What does it mean to be American, if not celebrating good music, cheap booze, and scantily clad ladies? This week, I journeyed north to celebrate the finer things in life.
American Rock Bar & Grill: Walking into American Rock Bar & Grill means coming face to face with the legends. Larger-than-life posters of Jim Morrison, Queen, Rush, and Jimi Hendrix adorn the walls. The playlist alternates between punk and metal. Every item on the food menu is named after a prolific pop artist or rock star. Sexy, spiky-haired women dart around behind the bar, serving drinks to a bunch of long-haired, chilled-out regulars. I even overheard a chick with dyed black hair saying: "Once I made the mistake of going on tour with my boyfriend's band. God, I'd never been around so many guys wearing makeup in my life."
I grabbed a spot next to a giant Elvis poster, promptly ordered a Mandrinoska drink (orange juice, fine sugar, and Absolut Mandarin — I need my vitamin C), and perused the menu. The Billy Idol was an Italian sandwich; Iggy Pop and Aerosmith were both fish dishes.
I ordered the Pearl Jam (an appetizer of potato chips) and took a glance around. The large room was decked out with posters, mounted records, neon beer signs, and bookshelves (stocked with novels including the first Twilight book). The large bar was lined with airplane-style lights, and the neatly arranged bottles behind it shimmered in the low lighting. There was also a large faux skylight that curved up into the ceiling, painted sky blue complete with fluffy white clouds. I also noticed a second room — dark and closed off from the public. This piqued my interest. I left my wingman to choose between the Robert Plant (pasta) and the Buffalo Soldier (buffalo chicken).
"This was a library in the '60s," explained Rebecca, the freckled, pigtailed assistant manager. She was young, enthusiastic, and way too pretty to work six days a week, which she said she does.
Rebecca opened the door to the second, darkened room and pointed at a wall of framed news clippings. "This is all stuff about the library, and we pay homage to it by calling this part of our restaurant the Library Bar. This room was actually the children's wing."
I surveyed it silently. The room was large, with its own bar, several tables, and plenty of places to dance — including on a pole.
"Yeah, my favorite part is that we now have a stripper pole in the kids' wing," Rebecca said snarkily. It was used recently for a swimsuit contest, she said. "And we're also starting a Tuesday trivia night."
When she noticed me rubbing my hands together in an egomaniacal sort of way (Trivia is my forte), she added a warning: "It's all rock and music trivia."
My wingman had settled on the Buffalo Soldier dish, which he was rapidly consuming when I swept back past him, stopping to take a big swig of my orange-flavored alcoholic drink before heading back to the bar.
There, I encountered Mitch, who wore a ball cap over his ponytailed hair and a T-shirt with a bikini-clad woman printed on the back. He balked at my opening question. "What do you mean, why do we come here?" he asked like I was a kook. "It has good music and cheap booze. What else do you need? I'm a cheap bastard — it's the Irish in me, I guess — and I like coming when I can get three-for-ones." He grabbed me by the shoulder and dragged me to the other side of the bar.
"This is my favorite thing about the bar." He pointed up at a poster of a martini. The martini's olives were dancing around the toothpick in the martini. "Because we all get a little crazy after too many martinis."
"Good lesson." I shuffled back to his friends: Rob, who was wiry and stubbly, and Jeff, who was big-boned and jovial.
"Wow, he had to show you every inch of the bar?" Rob said sarcastically. "Wasn't it pretty much the same the whole way down?"
"I come here several times a week," said Jeff. "The bartenders are nice, the drinks are cheap, and it gets really crazy on the weekends."
"Did you know it used to be a library?" I asked.
Mitch looked appalled. "Library? Who needs that?! This is way better than a library."
"Well, it does have books," I said.
"I don't need books — I have booze," he quipped.
Greenbrier Restaurant: "Too many tramp stamps," complained Beard. "Not enough nip slips."
"Quit yer bitching," I said, enjoying the view, regardless.
"I don't think I'd be comfortable going to work every day in my undergarments," mused our prim out-of-town Texas lady friend, who bears a striking resemblance to Sandra Bullock.
At Greenbrier, the bartenders are all chicks in various states of undress. We watched an exotic-looking girl flip her curtain of black hair over one shoulder and prance around in blue panties. A blond across the bar wore a matching hot-pink bra-and-panties set. A pigtailed girl could barely contain her "twins" inside a camo-print one-piece. Beard and Sandra Bullock looked away. I didn't.
I ordered a cranberry and vodka from our bartender, Nikky, who was amiable and never idle for a second. She wore boots, thigh-highs, and a short schoolgirl-style skirt. She also had a beautiful tattoo, which displayed disembodied eyes that made her back rather resemble the cover of The Great Gatsby.
We parked ourselves at the bar, facing a plastic case of $5 cigars. A dart competition — for cash, Nikky informed us — was ensuing in the background of the low-ceilinged, smoky venue. The place was pretty expansive; there were three separate bars, all manned by one or two lingerie-clad would-be strippers. The air was full of raucous laughter, Drowning Pool's "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor," the blue haze of cigarette smoke, the word ain't, and the pheromones of lonely men who will drink for hours just to stare at a tight stomach or a mountain of propped-up cleavage.
Beer signs lit up the dark wooden walls.
"Is this a dart tournament?" I asked a big blond woman who had just given an encouraging slap to the booty of a younger woman.
"Either that or a bunch of crazy people throwing sharp pointy things at the wall," an old man nearby answered curtly.
Between the random dialogue ("I got that chick pregnant!") and the old men trying to get as much physical contact from the bartenders as possible, Greenbrier was buzzing. I saw some young, good-looking guys in the corner playing pool, so I went to get their take on all the near-nudity, dart-playing, and general shenanigans.
Even with the raucousness and lingerie, this was the toned-down incarnation of the bar, they told me. "You used to be able to smoke a cigarette off a bartender's nipple," Henry, blond and tan, reminisced as he got up to take his shot at pool. "I'm not kidding."
"What happened?" I asked. "Why did they stop?"
"One day, you could get a bartender to pick up a tip with her tits," said A. G., Henry's dark, handsome friend. "Then... one day we came in and no one would take their tops off anymore."
"Lame!" I declared.
When I sauntered back over to Beard and Sandra Bullock, I relayed the news of the discontinued toplessness. Wordlessly, Beard got up and approached the black-haired girl with the permanent underwear wedgie and classic tramp stamp.
"I want to see nipple," he said, as calmly as if he were ordering an appetizer or asking for extra napkins.
"Oh, we don't do that anymore," she said with a smile. "Girls used to take their tops off for tips, but then this one girl got fired and reported us to the police. Now we can't anymore."
Beard walked back and ordered another drink, accepting booze as a fair enough substitute for boobs. But even without boobs, Greenbrier is worth chilling at.