depleted wallet and a struggling liver. But I have enjoyed it all.

I bring this up because as of this week, this quest is one year old. I didn’t start the blog until May, but I went to the first bar on the tour the first Sunday in March. And here we are, a year later, 94 bars down and a couple score to go with 56 thousand words written in this blog. If you asked me when I walked into the Diamond Bar and ordered a gin and tonic if I was going to be doing this a year later I think I would have shuddered disbelief. Back them, I didn’t know there were so many bars. Really. I lived in blissful ignorance. Its not a bad quest and as I have said before, I feel more in tune with the city than i ever had. So I am lucky.

See you at the bars

Dante

Tatnuck Grille – #94 on the Tour

The Bar Tatnuck Grille

The Address 638 Chandler Street

The Day and the Time Friday at Four

The price 5.89

Did they ask me if I wanted a lime She just put it in.

What was the type of gin She asked what I wanted, “Bombay, Bombay Saffire. Tanqueray.” I said no. Just the basic. She didn’t look at me as she headed to the gin bottle of shame.

What was the gin and tonic like It was a pretty weak drink, which was okay. Not a great drink, due to the lack of flavor, but it wasn’t terrible.

The Joint It’s a restaurant on one of its sides and a long bar on the other. The bar is bright and people are there for Keno. Its a real keno place. About ten people were there, drinking a little, but very intent on looking at the Keno Screen. Some of them talked amongst themselves, some of them were silent in their hope and contemplation. The decor is bland. If you like the company and the food, then that’s what might recommend the place. It had a very neighborhood type of feel. Not a dive bar, but a place where people living by Tatnuck Square can have affordable food and beer.

General Impressions The bartender was a comedian type of bartender. I haven’t seen too many of them, but they are memorable. These are the types of folk working behind the stick who feel that people are here for the show that is their personality. They are always on. In the ten minutes I was there, she happily berated several regulars, played air guitar, complimented a regular and got drinks. She was working hard for the money. So hard for the it honey. She is working hard for the money, I should hope that home somebody treats her right.

The first thing I noticed about the bartender-floor show was how she complimented a woman at the bar as being so funny. Just so funny. I was thinking, now we have to say, no, you’re the funny one. The woman who was told she was so funny got the appellation by saying her losing at Keno was her voluntary tax for Charlie Baker. She and the bartender did a little air guitar to the Kinks song playing on the radio, the great All Day and All Night guitar solo. An older gentleman returned from smoking and the bartender gave him some guff. He turned to me and said, “This is what I have to put up with here. She always is like that with me.” And I thought, and you love it buddy. It was a nice friendly enough place and I was ready to move on.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back I don’t think so. Nothing wrong with it. But its not that enticing to me. I like how the regulars can sit and josh about or be quiet, that the bar is long enough for all kinds. But still, I don’t think I need to return.

Industry – #93 on the Tour

The Bar Industry

The Address 109 Water Street

The Day and the Time  Friday at 9:45 (still too early it appears for the party to be partying)

The price  Six dollars.

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 Surprisingly acceptable. It had a sweet taste to it that reminded me of the times me and my college roommate Tom would drink Booth’s gin and Sprite. Not that this Industry drink had Sprite in it, but there was a feeling of soft drink about it. I don’t know why. But it was an easy enjoyable libation, no matter what the ingredients were.

The Joint What you expect from a city dance club. There was a very long and very narrow joint. Two areas. The front for drinking and chatting. The back, for drinking and dancing. The only problem with this, there was no one present but  the staff and me.

General Impressions What the hell? Its like a Twilight Zone Episode. Or a 50s SciFi movie called the Last Drinker on Earth. Wherever I go, whenever I go. I am the only person there who wants to buy a drink. I wandered around, looking for Rod Serling who will pop up behind a wall and say, “For your edification we present a tourist drinker who thinks by going to every bar in the city he lives in he is being interesting and funny, but he will be greeted by empty bars and dancerless clubs. He thinks he’s having a gin and tonic in every bar in Worcester, but in fact he is having a plastic cup full of loneliness in the bar district of the Twilight Zone.”

Okay, in all seriousness. I know it was before ten, but just barely before. And still, no one about.

Amount of Time in the Joint 10 minutes

Will I come back In some ways, its better I came when it was empty. I don’t like dance clubs with blaring music. Its not the community I search for. So maybe I was given the best possible outcome. But I don’t know if I came too early or if no one came at all. There are people who want to dance and drink and hook up. This place looked like it could be alright. But man, almost 10 o’clock and tumbleweeds. To answer the next question. No. I will not be returning.