Saturday, February 17, 2018

We Walk into a Movie Bar

Edwards 22, movie theater, Regal, IMAX, Fresno, California
Edwards Fresno Stadium 22 and IMAX
“It’s not the worst thing spilled on our bar,” one of the servers said about the drink that didn’t stay in the cup. “I’ve had a lot of popcorn there, and we don’t even sell it [at the bar].”

I wasn’t sure if she was slamming popcorn, but I’ll admit damp popcorn is not a pleasant thing, and it’s certainly messy to clean up. You expect to find popcorn at a movie theater, of course, but why can’t there be cocktails, too? We went to the bar in a Regal Cinema (Fresno’s a Regal Cinemas town, so we can’t maintain our former prejudices against the chain).

We’re all aware we live in a deeply divided nation. Everyone seems to need to choose one side or the other, and people often treat those on the opposing side with spite and derision. I try to stay away from polarizing topics in this blog, but I guess I need to be open about where I’m coming from.

In the contest between DC and Marvel, my family has been on the side of Spidey and Wolverine. I’m proud to say, “Make mine Marvel!” We take every opportunity to see a Stan Lee cameo, so we went to see Black Panther on the eve of the official opening. Our son Bret, who came with us, graciously agreed to guard our theater seats (they’re not assigned at the Edwards 22) while we went to the bar.

Sarah, our bartender, asked to see our IDs (always flattering) and strapped on our wristbands. “We’re new, so we need to stick by the rules,” she said. Law enforcement and ABC regulators apparently keep a watchful eye.

I overheard another bartender tell a patron, “The camera is always watching.” With the wristband, you have a three drink limit, one drink at a time. You can’t order a drink for anyone else, but you can take a drink to the theater, so…remember, the camera is always watching.

The lighted menu above the bar was helpful for an overview of the drinks available, but it changed pretty fast, so we asked for one we could hold. I ordered Vanilla Whiskey and Coke; I knew I’d made the right choice the bartender asked, “Do you want the whipped cream and caramel on top?”

Mindy ordered a Sweet and Smoky Old Fashioned. The bartender said she liked it, and also mentioned that it was one of the few drinks that couldn't be made by the Smartender, an automated cocktail dispenser. Instead, the bartenders put the drink together from scratch. "Handcrafted with love," Mindy said.

Regal has a rewards program for movie ticket and snack bar purchases, but you can’t present your rewards card at the bar. You can get around it by entering information from your receipt onto your awards account online.

Sarah, one of the three bartenders working during the pre-movie rush, said people were “so happy to have a bar here.” (I can imagine the relief of parents dragged to, say, The Emoji Movie, to know they could order a drink. Or two. Or three. No more. Those are the rules.)

Two other couples came to the bar to order before their movie. The guys were ordering, I believe, rum and cokes. Both men said, “I prefer less coke.” One of the women asked about our cocktails. After we told her, I asked what movie she was seeing. I wasn’t surprised to find that her group was going to see Black Panther as well. (The film will probably take in over $200 million over the three day opening weekend, so the six of us at the bar were definitely not alone. Turns out their kids were saving their theater seats, too, so there’s something else we had in common).

When we asked if she would be willing to answer our bar questions (“What makes for a good bar?” and “What makes for a good church?”), Brandy (quite the appropriate bar name) agreed. She said it was “definitely the bartenders” that made a good bar, and we all agreed that the women tending bar at the Edwards 22 were doing a fine job. “And the options,” Brandy added.

She said a good church relied on “the leading pastor. And a diverse community. A nonjudging church.” She answered our questions thoughtfully, but also quite quickly and succinctly, because she -- like us -- had a movie to get to.

We also had an opportunity to ask Tori, one of the bartenders, our questions. She said a good bar relied on the atmosphere, as well as good drinks. I asked what made a movie theater bar different.

She said a regular bar was more laid back. If it took ten or fifteen minutes to get a drink, that was fine. In this bar, drinks had to be served very quickly because people needed to get to their show. As for a church, she said, “Atmosphere, that’s my thing. Friendly and open, not judgmental.”

During the movie, T’Challa drank a beverage that gave him superpowers. Another drink took those powers away. Neither of those drinks was on the menu of the bar at the Regal, but the cocktails we ordered were tasty and served with alacrity -- which was super enough.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

We wonder about Abraham Lincoln's Favorite Bar

Abraham Lincoln's birthday is tomorrow, and haven't you always wondered about the drinking habits of the 16th President of the United States? I hadn't really thought much about it, but as soon as I started researching, I realized that I'd chosen the wrong President for a post on bars.

Even though his father probably worked at a distillery, even though he and his grocery store partner seem to have had the equivalent of a liquor license for their business (grocery stores back in the day sometimes served as the town bar, I guess), Lincoln seems to have been the kind of drinker Dean is when we aren't visiting (and writing about) bars and churches. The Great Emancipator seemed to have accepted a glass of champagne or whatever when the occasion called for it -- without drinking more than a sip.

Still, I wonder. If President Lincoln had found himself traveling with us, would any of these bars have felt comfortable? Which do you like best?
The Tank Room in Kansas City, Missouri

The Wrigley Taproom and Eatery in Corbin, Kentucky

Church and State in Washington, DC

Liberty Tavern in Clinton, Massachusetts

Charlie-O's World Famous in Montpelier, Vermont

Harry's Chocolate Shop in West Lafayette, Indiana

Tom's Old Bogies in Holcombe, Wisconsin

Old Style Saloon Number 10 in Deadwood, South Dakota

Pengilly's Saloon in Boise, Idaho

Duke's Spirited Cocktails in Healdsburg, California