Voting Against the 18th Amendment
Bars with themes are often a bad idea. In the rush to make a bar "feel" like an Irish pub or look like some aging corner boozer, what some bar owners often don't think about is this: What will make me come back isn't the Guinness posters on the wall or the fancy light design -- it's the basics like good bartenders, tasty drinks, a friendly crowd, a tight jukebox or DJ. Those are the touches that people remember.
Take Zack's, a scruffy neighborhood pool hall like you see in gritty '70s films, where the regulars knew each others' names and brought their own cues, but never shied away from offering a game to newcomers -- and usually beat them pretty soundly. The beer was cheap (extended $1 happy hours) and the kitchen turned out gooey, cheese-covered pizza that would cause gourmets great grief but was quickly devoured by the crowd -- an older mix of black and white who punched '70s rock and Motown into the battered jukebox. There was nary a laminated Congressional pass or leather briefcase in sight.
Early this year, Zack's was taken over by the guys who run the Hill's popular Pour House. They rechristened the place the 18th Amendment and promised a roaring '20s gangster/bootlegger feel.
Funny, but I'm not really seeing it. They've cleaned the place up, polished the chrome on the booths, moved out a few pool tables, added some flat-screen televisions and gussied up the beer list. (Newcastle and Pilsner Urquell where only Bud and Bud Light had gone before.) But the atmosphere is completely soulless and bland -- and loud, thanks to an internet jukebox.
Things are a little better downstairs in the cellar, which really does feel like a speakeasy: You have to navigate a short hallway and descend a twisting flight of stairs to reach a low-ceilinged basement with long, pew-like benches along the walls, a couple of old barrels for tables and two smooth pool tables. There's a short bar with televisions, too, so you don't have to miss the game.
Much of the true Hill crowd -- the ones who live there but give little thought to the difference between Staff Assistant and Legislative Assistant -- have moved down the block to the Lil' Pub, a charming, no-frills pub with a single pool table, cheap beer and a no-nonsense landlady.
If you're heading over after work, leave the blue blazer and khakis at home.
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