Friday, June 25, 2010

Peoria Institution: Garden Gate Tap

The Garden Gate Tap is located on Garden St. just off of Adams in downtown Peoria. The Garden Gate has the unlucky distinction of having the address 1313 W. Garden St. The GGT, as it is affectionately known (between TheChief and Bobby Bolts that is) is a small and friendly neighborhood tavern. The reason it is called the Garden Gate is because of the gates that protect the windows and door from vandals and would-be robbers. No need to worry though, the GGT is just as safe as any of the other many bars in this area. Why a thief would want to rob a bar I will never know. It seems to me that walking into a room full of drunk people and robbing their favorite watering hole would be the last thing you would want to do. It must have something to do with the fact that bars are open later than most other businesses.

The GGT is definitely a no-frills place. I added the Gate to the PBR's list of Peoria Institutions after a recent trip down there. Back when the majority of Peorians actually lived downtown there was quite a few taverns in this area. As time has gone on though they have closed and most of these buildings remain empty. The Gate, like Roger's is one of the few remaining holdouts. The bar itself is very intimate. It is the classic one- room bar design. The bars seats twenty and there are no tables. The Gate is another place where there is no TV behind the bar, a phenomenon I've touched on before. There are however two TV's at either end of the bar. In the middle of the room is a Valley pool table that really doesn't get much action considering the cramped space. What does get a lot of action though is the Shuffleboard table. I'm a big fan of shuffleboard but I was informed by one of the regulars that I was playing the wrong way. As a matter of fact, my method of playing was so foreign to both the bartender and the locals that on a return trip a different bartender asked BB and I if we were the ones there a few weeks earlier playing "that weird version of shuffle". I said yes and we had a nice discussion on the many different versions people have of shuffleboard. At the Gate, they play some very odd games, the rules of which fail me now but as soon as I learn them I'll be sure to let you know.

The regulars are very welcoming at the gate as are the prices. The last few times I've been to the Gate, there hasn't been any beer on draft, despite the three tappers in the middle of the bar. A bottle of domestic will cost you two(2) bucks and a shot is four (4). Don't expect to find any imports in this place. Well, they might have them but I would expect they don't and asking for one would probably get some laughs from the folks at the bar. The GGT is a classic shot-and-a-beer bar which are always my favorite. As I said the regulars (mostly old timers, I was the youngest person in there by about 30 years) are very friendly. The gentleman (and I use this term loosely) I talked to down there was quick with a joke and advice on shuffleboard. For instance:

Guy: "What did God say to the Cubs?"
Me:  "I don't know."
Guy: " Don't do anything until I get back!"
Me: "Haahahahaha" thinking in my mind, I can't wait till 2012 that is our year!

Now, as a Cubs fan I have had to hear a shitload of crappy Cubs jokes but this one got me. Anything that references God and the Apocalypse in joke form is always good stuff. Another great thing about the Gate is their jukebox. They still have an old school flip disc juke box. I would be remiss if I didn't tell you though, that the juke is filled with nothing but country. The artists range from old school suicide country like Hank Williams and George Jones to neo-classic country like George Strait, all the way up to the Jimmy Buffett-esque stuff from Kenny Chesney. I love some classic country but my limit at the Gate would be about 2 hours unless I was really shithoused, then I could stick around longer. Without massive amounts of booze in me I have to have some variety. No worries though, Roger's is right down the street so I could always head up there and get my fix of Little Milton and my favorite pool-shootin, shot-takin, beer-poundin song, Eminence Front.

Back to the joke guy. He taught me so many bar tricks I can't even remember all of them. The one in the picture above I was able to pull off (that's why I took the picture.) As you can see there is only about two swigs missing from that bottle of glorious Bud Light and yet it is perfectly balanced on that salt shaker. How did I do this you ask? Well, the trick to it is you have to have those old school salt shakers with square dimples on them. They used to have them at just about every greasy spoon diner but they're pretty hard to find now. I do know of one place that still has them, the Garden Gate Tap! So, while this is a really cool trick, the only place I know of where I could pull it off would be the Gate. Bummer. I'm gonna keep my eye out though so I can win some money off some schmuck at a bar someday. If anyone reading this knows of a place that has or sells these shakers, shoot me an email at or on our Facebook page.

If I didn't live so far from the Gate, I would definitely like to get real drunk in there on a Saturday night and see what kind of craziness goes on. Maybe I could even get into a good old fashioned barroom brawl or something, that would be sweet. For now, I'll just have to settle for the Gate being one of my "few beers after work joint." A man can dream though.

There are so many bars in this area you could take a day and just do "beer a bar" (copyright Bobby Bolts 1998). Although when you get to the Gate, the friendly atmosphere might make you want to stay for more than one, I know it always does for me. Cheers to the Garden Gate Tap and cheers to the holdouts!

1 comment:

  1. Great photo! I love the fact that you're hitting some of these classic old-school Peoria bars! Great job!