Friday, April 27, 2012

Loading Up on Liquid Courage at Buffalo Bar & Grill

Buffalo Bar and Grill
311 S. Beeline Hwy.
Payson, AZ

I guess I’ve been a suit in so many strange places, I’ve become immune to it.

As a younger suit, sometimes it would bother me. Now, with so many miles behind me, I take it as a sure sign I found the right place in town.

The collective head swivel. That’s what I’m talking about.

No hat, no boots, no coat, no gloves. No socks, even. I trudged through the ankle deep slush in the parking lot in flip flops and swung open the door to the Buffalo Bar & Grill in Payson, Arizona.

Yes, I said Arizona.

While I brushed the snow out of my eyes from this freak spring snowstorm, every head in the place turned in my direction.

“I may not have dressed for the weather (this IS supposed to be Arizona, after all) but thank God I had a chance to change out of my suit at the Best Western,” I thought to myself as every eyeball in the place gave me a curious stare.

My courage to ignore the head swivels and stride purposefully toward the bar may come from years of life on the road. Or perhaps it came from the fact that I had another suit with me this time.

Yep. We suits almost always travel alone.

Except tonight. Which came in quite handy as the evening wore on. (Keep reading.)

It turns out we didn’t need to be wearing our suits to stand out like Mitt Romney at a Ted Nugent concert.

That’s because we were the only guys in the place not wearing cowboy boots. Not wearing cowboy hats. And not dancing.

Suit757 DOES NOT dance. Period.

Don’t get me wrong – the band was awesome!

Johnny Cash. Merle Haggard. Waylon. Willie.

One classic country hit after the other – on a Monday night in Payson, Arizona.

“We came to the right place in this town, my friend,” I gleefully told my fellow Suit, hoping that my grizzled experience as a road warrior might some day rub off on my rookie colleague.

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, the friendly bartender suggested a Lumberyard Flagstaff IPA draft from a microbrewery about 60 miles on the other side of the Mogollon Plateau.

Good music AND good beer. Nice!

Smooth, but with a strong hoppy kick, this microbrew was perfect for a cold snowy evening.

Especially paired with a cup of chicken tortilla soup.

A house specialty, the spicy soup warmed me up from the inside out. The tortilla strips somehow managed to keep that crunch all the way to my last spoonful.

As good as the soup was, that was merely a warm up for my “Sirloin Steak Melt”, a sourdough bread sandwich piled with shaved steak, onions and melted cheese.

Cheesy and tender, the sirloin in this sandwich puts the entire city of Philadelphia to shame. That is steak and cheese done right!

By the time I hit my third IPA, I was just part of the crowd. Chatting up the bartender, getting (unsolicited) local strip joint tips from the construction worker next to me and singing along to a near perfect rendition of David Allen Coe.

My fellow suit on the other hand didn’t seem to slip into quite the same comfort level. He was still peering nervously at the saddles, boots and antlers hanging from the ceiling while keeping a wary eye on the dance floor.

Might have something to do with the fact that he was perpetually two beers behind me.

Big mistake.

Just as the band launched into a Charlie Pride toe-tapper, one of the local ladies sitting nearby jumped up, lunged in my direction and grabbed my arm, slurring something about “dancing”.

I reluctantly informed her that Suit757 DOES NOT dance.

Under any circumstances.

No matter how many Lumberyard Flagstaff IPAs have come out of that tap.

Since she looked a little dejected, I immediately decided to do the gentlemanly thing.

“This guy would LOVE to dance with you,” pointing to my panic-stricken fellow suit on the bar stool next to my left.

As she dragged him, forearm first, onto the dance floor, I turned to the strip joint connoisseur to my right and we both exchanged a knowing glance of relief.

I know it’s rude to stare, but I couldn’t quite get myself to turn away from my poor fellow suit being dragged around the dance floor.

Like a bad wreck on the interstate, I knew I shouldn’t look. But I couldn’t help myself.

Even managed to snap a couple pictures.

But don’t worry. I’m saving them for when I really need them.

Even the female bartender moseyed over and commented to me in a sympathetic tone, “At least she’s leading.”

Then it dawned on me. Of course I’m immune to the collective head swivels. And the blank stares. And the not so original “You ain’t from around here, are ya?”

And it’s not just my road-hardened experience.

It’s something more tangible than that. More satisfying. More tasty.

I ordered up another IPA and tipped my glass to my fellow deer-in-headlights suit gyrating stiffly to Charlie Pride.

It was at that very moment that I think he figured it out too.

This is why God invented beer. Liquid courage.

Drink up!

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt (but we got the hell out of there before she asked again).

Buffalo Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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