Diatribe With Dave: Six Ways to Maximize Your Bar Dollar
A lot of old-time bartenders I've known have referred to the joint they worked at as "The House" (caps intended), and doing so has some interesting implications. The reference is almost adversarial, portraying their place of employment as an entity unto itself that needs to be dealt with in some manner. The phrase also implies authority, like The House sets the rules in its favor and there is an undeniable tension. Both these implications are true and have a great deal of sway in how bartenders deal with their guests.
Casinos are also called "The House" and that is a good way for clients to approach the situation when they walk into a bar. When you're playing against The House, as opposed to playing against other gamblers, you are destined to come up short. Casinos and hotels aren't built by letting people take their money and, in the end, The House always wins. Same thing with bars and restaurants--they don't pay their rent and buy food by losing money (They'll even lose money on food to make money on booze, a little known truth) and in the end they will get their due from you.
Think of it this way: only a four-star chump plays the field in a craps game; good gamblers know the odds are better if you back up the line bet and hope your number(s) hit. Even more astute ones do less obvious things, like buy the 4 or the 10 instead of playing the line. The odds are ever so slightly better, just enough to make a sophisticated player take it.
The same can be said against playing against The House in a bar. They're gonna take your money no matter what but there are ways to slide the odds slightly in your favor. Next time you sit at a bar pretend you are sitting at a blackjack table and see how that changes your thinking. It's The House's rules and The House's room but here's a couple tips at different places to level that field.
1. Go to Happy Hours
|Photo by Taylor Hamby|
|That's one happening Happy Hour chick!|
Once considered gauche or reserved only for dive bars, happy hours have made quite a comeback with the recent economic downturn (more on Happy Hour history soon!). The House wants to get customers in the door and the value menu thing seems to be all the rage. Even better is the fact that a lot of shops are doing late-night happy hours as well; no longer are they reserved for the early drinking set and now there's even food! Birra Poretti's from a million years ago still stands out as one of the first I can remember (I still miss those pizzas) and plenty have followed suit. Memphis really stepped up a few years ago with theirs and the revamped lineup is great. Lola Gaspar is another favorite: the small plates are a real treat. Check out Zipangu: $1.95 Sapporo drafts are a deal. And the list goes on and on.
2. Stick with the Neighborhood Bars
|A Manhattan in all its glory|
If you really want to tie one on without worrying about getting a tapas plate or gourmet chicken wings, hit your local hole-in-the-wall bar. C'est Si Bon in Westminster was a perfect example and there are plenty more still around, The Quill being another favorite. Nothing like ordering a draft beer and shot of whiskey and have that shot come out three fingers deep in a rocks glass. The House in these cases can be quite generous; bartenders with a heavy hand make for a good time. You might have to make due with pickled eggs, though.