A SURVEY OF THE BEST DIVES, GREASY SPOONS & GIN JOINTS

“Of all the gin joints in all the world…”

Looking for that sleazy little dive on the edge of nowhere, owned and operated by some guy named Judy; or are you one of those hungry nightowls perched temporarily in some foreign metropolis with a taste for hot beer and lost hope? Or maybe you’re lusting after some hole-in-the-wall, 24-hour greasy spoon replete with a set of vivid characters, all of whom look oddly like refugees from the Twilight Zone.

Gothic horror, monumental kitsch or edgily amusing? Name your poison.

If you can’t find it here, it’s not worth knowing about; and if it is worth knowing and there’s no evidence of it here, then post your own! Publicise your most delicious proclivities! Add to the growing list of unsung eateries, beaneries and hang-outs, and while you’re at it, share any stories of your adventures on-the-run, gustatory or otherwise…

IN AUSTRALIA/NZ

LA CASALINGA  105 Gregory Terrace
Alice Springs, NT 0870
61 8 8952 4508

Back in the days when the barmaids ate their young, and the crows flew backwards to keep the dust out of their eyes, my partner and I dubbed La Casalinga (House of Lizards), “the Ptomaine Place of the Alice”, after contracting a very bad case of food poisoning their one night. But that was years ago. Now it’s merely another famous icon that lives on its faded reputation.  20 years ago Centralians seduced by tinned champignons, and the flickering light of a wax-cased Matuese bottle. 20 years later, the same “ambience” might not wash. Expect to pay $15-$18 for the pleasure of looking around and saying: “So this is the place where Stoneking used to eat on those rare weekend breaks from Papunya.”

HAPPY VALLEY CHINESE RESTAURANT    135 Eagle Street, Longreach 4730 QLD
Typical outback eatery, and even more typically, the best and only Chinese place in outback Queensland. Locals declare the fish and chips to be the best in all of Longreach; however, there’s a vast array of authentic Chinese dishes to choose from, such as the salt and pepper calamari, the combination chow mein, Mongolian beef and fried rice. Oh, and one more thing! Choose your seating carefully. A 50-year-old woman from Victoria Point in Brisbane was killed when a errant automobile crashed through the front window a few years back. Apart from that, the Dragon is smiling.

THAI WI RAT      20 Duncan Street, Fortitude Valley (Brisbane), QLD
Located in the Chinatown Mall, which runs parallel to the Valley Mall on Brunswick Street, Thai Wi Rat is truly awesome and a must if you are sick of “Australian-ized” Thai cooking and stuck in the Valley. Most of the dishes are under AUS$15, and you queue to order your meals.. The great thing about this place is that it hasn’t bothered adapting its menu to stereotypical “western” tastes, hence it retains a marvellous authenticity. All the usual suspects are on offer, prepared and cooked far better than anywhere else you’ll find in Brisbane. There are also a number of more unusual dishes on the eccentrically spelt menu, like “various offal in Thai spices”.

ABBOTSFORD CHINESE RESTAURANT                                                               547 Great North Road Abbotsford, New South Wales 2046One of my favorite Chinese restaurants this side of Florence. Nothing to write home about when it comes to decor or atmosphere, but the great food and family- personalised service make it one of the Inner West’s best kept secrets. Don’t let the fact that it is almost devoid of customers put you off. I especially recommend the gow chi, Special fried rice, and chicken chow mein; also the lemon chicken.

HAPPY’S CHINESE RESTAURANT
Located in the centre of Canberra, and one of millions of other Chiene Restaurants with the word “happy” in its name. This one is recommened more for the garish and over-the-top mural that takes up one whole wall, and might just put you off your dinner if you’re not careful. A sleazy little basement joint, run by a family that has been cooking up a storm for three generations. A visit to their website will tell you that ” Mr Happy has unfortunately passed on, however his son Jason is now the proud owner, and works in partnership with his nephew Gavin to ensure that Happy’s story continues.” Don’t expect to leave the place laughing but if you’re in the centre of Canberra on a Friday or Saturday night and looking for a place to eat, give this one a try. http://www.happys.com.au/index.html

BLACK OUT      604 St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Victoria (AUSTRALIA)               Tel: 03 8530 1850
“It’s more of an event rather than a restaurant; it’s a theatrical experience.”
The concept sprang from dinner parties held in the home of a blind man who opened a restaurant in Zurich in 1999 staffed by blind people. The “Dining in the Dark” theme moved to Germany, Paris and New York, Bejing, and has now arrived in the southern hemisphere courtesy of theatre producer Paul Farrah. To avoid chaos, patrons peruse the menu in the illuminated foyer and are then led to the blackened restaurant. There is a ban on mobile phones, smoking, torches, matches, cigarette lighters and luminous watches.

People wanting to go to the toilet put up their hand and are led to another part of the building. The toilets have lights.

THE WAITERS RESTAURANT, 20 Meyers Place Melbourne VIC 3000 Contact: Tel : +61 3 9650 1508
A secluded and modest little place at the top of a staircase in the once vacant, now bustling Myers Lane.  1960s decor, including laminex tables and a chalkboard menu. The place oozes character, history and stories that the owner, Sabbadini, is happy to share. Try the antipasto plate and a pasta dish to understand why this place is legendary. I hear the puttanesca is to die for but I hate to think how it got its reputation.

DRAGON CAFE, 175 Rattray St., Dunedin, South Island (New Zealand)
Recently spent a week in Dunedin and found myself in a quest for a good feed. Though I searched the length and breadth of the CBD, and complained under my breath about the obvious lack of taste Kiwis had when it came to the culinary arts. I finally stumbled into this joint on the last night, and discovered the closest place you’ll get to food heaven in Dunedin. It would appear that there are others that agree with me (see comments). Their traditional Chinese fare will satisfy, and the prices will make you smile. I didn’t try it the night I was there, but I understand their Bombay Curry is one of the best in the world.

 

 

IN THE USA

*EAST COAST*

MAX FISH, 178 Ludlow Street, New York, 10002 (USA) Telephone: (00 212) 529-3959    Hours: Mon – Sat: 5.30pm-4am
Cool and famous for being cool this legendary sleazy-chic Lower East Side watering hole is a funky little joint with interesting, frequently rotating art work, inexpensive (sometimes too) strong drinks, a unique and diverse jukebox, and a pool table. If you’re in NYC and want to feel part of the “it” scene this is ground zero! Actors, models, people who I don’t know what they do but clearly they’re famous for doing SOMETHING, artists, tastemakers, beautiful people, alternative lifestyle-friendly… and YOU!

McSORLEY’S OLD ALE HOUSE, East Village (NYC)
The oldest Irish tavern in New York, located at 15 E. 7th St. in the East Village, was one of the last of the “Men Only” pubs. Neither “dive” nor gin-joint, it makes this list on the strength of its rich and illustrious history and the fact that its past customers include the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, John Lennon and CW Stoneking. LeRoi Jones also frequented McSorley’s Old Ale House, as did Paul Blackburn; and Joseph Mitchell wrote a series of articles for the New Yorker on the watering hole, and in 1943, penned the lively historical account, “McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon.”

According to Mitchell, “The bar is stubbornly illuminated with a pair of gas lamps, which flicker fitfully and throw shadows on the low, cobwebby ceiling each time someone opens the street door.”  Just as its sole beverage hasn’t changed, the rustic feel remains as intact as its early days.

PETER McMANUS CAFE, Manhattan/Chelsea, 152 7th Ave (between 19th St & 20th St), New York, NY 10011
My friend, Snatch Brierson, and I chanced upon this joint back in 2000 whilst walking round trying to find a laid-back place to gab and have a few drinks. Brierson’s never been into “scenes” or places where people get dressed up and act like annoying twits, so we’d passed by a handful of places while walking south on 7th. Then we saw McManus’! Willie Nelson was on the jukebox and we just looked at each other, smiled and realized we’d found Paradise, at least for the night.

We sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender a bit and just had a good time. It wasn’t too crowded or too loud, but yes, it’s a dive. A very comfortable dive. You can tell that a lot of the patrons are people who have been going there for years (decades, probably).

Don’t get excited about the food. Just go for drinks and conversation. The mixed crowd is laid back (unless the college kids come in, then it gets a bit obnoxious) and the bartenders are always willing to chat for a few if they’re not too busy.

JONES DINER, 371 Lafayette Street, at Great Jones Street, East Village (NYC)
At the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones Streets – an easy-to-miss, tiny one-story building that on the outside looks a child’s drawing of a house, complete with little wisps of steam curling out of the chimney on its roof. Inside, it’s as narrow as a ketchup bottle, the aisle between counter and booths so threadlike that the countermen could, if they chose, merely lean over to serve booth customers.

At 80 or so, the Jones stubbornly refuses to smarten up. Over the years, its ancient marquee menus have faded into Zen ambiguity. You can order the ”SPSSL,” ”2 EGGC,” ”COFFE” or, my favorite, ”ACON OB SU AGE” (bacon or sausage). The coffe(e) is terrific; hot, freely poured and refilled so fast that it’s always fresh. And in real cups!

In addition to a crowd of neighborhood loyalists, the Jones claims two celebrity customers, the actors Jerry Orbach and Michael Moriarty.

HONG KONG EATERY, 79 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111 (USA) phone (617) 423-0838
Probably one of the few ‘real’ Chinese restaurants in Boston. Try their juicyroast duck and poached chicken with ginger scallion sauce. Most of the customers that frequent the Eatery have been coming here for years for their noodle soups. Saw these two ladies slurping it down and had to ask what it was. The waiter was like, “Oh, Beep beep! (made gesture like he was driving)…that’s Car noodle.” huh?

Fast and friendly service with reliably good Cantonese food.

 

*THE SOUTH*

JERRY’S RESTAURANT & LOUNGE 242 Barrett Street, Grafton, West Virginia 26354
Located in Grafton – the hometown of CW’s grandfather – Jerry’s has developed a legendary local status among those who love eating home cooked country meals. The folks at Jerry’s pride themselves on making everything from scratch. CW did a wide detour on his way to New York just to sample their ribs, and their baked steak with mashed potatoes and gravy are hillbilly chic.

The original owner (Jerry) passed away some time ago, but his spirit lives on. The place is small enough for the waiters and waitresses to know your name (if you go in for that sort of thing) and if you’re looking for a family friendly restaurant, Jerry’s ticks all the boxes. Of special note are their desserts. They have a banana split cake that melts in your mouth, and their apple pie ala mode is unforgettable. Reasonably priced and the menu offers something for everyone.

YANN’S HOT DOG STAND, 300 Washington Street, Fairmont, WV 26554 (USA), 304-366-8660.
Perched on the edge of the riverbank, practically a part of the bridge that links West Fairmont with East Fairmont, there are no signs to let you know this is the famous Yann’s; I guess it doesn’t need any since everyone in town already knows. The place is small. Take one step inside the door and you ‘re all the way in. An “L” shaped bar with built-in stools provide seating for six or seven people, and the other side of the bar allows two or three people to work at preparing hot dogs for the hordes that invade the place at lunch time. Signs on the walls tell you everything you need to know: Hot dogs are 85 cents, they come with onions, mustard and sauce, don’t even think about asking for ketchup, cheese or slaw.

PO’ MONKEYS’s JUKE JOINT located outside of Merigold, Mississippi in the Mississippi Delta (ask any of the locals)  This patched-up sharecropper shack has swayed with rhythm and blues for nearly 50 years. The current owner, Willie Seaberry, a 65-year-old farmworker by day, opens his little club on Thursdays and Mondays. Thursday evenings are “family nights”; Mondays are strippers. Make the two-hour drive from Memphis, Tennessee, to Merigold, Mississippi, for a mind-blowing experience of the last operating juke joint in America. Blues fans from Japan and Europe have found their way down the unmarked gravel track off Highway 61, seeking the ghosts of Robert Johnson and others who seem to be lurking in the shadows. Although Seaberry said, “I love all music as long as it’s the blues,” the line drawn in his club is at hip-hop culture. Hand-lettered signs say “No Rap Music, Just Blues,” and ban baggy, falling-down pants.

PETE’S FAMOUS HOT DOGS, 1925 2nd Ave N, Birmingham, AL (USA) Tel: (205) 252-2905
The narrowest restaurant in Birmingham..since 1920 on the sign, but really 1915…the presentowner since 1948….maybe hot dogs are good for you…line out the door…a stand-up eat joint…very loyal following…”the best hot dog anywhere”.

HEALTH CAMP, 2601 Circle Road, Waco, TX 76706. (USA)
Ironically, in light of the name, prospective patrons will be well-advised to go to the bathroom before you go to Health Camp. Then again, the cheesy old atmosphere is part of the place’s charm. The building is a local landmark with a worn interior and neon exterior that only add to its wonderful character. It remains a relic of the ’50s… in every aspect, that is, except for the price! Whet your appetite with one of their bacon cheeseburgers (without the trimmings for a true test of a quality burger), loaded with tons of cheese and bacon. They also serve the Dublin Dr. Pepper out of the fountain, for all those who remember the original or wanna know what all the fuss was about back in the 1950s.

DeWESE’S TIP TOP CAFE, San Antonio, Texas (USA)

They don’t need to tell you they’ve been around since 1938, just have look round and make no mistake, the place is one step away from archeological-site status. Everything about Tip Top says, “Old”. Old and veerry small. Like a time machine, or the Twilight Zone.

Order their small mountain of Onion Rings, Chicken Fried Steak or Enchiladas. All of these are billed as “house favorites”. The onion rings are good, and the Chicken Fried Steak covers 2/3s of the plate. Fries are also worth ordering. And the waitresses have wit, if you catch ’em on a good day.

So if you’re driving through the Deco District of San Antonio, and can’t get in to Earl Abels, check out De Wese’s Tip Top Cafe on Fredericksburg Road. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

THE PIE SHACK, Texas Highway 19, Walker County, TX (USA) phone (409) 295-6721
Doing 80mph down Texas Highway 19, heading north out of Huntsville, the words “Pie Shack” won’t make you wanna slam on the brakes, but if you don’t you will have missed a rare treat. Basically it’s just a cafe dining room added on to the side of a house, but you won’t find cooking any more home cooking than you’ll find at the Shack.

Start with their complimentary bowl of bean soup, plenty of ham in a rich broth. Then the chopped barbecue sandwich, piled high on a toasted bun and topped with pickle and onion. Only one choice for pie – coconut custard. Great flaky crust, rich custard and plenty of coconut.

When the cheque comes, don’t be surprised if it’s only about $6 or so, including a can of coke.

*THE MIDWEST*

HIGHWAY 61 ROADHOUSE AND KITCHEN, 34 South Old Orchard Avebue, Webster Groves, MO (USA)
Celebrates the music and food of that fabled Blues Highway running from New Orleans to Memphis to St. Louis. Heal your broken heart with St. Louis-cut spare ribs in a peppery, tangy barbecue sauce or, for a Memphis-style treat, spaghetti and pulled pork topped with that same sauce. Louisianan dishes are to die for, especially the shrimp-and-crawfish étouffée and fried tamales. Portions are huge, so even if your woman done left you, you’ll have enough to share if she done change her mind and come back.

NADINE’S, 1931 S 12th St, Saint Louis, MO 63104 (USA) – (314) 436-3045
Topical themed patio sans kookaburra jungle sounds. Floor covered in Astroturf, and heated and open year round. The only time this place is packed is during Mardi Gras and Bastille Day, so it really keeps that nice neighborhood feel. There’s darts and shuffle board, TV’s playing the Cardinals, old neighborhood locals, young 20 somethings trying to avoid the crowds and cover charges at The Shanti and The Great Grizzly Bear, and people just looking to sit around and chill out.

Saturday night karaoke every week can bring in a pretty solid crowd as well, but still not packed. Get there early and grab some dinner, the food is excellent and very cheap.
****Four stars, unless they bring back the horseshoe pits in the back, then an easy FIVE.

PIZZERIA AROMA, 1125 W Berwyn Ave, Chicago 60640 (USA)
Btwn N Winthrop Ave & N Broadway St
This place has a great menu! Way more than you would expect from a little pizza place. The pizza is good but the pasta dishes and sandwiches are excellent. The arrabbiata dishes and eggplant parm are super yum. Try it. You won’t be disappointed… The Special – Apple Ravioli – comes with salad and garlic bread and is delicious.

Looking around, before I left, I saw others eating large salads and an intriguing shrimp dish. The Decore is “Amerikan kute”, nothing fancy, but with a bit of a Godfather theme.

*THE WEST*

OUR PLACE, 148 Yellowstone Ave, Cody, WY 82414 (USA) (307) 527-4420
This is the local place everyone goes to. They make the best home-made food – check out the pies!!! – and they give you tons… in the inimitable American style. It is so good, but don’t eat too much.

ALTITUDE CHOPHOUSE AND BREWERY, Downtown, Laramie Wyoming.
Back in the days when the barmaids ate their young, and the buzzards flew backwards to keep the dust outta their eyes, there was a little chophouse in Laramie… and, well… it’s turned into one of the cosiest joints you’ll find anywhere. Their steaks and fresh fish dishes are only equalled by their beer, brewed on the site.

BOBCAT BITE CAFE, 420 Old Las Vegas Hwy, Santa Fe, NM (USA) (505) 983-5319S
Located on what at one time was part of historic Route 66, the Bobcat Bite has been a family owned and operated restaurant since 1953. Originally a trading post, then a gun shop, it was made a restaurant by Rene Clayton (owner of the Bobcat Ranch), and operated by her daughter Mitzi Panzer in 1953.

Since then it has been operated as a mom and pop diner by a series of proprietors including Don and Millie Cowell, Don and Shelba Surls and Bob and Judy Amos to the present when John and Bonnie Eckre took over in May of 2001.

Many people ask about the name. Years ago before I-25 was built, bobcats came down from the hills and were given treats at the back door at what was one of the few local dining spots that were friendly to bobcats at that time. Nowadays, one has to be careful they don’t come in the bar and eat people (just kidding).

SAMBO’S, 216 West Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, California (USA)
Formerly an American restaurant chain started in 1957 by Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett. Though the name was taken from portions of the names of its founders, the chain soon found itself associated with “The Story of Little Black Sambo”. The story, written by a Scot woman living in India in 1899, tells the tale of a boy named Sambo who outwits a group of hungry tigers who race around a tree and eventually turn into butter. Battistone and Bohnett capitalized on the coincidence by decorating the walls of the restaurants with scenes from the book, including a dark-skinned boy and tigers. By the early 1970s, the illustrations depicted a light-skinned boy wearing a jeweled Indian-style turban with the tigers.

At its peak, Sambo’s had 1,200 outlets in 47 U.S. states; however, in the late seventies controversy over the chain’s name drew protests and lawsuits in communities that viewed the term “Sambo” as derogatory towards African-Americans, particularly in Northeast states. Several of the restaurants were opened as or renamed to “The Jolly Tiger” but by November of 1981, the company filed for bankruptcy and by 1982 all but the original Sambo’s closed their doors.

Battistone’s grandson, restaurateur Chad Stevens, owns the only remaining Sambo’s, and expresses a desire to revive the chain.

REDWOOD BAR & GRILL, 318 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 900012 (USA)
A haven for stiff drinks and great grub in downtown LA, CW Stoneking delighted local hipsters with tales of journeys to Africa, New Orleans and Bangladesh during a recent residency. That is if anyone in the crowd could decipher a word he said. Owned and operated by Christian Frizzell, relation of the famed Country’n’Western singer, Lefty. Thirsty for a beer, dying of starvation, hungry for some blues? – check it out!

THE KITCHEN, Silver Lake neighborhood, 4348 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029 (USA)
Looking for a place better than Mom’s? You just may have found it. The Kitchen is Los Angeles’ answer to whatever neediness you might be feeling. Very relaxed, you’ll usually spot a famous face or two but the place is so casual and the food so comforting you’ll probably feel more like a celebrity than they do. Avoid the salmon, but order anything chicken with alacrity. You’ll take half of your dinner home, the portions are that huge.

PARADISE CAFE, 702 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA (USA) Phone: (805) 962-4416
Still one of the best Margaritas in town made by none other than Bruce at the bar! One of the best “cafes” in America. A bit of old Santa Barbara, their Mussel Pasta Salad is legendary round these parts.

SATURN CAFE, 145 Laurel Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 429-8505
Vegetarian Heaven that succeeds in imitating 1950s diner classics without the meat. Try their Muffinator- Heaven on a bun with great “meat’ flavor minus all the grease. Get a huge side of Chili Cheese Fries, with cheese perfectly melted on steak cut fries with bits of tomatoes and chili mixed it. Also, please note, ‘the Sat’ has the best salads in town, bar none. And the desserts – Good grief! The desserts!

If you’re there for brekkie, don’t miss the walnut pancakes.

APTOS ST BBQ, 8059 Aptos St. Aptos, CA 95003 phone 8316 621721
Definitely not for vegetarians – unless you want the best toast in the world – they grill big pieces of buttered toast until they’re nice and crunchy. But the main attraction is, of course, their tender pork ribs. In a word: divine. Moist enough they slid right off the bone, but not so overdone that they lose the hearty, meaty texture. Another winner is the chicken with its tender, dark meat and smoky flavor.Top it all off with their potato salad and beans.

As far as California BBQ goes, this is about as good as it gets. My biggest complaint is that the ribs are glazed with a sauce that’s far too sweet. They’re good, but I kind of feel like I’m eating desert. Besides that, the sides are good, the other meats are tasty, they have a great beer selection, and the staff is friendly.

THE UPTOWN, 200 Capp St., San Francisco. CA (USA) – (415) 861-8231.
There are a thousand dives in the naked city, but only one Uptown. After the ’06 quake, Henry Schlictman built a Neo-Romanesque building and bar. Bar biz control shifts to the Irish, becomes McGovern’s. Gay bar briefly in ’70s, then turns lesbian. Pool room was old cigar store. To unify look, the back bar’s mirror cut out and moved one room over. Scott Ellsworth buys the place 19 years ago. Discovers joint’s checkered past in the back: a bank of phone jacks suited to bookie operation, and manacles (San Francisco – the later years) hanging from the wall. Ellsworth sometimes displays local artists’ work, but until some patrons learn better manners, his collection of Micheline paintings stay out. Decor is Flophouse-chic, with lounging sofas.

Jukebox: 3 for $1. Duckmandu, Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen, Tony Bennett, etc.

Extras: Crazy grafitti in ladies’ loo; bucket and mop, too.

Jameson’s index: $3.50

AL THE WOP’s, Locke, CA (USA) –
Also known as Al’s Place, this famous dive south of California’s state capitol in the Sacramento River delta has been feeding the hungries since 1934. Built in 1915 and operated as a Chinese Chop Suey joint, it really came into its own when Al Adami and an associate came up the river from Ryde to become the only non-Chinese business in Locke. Later Al purchased the building from Lee Bing and continued in the business until his death in 1961.

Al had surprises in store for his patrons. Cutting off neckties (much too dressy for Al’s), throwing money to the ceiling, and stirring the ladies’ drinks with his fingers are just a few. Many stories linger on about his unusual antics. Al the Wop’s (or as they say, “Althewops”) is best known by weekend warriors motorcycling through the area, the local roughnecks, and old duffers for their famous steak sandwiches. Also, everyone seems to get a kick that on each table is an open jar of peanut butter and jelly with a butterknife stuck in each; no doubt an OCD’s worst germ nightmare. Check out the pasta. Spaghetti to die for. Open 7 days a week.

JAMIE’S BAR & GRILL, 427 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95818 (916) 442-4044 (USA)
Not your ordinary Dive Bar. Looks like a house about to be demolished from the outside. inside, it was packed with all sorts of different people – from suits to bohemians.

From the buffalo head on the wall to the super friendly waitresses, Jamie’s is one of the best home-away-from-home joints in Northern California. Best bartenders too! Prime Rib, Clam Chowder, Cobb Salad, Potato salad and Steak and Reuben sandwiches are all tops.

The exterior of the establishment does not inspire much confidence, but believe me, it is awesome food.

Parking lot is off 5th street, and appears to be in the back of the building, and is unpaved.

POOR RED’S BAR-B-Q, 6221 Pleasant Valley Rd, El Dorado, CA 95623 (530) 622-2901 (USA)
http://www.poorredsbbq.com/
This old time hangout was old when I used to come here as a kid. What has always amazed me is how many people can be stuffed into such a small space, and the diversity of people! Rich, poor, young, old, flatlanders, bay area peeps and of course Hangtown regs. There are limos outside as well as cars with no rims. WHY? Great Drinks and Great Food, not to mention that this is probably the most friendley place you will ever go.

If your going through “gold country” and want to have a great time with great people and drinks/food you have to stop. And if you didn’t know, more than half of all the Galliano sold in the United States is consumed by a single location: Poor Red’s restaurant and saloon in El Dorado, California. Poor Red’s is famous for its Golden Cadillac: a blend of Galliano, white creme de cacao, and half-and-half.

UP THE CREEK TAVERN   Located at Tenmile Lakes, Lakeside, Oregon.  http://www.upthecreektavern.com/index.htm                                                             The cosy bar and cafe is owned and operated by the inimitable Heather Field who, in addition to being the daughter of the extraordinary philosopher/teacher and friend, Edwin Field, is also the mother of all “good-time gals”, an ordained minister and one helluva a hostess. Boasting an impressive and mouth watering selection of domestic and overseas brews, plus a menu replete with  corn dogs, chilli burgers, and a seafood combo you’ll not soon forget (nothing over ten bucks), The UTP Tavern is the perfect home-away-from-home.  Only 15 miles north of Coos Bay.

Tell Heather I recommended the joint and you’ll be shouted a free beer.  Karaoke on Thursday nights. C’mon! Live a little!

 

HOLE IN THE WALL BBQ, 3200 W 11th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402 (541) 683-7378   http://www.holeinthewallbbq.com/
For authentic, no-frills barbecue at its best, Hole in the Wall ticks all the boxes. As well as unbeatable chili that’s even better when it’s smothering a pile of fries and topped with cheddar cheese, this secret spot boasts slow-cooked meats, homemade sides, and luscious desserts. Be advised – you won’t find barbecue like this anywhere else in Oregon.

 

*ALASKA*

WHITE SPOT CAFE, 109 W 4th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501 (907) 279-3954
This little hole-in-the-wall whose motto is :”What’ll ya have with your fries?” is straight out of the 1950s. Walking in one is immediately transported back to the days of small diners and cafes, and that’s just the beginning.

Order your food to-go, or sit up at the bar or at one of the small tables, and enjoy the heady atmosphere of the place. The kitchen area is open to view, so you can watch as the owner/cook cooks your meal right in front of you. Everything is handmade, too, including their famous fresh cut fries. And their legendary halibut sandwich is out of this world!

You’ll also enjoy visiting with the owner, service staff, and local regulars in this place who’ill share lots of stories about the area and aren’t afraid to give you recommendations. If you’re there in the morning, and manage to hit if off with the owner, be sure to try his mouth-watering omelettes.

 

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

*MEXICO*

TORTA MUNDA, Calle Umaran 29, San Miguel de Allende, GTO
A jewel for visitors. It’s a small place with seven tables run by a warm and charming couple Maria and Luis Chavez. Pick up a torta (sandwich with a variety of fillings made on the grill in front of you) to eat there or to take with you on your walk around town. Fresh drinks like tamarind are made daily. There’s little chance of you getting sick from their food or drinks – lettuce and veggies are sanitized and only bottled water is used. The water-filled plastic bags hanging in the open windows are to scare the flies away.

IN ASIA

*HONG KONG*

TOM YUM’S THAI, G/F, 44 Hennessey Road, Wan Chai. Tel: 2527 2568
Opening: 12pm to 11pm. 7 days a week
This place has a great reputation among Iranian and American expats, as well as most Hong Kongers who praise it for good food and good times. A small restaurant in the heart of Wan Chai, it serves a long list of authentic Thai staples, served by an ever-friendly staff.  Evenings can be busy so booking ahead is recommended.

JOJO RESTAURANT, 2/F, 37-39 Lockhart Road, David House, Wanchai, (852) 2527 3776, www.jojofood.com
One of Hong Kong’s oldest Indian eateries, it evolved to its present state from JoJo’s Mess Club on Johnston Street opposite the Wanchai sports ground. Never mind the new location and the facelift – JoJo still serves some of the finest Indian fare in town, and its crowd-pleasing curries continue to be a hit with the many expats that frequent its tables.

Try the delicious malai kofta (fresh cottage cheese mixed with potatoes and dried fruits, deep fried and cooked in a rich house sauce) or the sizzling king prawns.

IN THE UK AND IRELAND

DOHENY & NESBITTS, 5 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin (Ireland) Tel: + 353 (0) 1 6762945
Founded in 1850, the bar had been a well-seasoned drinking emporium for well over a century before Ned Doheny and Thomas Nesbitt made it one of the most popular bars in Dublin. A popular haunt with a broad cross section of Dublin life with the bar frequented by actors, politicians, sports fans, journalists, office workers and economists, it is rumoured that the seeds of Ireland’s economic success were sowed by a select band of civil servants, politicians and economists in the late ’80s in what journalists satirically described as ‘The Doheny and Nesbitt School of Economics’.

Although it has been greatly extended recently and is now in essence a superpub, it has at its heart the original, very professionally run bar with an attractive Victorian ambience and a traditional emphasis on drinking and conversation. Grab a “snug” near the back, and enjoy a Guinness or two or three…!

CUTTY SARK CAFE & RESTAURANT, Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich, London (UK)
The moody interior feels like the captain’s quarters on a galleon. Beers by the gallon include London Pride, Broadside and St Austell’s Tribute, plus guest beers on tap. But you’ll probably feel obliged to sup rum; the spirits of old salts and tars seem to seep out of the dark woodwork. A drunken night in Greenwich always ends up here.

THE INTREPID FOX, West End, 15 St. Giles High Street, London WC2H 8LN
Metalheads Up! The new Fox isn’t as good as the old one. You can’t expect to find Lemmy chilling out with a couple of beers, and the crowd is definitely younger, but with so many great bars and venues closing for good around London these days (The Ruskin Arms, The Astoria), at least this place has found a new site to carry on.

And to its credit, it has a lot of little quirks all it’s own which give it character – good and bad. If you like your rock and metal music, you’ll be a regular at the Fox.

IN EUROPE

LA PALETTE (Paris) 43 rue de Seine.
A nostalgic little bistrot, with dark, cozy interior, a dedicated clientele of locals and a young, cool crowd. Mind you, it ain’t cheap – a glass of Chablis sets you back €6, a demi €4.50 – but you’re paying for the prime location once frequented by Jim Morrison, Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. Grab a spot on the leafy terrace if you possibly can – there’s usually formidable competition for seats, but if you’re lucky and have nothing better to do you can stay there all day. Another upside of this place is that it serves good, simple French food, ranging from sausages and mash to omelettes and steaks, and the prices they charge won’t break the bank.

RISTORANTE CINESE HONG KONG (Florence, Italy)
The best Chinese food you’ll have outside of China. Chinese fare in Italy? What!? Where do you think the Italians learned about pasta? When I was living in Florence I’d have dinner here at least two times a week. Friendly staff, fresh ingrediants, cooked to perfection and a great atmosphere. Check out the menu at http://www.ristorantehongkongfirenze.com/englishmenu1.html and then hopalong to Via dei Servi, 35/r, Firenze – phone 2398235

DER FELSENKELLER, Salzburg (Austria)
Located near the famous St. Peter’s cemetery and church in the heart of Salzburg, very near the steps to Monchsburg, this pils and wine-drinking joint is literally tucked in to a cave in the side of the mountain (careful, the ceiling drips), and was used as a ammunition dump by the Nazis in the WWII. The place is open to the public.

An unusual feature is its stone walls, which are decorated all over with coins, pressed into the wet, mossy granite by generations of thirsty and – I assume – tipsy customers.

DESPARADO, Hybernska, Praha 1, Prague.
A small but friendly pub located on Hybernska, Praha 1. I came in here one night cos I found the drinks too expensive in the Old Town Square. If soccer is to your liking, Desperado has a large screen for the football fans and also a jukebox where you can pick from thousands of songs from all your favourite artists. The atmosphere of the pub is great, lots of locals go here as well as foreigners, and the bar staff are very friendly. Plus the beer is very cheap. You’ll pay 180 Czech Korunas for 3 pints of lager and 3 half a pints of lager & a large bag of potato chips.

IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BUNS AND GUNS, Beirut (Lebanon)
Weird, never-to-be-forgotten eatery with décor and menu items of a distinctly militaristic persuaion. Dine to the sounds of helicopters. Manager, Yussef Ibrahim, sez the theme reflects the mood of the city during Lebanon’s 2006 war with Israel, and that while some patrons may find it disturbing, most are amused. Order a M16 Carbine meat sandwich, a Mortar burger or a Terrorist meal (which happens to be vegetarian). Displayed at the entrance is the restaurant’s slogan, “Sandwiches Can Kill You”.

CRYSTAL BAR, 243 Monot Str Achrafieh, Beirut (Lebanon) Telephone: +961 1 332 523
The most happening street in resurgent Beirut is Monot, and Crystal is the beating heart of it. A gorgeous restaurant-bar-club with an interior of plush curtains, moody lighting and grand mirrors, it suggest 20s American speakeasy or baroque bordello. The Eurasian fusion menu includes some tasty French dishes as well as oriental delights such as seafood and noodles. Music tends to be the same kind of chilled out Euro-beats they play in places like Buddha Bar in Paris.

THE TEAHOUSE UNDER THE KHAJU BRIDGE, Khaju Bridge, Isfahan (IRAN)
The Teahouse, or chaykhune, under Khaju Bridge is very traditional and may well have been in use since the bridge was built in the seventeenth century.
Inside, men sit on the floor, listening to Iranian music, drinking glasses of strong, black tea and smoking the hubbly-bubbly or nargile.

TRADITIONAL IRANIAN RESTAURANT
On my last evening in Isfahan I ate at a traditional Iranian restaurant. Don’t know the name of it, but it is situated at the top of some stairs east of Imam square, and just north of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (at night, sit outside on the roof for an illuminated backdrop of the Mosque).

Good service and good food. The dizi is to die for. Pay at a counter as you leave.

Salad buffet, dizi and a big water was IR 35 000

MESSA-CHEF RESTAURANT, 19 Ha’arba’a Street, Tel Aviv (ISRAEL)
Large with a quiet and tasteful ambiance, it’s a great place to meet and talk. Singles are very welcome and can be seated with other singles — very customer friendly. Check out the salmon, and if you’re so inclined they have the most delicious cocktails and desserts! Selections from the menu include: (1) Seafood gnocchi in a fine turmeric butter (2) Seared Salmon served with Pepper and Fig Relish and a light Sweet Potato Puree (3) white chocolate dessert, with cherry sabayon and raspberry fondue. http://www.messa.co.il/messa.html

SPU, Darake village, north of Tehran (IRAN)
This place is GREAT! I first experienced it one night in a snow storm in the company of my friends, Payam, Nasser and Ferida, along with Aussie art critic, John McDonald and journo, Helen Musa. We sat in a big tent (yurt) with clear vinyl windows so we could watch the blizzard. The place was gloriously heated with a traditional open fire and the menu, though short, had everything one needed for a memorable feast. Check it out at (http://www.spu-restaurant.com/Menu.htm).

Order some Zaytoun-Parvardeh (olives in pomegranate paste and walnuts) and Mirzaghasemi (a lovely mixture of egg-plant, tomatoes, eggs and garlic) plus salad and mastou-mosear (thick yogurt and shallots) to start with, and chicken on the bone and shish kebab (basically barbecued lamb chop) for dinner plus some Dough (yogurt drink), and some freshly baked bread made at the restaurant. The service is prompt, very polite and courteous; and the food was sooooooooo deliciousssssssssss. Do it in a snow storm if possble!

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About stonekingseminars

Poet, screenwriter, producer, mentor
This entry was posted in Memories, Places to eat. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A SURVEY OF THE BEST DIVES, GREASY SPOONS & GIN JOINTS

  1. Nic Brooke says:

    Hi – just wondering if you knew the date that the photo of the Dragon Cafe was taken?

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