Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Discover the Corporate Greed of “Big Second Hand Smoke”

3237 Chester Blvd.
Richmond, IN
Visited January 3, 2011

Beer selection: Dive Bar specialties like PBR on draft.

Food: Dive Bar specialties like hot “boneless wings”.

It’s a sign of the apocalypse for sure.

Is there no mom & pop enterprise left in America to be spared from the unencumbered advance of cookie cutter national chains?

First it was book stores and used car lots.

Then I thought it odd when I noticed my local dry cleaners being snapped up by national chain Martinizing. I mean, I’ve heard of Big Government, Big Labor and Big Oil, but... Big Starch??

Stranger still was seeing the local funeral home go national. Big Death? Cool.

But bizarre doesn’t begin to explain the phenomenon of Larry Flint turning the now downright ubiquitous Hustler Club into the Wal-Mart of strip joints. (So I’ve heard, anyway.)

So what would that be? Big…?

Never mind.

Oh well, at least we’ll always have the corner neighborhood dive bar.

Not so fast.

Welcome to Fricker’s. (The name Hooter’s was already taken.)

Motto: “More than a handful.” (“More than a mouthful” was already taken – see above.)

Now before you doubt my very premise that the local dive bar can be chained, let me assure you of Fricker’s divey credentials. (The fact that it is a chain is indisputable, as the front of the menu claims 18 locations in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio)

How about a wall of cigarette smoke to welcome your pull on the front door? (Apparently, Indiana is the last state in America to have yet to criminalize smoking in restaurants.)

How about a 20 year old unmarried pregnant bartender slinging drinks in the hazy atmosphere?

How about blue collar guys in paint-stained sweatshirts who have been perched precariously on their bar stools since quitting time nine hours ago?

How about a local family taking advantage of “Kids Eat Free Night” – at 11pm – to feed their couple of sweet little toddler holly terrors -- one with pierced ears and the other sporting a mullet -- while mom and dad burn through a pack of Camels and down a couple $6 Coors Light Pitchers?

Oh yeah, this place is well credentialed.

I can’t wait to visit the other 17 locations.

It was just serendipity that I stumbled across this one.

It was the night of the Orange Bowl.

And my luxurious accommodations across the street at the Comfort Inn apparently didn’t include ESPN. Something about how Comcast was supposed to come out two weeks ago to fix the cable, explained my Angelina Jolie look-alike desk clerk (Yeah, I know, I was a bit baffled by why she was working here too.)

Rather than demand a refund and check out, I decided to walk across the I-70 overpass to Fricker’s to watch the game.

Like any true dive bar, of course, even one advertising their plethora of TV’s, the entire HD thing seems to have bypassed Fricker’s.

So I watched the Virginia Tech Hokies get their asses kicked by those Silicon Valley nerds from Stanford on an old fashioned 9 inch TV with no sound.

Before you start to feel too sorry for Suit757, let’s dwell a moment on the one and only positive attribute of dive bars.

Why does ANYONE patronize these places of smoke, decay, mold, sketchy characters and tasteless décor?

One reason. And one reason only.

Because dive bars are CHEAP!

And that last most crucial of criteria cinches Fricker’s status in chain dive bar infamy.

The special of the night was “Forty Cent Boneless Wings”.

So, naturally, that’s what I ordered. Or so I thought.

What my four bucks bought me was a basket full of not chicken wings, but giant fried and breaded strips of tender white meat -- what Southerners refer to as Chicken Tenders, Zingers or Buffalo Fingerz.

Ten of them!

The same thing that would cost you $13 at a Zaxby’s drive-through.

Four bucks!

But here at Big Second Hand Smoke, they advertise them as “Boneless Wings”! These Midwestern boys could use a marketing class. Not that I’m complaining.

That was the most food I’ve bought for four bucks since Taco Bell ran their 39 cent taco deal back in 1989.

On advice of my pregnant bartendress, I went a notch above “Hot” to “Frickin’ Little Kicker”. I’m glad I didn’t go higher. Or I would have had to consume even more beer.

Which brings me to the only reason to even darken the doorway of a place like this.

The beer selection was typical dive bar – pathetic.

I have a bad beer selection theory I always try to live by. If it’s really bad, go REALLY, REALLY bad.

I mean, think about it.

Why settle for Bud or Sam Adams? You can get that crap at any hole in the wall. It takes a special kind of divyness to discover “The Champaign of Beer” or the beer “Selected as America’s best in 1893” on tap.

If you’re going to take nine months off your life by spending three hours watching the Hokies get ass-jacked in a smoke filled bar, why not go for something unique – something you can’t get at your half-way-self-respecting-neighborhood bar?

That’s why I asked for a PBR draft.

Ms. Preggers helpfully told me that they were only $2.22.

“Perfect,” I thought, calculating the per ounce cost of a typical 10 oz. dive bar pull.

Except, she didn’t bring me a 10 oz. pull of PBR. She brought me an over-flowing giant 22oz. glass of 5.0 APV frugality.

Oh yeah.

That’s a better deal than drinking a Seven Eleven 40 in the motel room. And all the extra ambiance and companionship to boot.

After three hours of football watching, enough battered and fried and hot sauced chicken fingers to feed the lunch rush at Zaxby’s, the second-hand smoke equivalent to three cartons of Marlboros and 88 ounces of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the entire bill came to $12.88.

Contemplating the future of Bartendress, Jr., I left feeling guilty as hell leaving a 25% tip.

Maybe the Wal-Martification of dive bars isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Always the low price on chicken wings, PBR and second hand smoke – always. Coming to your town soon.

Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.
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