Tuesday, June 12, 2012

E-House and Fox Hunt Tavern, Bensalem PA

Eddington House and Fox Hunt Tavern are two a fun little dives, with very different atmospheres, inhabited mostly by residents of this Philadelphia suburb. Like most dives, the only thing really noteworthy about them are the people inside.

"I poked my eye today," a woman said, randomly striking up a conversation with my girlfriend a few Friday nights ago.

"Does it hurt?" she asked.

"Hell no, I'm drinking!" was the reply.

A normal back-and-forth, for a rowdy bar on a Friday night. But the next impromptu confession from the woman was pure gold.

"He hates because me because that guy's his best friend," she said, pointing to a man across the bar. "And I fuck him."

Eddington House is located at 2813 Hulmeville Rd. in Bensalem, a suburb of about 60,000 people roughly 20 miles northeast of Phila. The locals call it E-House.

Their website boasts "21 Plasma TVs... 80 Out of Market Games Weekly" and, of course, "Beer Specials During Phillies Games"

This is what we walked into that night.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Peoria Institution: Friendly Valley

Located at 3708 N. Meadowbrook Lane in Peoria, the Valley is one of the longest standing bars in the city and one of the most unique. The building is a Quonset hut which, if you don't know anything about has a pretty interesting history. According to Wikipedia...

Between 150,000 and 170,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II. After the war, the U.S. military sold the surplus Quonset huts to the public for $1,000 each[citation needed]—this approached the cost of a small home.[citation needed] Many are still standing throughout the United States. 

A quick and lazy google search didn't turn up much for Quonset huts that have been turned into bars but I'm guessing that that number is pretty low, which only adds to the uniqueness of the Valley. Also, the fact that Peoria used to have two Quonset hut bars probably makes it the coolest city ever. Remember the Locus Point Tap? The hut still stands but the bar closed its doors about six years ago. I was there and remember patrons burning the roadside wooden sign that directed weary travelers on Route 8 to the old tavern, a sad sight indeed. By the way, the place is for sale if anyone is interested in returning the bar to its former glory. 

As for the Valley, it's still going strong after about 40 years with no sign of slowing down. The beers are cheap, the barflies are friendly, and the jukebox consistently cranks out some of the best tunes in town. This, despite the fact that the Valley recently made the transition from the old school flip-disc style juke to the fancy new internet jukebox that everyone agrees is a great thing  piece of shit internet juke that allows people to play whatever God-awful shit they can find. These things suck a big bag of dicks but fortunately for you dear reader, you won't have to worry about hearing shit music at the Valley because most of the folks here have pretty damn good taste. 

The bar is a straight shot from left to right with the right side wrapping into the wall to make a path towards the bathrooms. The bar seats about 15 and there's not a table to be found. Above the bar is the fire marshall's maximum capacity sign that reads 48. Are you fucking kidding me? If there were 48 people in this bar it would be so packed there's a good chance it would implode due to the pressure.

Speaking of the folks at the Valley, they are pretty friendly as long as you don't ruffle any feathers, which you wouldn't want to do anyway right? The average age here for patrons is certainly older than the norm but that's what makes it fun. On my last trip there, Zig-Zag (remember that asshole?) and I ordered shots of whiskey and were asked if we wanted them chilled only after the matronly bartender had poured them. Now normally, less than desirable service like this would be annoying but at the Valley it simply makes it more endearing. Not to mention the fact that chilling shots of whiskey is boozehound sacrilege. It's the drinking equivalent of ordering a filet mignon well done and with ketchup. 

Side note - On a recent trip to Crusen's (yes I actually go in to the belly of beast from time to time), I ordered a Jameson only to find that the bottle amongst others, is kept in the beer cooler. So, even if you wanted whiskey straight up you can't have it, they're automatically chilled. Yet another reason why that bar sucks monkey lungs (copyright Marty Wombacher 2010.)

The inside of the bar is adorned with vintage beer and booze paraphernalia, most of which are no newer than the mid 90's. Included in this collection is the world's sweetest Miller High Life sign, I'll let you find it for yourself. Behind the bar is a large collection of union stickers representing just about all locals, including the stagehands. There is a pool table and a dart board to mess around on but space is tight so you might want to think about your leaves to line up the best possible shot. 

Another unique thing about the Valley is that they have a backyard. Yes, a bar with its own back yard. It's a pretty big one too and a peaceful place to hang out. As a matter of fact, there aren't too many other better places to be than relaxing under the limbs of giant mulberry and pin oak trees with green grass beneath your feet on a cool summer night out behind the Valley. Everytime I think about back home, it's cool and breezy. And if you're in to trend sports that reached their peak in the late 80's there's a sand volleyball pit to keep you busy. I think it's more for looks though, as I've never seen anyone engaged in a game. Sometimes the Valley will have fires, something they must get a permit for so don't walk out back and just start burning stuff in the fire pit, not a good idea.

The owner is present most nights, either sitting at the bar or smoking a cancer stick on the deck attached to the right side of the building. If you look above the co-ed sink outside the bathrooms, there's a brilliant picture of him sitting on the toilet, drinking a Bud Light, and holding a Bible. The caption reads "the Lord works in mysterious ways." He certainly does.

I can't say with any certainty that the Valley is a neighborhood bar because there really isn't a neighborhood anywhere nearby. It's simply an oddity that folks driving to or from Landmark stop and have a few in just because it's there and it looks friendly, I guess. What the Valley most certainly is is an easy going place filled with folks just trying to have a good time. That, and it's a Peoria Institution.

So, if you've never been or been a thousand times, swing by the Valley and toss a few back because places like this are few and far between so let's enjoy them while we can.

Cheers to Friendly Valley and cheers to dives everywhere that are hanging on in these tough times.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The entrance to Kelleher's as captured by PBR photog and all-around pro Nyletak


A view from the top

Kelleher's, located at 619 SW Water St. in downtown Peoria, has become one of the more popular destinations in downtown Peoria. Located in an old warehouse (I know that's a crappy description, go to their website to read the whole history I'm lazy), the bar does it's best impression of a traditional Irish pub while still offering better than average pub grub.

One of my favorite aspects of this bar is the sense of history it invokes. Now, if you find yourself at Kelleher's on a Friday or Saturday night, you might not be able to pick up on it because of the collar-shirted masses clamoring around the bar. Not only is the building an ancient hulking mass of brick, mortar and steel but just about every nook and cranny is filled with historic artifacts. Some represent the old sod of Ireland but fear not Peoriaphiles, there's enough River City history in here to occupy yourself with.
A shot of downtown Peoria before the new courthouse and Twin Towers

I've seen this picture before and I think it's of a bar in Peoria but I'm not sure where. Help me out Peoria!

A shot of the Gipps Brewery baseball team proves that beer and baseball just go together

Here's another one for you PeoriaKid, I don't think you'll be getting your hands on this sign anytime soon!

Here's another bit of history for ya - the bricks that make up the patio outside the front entrance and those that serve as a sidewalk through the center of the parking lot came from heaping mounds near the river. I'm not sure where owners Pat Sullivan and John Hunt got these mounds from but I do distinctly remember seeing workers rummage through them to pull out the old bricks. Most are Purington Pavers which were used to construct most city streets in Peoria but occassionally, you'll find a Lant and Morris or a Springfield Granite.

Check the history son

Some streets downtown (definitely Water St.) still have the old pavers underneath several layers of asphalt. Eventually, it would be nice to see that crap ripped up and replaced with the old pavers, it would only add to the historic atmosphere of Water St.

Another great thing about Kelleher's is the bar itself, it has no rival in Peoria. On the business side, where all the booze is held, is an enormous wooden structure that runs the length of the bar and extends what seems like eight feet in the air. Keeping with Irish tradition (or something like that), the entire middle section of the structure is filled with whiskey, lots of it. I'm not sure how many different varieties of the stuff there is but my guess is at least 35. Flanking the whiskey on either side is your standard (for higher class bars at least) rows of flavored and specialty vodkas and a few tequilas.

Speaking of specialty vodkas, when did we decide that there needs to be a flavored version of every vodka brand? And just where does this trend stop? Apparently, the sky is the limit as shown by Kelleher's Outrageous Bloody Mary. What's so special about their version of the classic hangover remedy? Well, you can choose between Bacon or Smoked Salmon-flavored vodka. Let that soak in for a minute. Bacon. And. Smoked Salmon. Vodka. What was bloody mary mix, vodka, celery salt, pickles, olives, and celery not enough for your drink? I guess it does lack the protein provided by bacon flavored vodka but good lord what's next a dinner roll? Rant over.

Staying on the subject of semi-over the top drinks, if you're trying to get blasted with two of your closest friends, check out the Grape Ape. The drink combines Buru Citrus Vodka, Fanta Grape Soda on the rocks into one glass. Three straws are provided so you and your partners can dispose of the drink with extreme prejudice.

Kelleher's has about ten revolving beers on tap an  bunch of bottles but you'll always be able to get the standards - Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick's. On my trip there, I had the Two Brothers Monarch Wit ($3) and my guest had Left Hand Brewing Co's Good JuJu ($3). There's always different specials so you'll just have to check their website or call the bar to find out what the good deals are. If you're not used to dropping $3 a beer and $5 a shot, you'll definitely want to pay attention to the specials as it's pretty easy to rack up a hefty bar tab.

As for entertainment, there's a few TV's on either side of the bar as well as Golden Tee and a shuffleboard table, somewhat of an oddity for a place like this. The table is on the second level all the way in the back and looks out over the rear area of the bar. It's definitely the most unique shuffleboard in Peoria due to its location. The third Saturday of every month is "St. Practice Day" with $3 Jameson drinks, corned beef and cabbage, and $3 pints of Guinness, Smithwick's, and Harp. The Flynn Irish dancers jig around for a while and sometimes, (I think) the Bogside Zukes play.

I've never had the food at Kelleher's but it seems like pretty standard pub food but with an Irish twist. On Monday nights you can get a fried chicken dinner with a choice of fries or mashed taters and gravy with bread and cole slaw - sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Fifteen years ago, there wasn't a whole lot going on at the corner of State and Water except for Rizzi's. But Pat Sullivan and John Hunt have done an admirable job in revamping their block all while respecting the history of the buildings that their businesses occupy.

Kelleher's is an upscale bar and restaurant, a traditional Irish pub it is not. You won't find any blue collar guys from the neighborhood tipping a few back after work. I understand what the owners were going for and the bar's atmosphere is one of a kind but if you want to down some pints at somewhere that truly resembles (again, not a whole lot of working men here either) the public houses of the old country, you're better off heading up Main St. to Ulrich's Rebellion Room a bar that was formerly owned by Pat's brother - Mike "Sully" Sullivan.

Cheers to Kelleher's!

M - $3 select drafs 
T - $3 20 oz. Boston Lagers
W - $10 domestic buckets (5,) $3 Absolut drinks
Th - $3 Goose Islands, $10 domestic buckets, $3 Pinnacle Vodka drinks
F - $3 Grape Ape shots, $3 Sobieski vodka drinks
S - $3 Two Brothers drafts, $3 Jameson drinks

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ask The Chief Episode One

Unless this guy is an expert at kneeling and holding a clipboard, I really don't know what his expertise would be. Looking like a douche maybe?

Here at the PBR, I rarely get emails from people that have questions or comments but recently a gent named Ryan Norgart a.k.a. PeoriaKid sent me an email with some questions about some of the South Peoria dives I've reviewed here. Here's what Ryan had to say...

I just discovered your blog. I love it. I moved to South Carolina a few years back, but I grew up Peoria. I went to Woodruff and then Bradley and have always loved Peoria's drinking/ bar/ distilling/ hookering/ brewing/ and generally shady history. During and shortly after college I started exploring Peoria's diverse bar scene. I grew up about 2 blocks from the Red Barn and it has always been my "home" bar. I can still walk in the door today (after having left town some time ago) and know everyone at the bar.

Anyway, back to my point. Back in about 1997 or 98, a couple of friends and I started doing our own exploratory bar tours. We would basically drink our way around town trying to hit as many bars as we could that we had never been to before. However, there were a few places that I was always curious about but was a little nervous about checking out due to the part of town they are in combined with the fact that I am white. A few that come to mind are Dome, Earp's hideaway, Jan's, Roger's, and Garden Gate. After reading your reviews I want to check them out more then ever. Especially Dome tap. Like I said, I love Peoria's brewing history and I sort of collect old Gipp's stuff. I never knew Dome had the Gipp's tile entryway.

So, do you think a regular guy (Im not a douche, definitely not a hipster, not from Chicago, etc) would ever have any problems at these type of places? I have been to plenty of dive joints around Peoria, in some shady areas, but to me, places like the Dome sorta take things to another level of ghettoness. (due to the neighborhood) Im not stupid and have decent street smarts, know when to keep my mouth shut, etc. So, have you ever felt uneasy in any of these places?

Well, you asked for it and here ya go Ryan, I hope this helps!

Dome Tap - The Dome is a great place for an afternoon beer and with all the pay-out poker machines they have you might end up getting one for free. I've been to the Dome on Friday and Saturday nights pretty late and I was DEFINITELY the only white person in there other than the girlfriend of some black dude. I've never had any problems with anybody other than one time some guy kept trying to get me to buy him a drink because the bartender had cut him off. My girlfriend was even with me at the time and no one fucked with her. That being said, it's probably safer to get outta there before 10 or so. While I've had a good experience there I could totally see some guy wondering what the fuck a 27 year-old white dude is doing in there that late and wanting me out of there. Maybe I've been lucky and maybe people can tell that I'm no threat to anyone and not worth beating up, (like I said white, 5'7" 150 = you've proved nothing by whooping my ass.)

Earp's - Basically like most bars in this area, Earps is a white trash hangout and honestly, I've felt more uncomfortable in these types of places than I ever have at "black" bars like Dome Tap and LA's. This place is alright, definitely a neighborhood joint and you'll get some looks on the weekend when ALL the regulars are there. If you're gonna get fucked with in this bar, it'll probably be over a pool game.

Jan's - Don't be fooled by the location, Jan's is absolutely harmless. Any bar where a 60 something year-old lady who isn't even 5 feet tall tends bar on a Saturday night is somewhere you don't have to worry about. Jan's is a neighborhood place for sure but this is the bar where the laid back folks from the 'hood go, while Earp's is generally reserved for the rowdy croud. Last Saturday night when I was in there (from 9 - 10) and Jan's grandkids were playing pool in the back room, nothing to worry about here.

Roger's - I've hung out at Roger's Place quite a bit and I've never had any problems. The key to avoiding trouble here is to get in good with the bartender (Booter) because there are definitely some crazy fuckers that go in here. Like neck tattoo, coked out, crazy eyed people. But Booter keeps everything under control, he doesn't put up with any shit and there are several "normal" (and I use that word VERY liberally) regulars that..well, regulate on any trouble makers. Also, this bar always seems to be busiest in the after work hours (4 - 7) after that, it's pretty dead. Even on the weekends, it's rare that Roger's is open much past 11.

Garden Gate - Another South Peoria classic that's patronized by (mostly) older white guys. A bunch of country on the juke box and old timers sippin' their beers. The Gate is really a day-time bar, they close early at night because they're afraid of getting robbed. If you're gonna get fucked with in here it'll be because you told some guy that his racist joke wasn't funny..and that he's a racist and you're not. You're better off to just fake-laugh awkwardly and change the subject.

Well Ryan, I hope this post answered all your questions. I certainly did my best and if any of you out there on the internets have questions shoot me an email, message me on facebook, or send me some snail mail to 1060 W. Addison St. Chicago, Il.

That's all for now people, if you want to hang out, you can find me at Dorothy's this Friday or Saturday night between the hours of 8 and 11. Cheers!