Saturday, December 9, 2017

We Walk All the Way to a Bar

Pizza Pit, Fresno, CA

In seminary I had a prof who was a teetotaler; he taught that Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol. I found most of his arguments absurd (especially the suggestion that Jesus turned the water into grape juice), but his strongest argument was that drinking brought dangers in the modern world that didn’t exist centuries ago, especially drunk driving. Thousands of lives are lost every year because people drink too much and gets behind the wheel.

definitely not home for us
Drinking at home is the most obvious solution -- perhaps in bed to avoid any drunk walking accidents -- but what if you just want to go to a bar?

There are many simple solutions to this challenge, designating an alcohol free driver being one of the many. Another is walking to the bar instead of driving -- though not everyone has a bar within walking distance of home.

Fortunately, we do. We walked to the bar at the Pizza Pit.

Our son, Bret, came with us -- which turned out to be quite appropriate. Our neighborhood bar is inside a family restaurant. The sign on the door makes it clear: “Welcome to the Pizza Pit! This is a family restaurant . We ask that you be respectful of others. No foul language, please. We’ll give you ONE warning. The second warning and we will shut the TVs off. Please don’t ruin it for everyone. Thank you for your business.” So we went as a family. And we watched our language.

Bret put some money in the jukebox and we listened to Florence and the Machine. We sat at the bar where Josh quickly took our order. We’d had pizza at the place shortly after moving to Fresno, but since we’d already had dinner at home that night, we just had some Cheetos to go with our drinks.

Pizza Pit, Fresno, California
Mindy and Bret had Redd’s Apple Ale, and I had some fairly local hard root beer. It was a slow night, and we talked with Josh about why that might be. It was cold; perhaps people were staying in. Perhaps people were doing their Christmas shopping.

Josh said he  works only occasionally at this Pizza Pit. Usually he works at the other location in the Tower District. In addition to tending bar, he’s an artist and has displayed his work at the other Pizza Pit location, which participates in the downtown ArtHop.

Joey, one of the owners, came in. He told us that Pizza Pit has been around for twenty years, but the current family ownership has been running the place for the last seven years.

We asked Joey if he’d answer our questions about what makes for a good bar and what makes for a good church and he said, “Good people”.

Josh said, “I was going to say the same thing.”  

Joey said the Pizza Pit was a neighborhood place, and neighbors made the place. He made sure we knew that they’re primarily a pizza place that happens to have a bar so people can have a beer with their pizza if they want. But the place is kid friendly, with video and prize-dispensing games. Joey said they often have events for Little League Teams and birthday parties.  

As for what makes for a good church, Joey said he’s not religious. He said he’s known a lot of hypocritical people in church. “If you’re in a religion, you have to be loyal to it, not two faced.”

We enjoyed our drinks and then walked home. No drunk driving risk at all after we each had our one drink. So even the best argument that seminary teacher offered doesn’t hold water (let alone hard cider), and in the world of Uber and robot cars, even less so.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

We Walk into a Bar That Isn't There

Taps and Tacos, Fresno, California
Shortly after we moved to Fresno we noticed a place called “Taps and Tacos.” We saw a “Now Open” sign and thought, “We really need to go there.” After all, it combined the point of this blog with Mexican food, so that would be a very happy thing. The place was on Shaw Avenue, a street we drive on quite frequently, so we either thought or said, “We really should go there and write about it,” at least once a week.

So last Tuesday, we finally said, “Let’s go to Taps and Tacos tonight.” We asked our son to go along. We checked the menu online, and it looked like it had things we’d all enjoy. The website said they had happy hour until 6:00, and Facebook had something about taco Tuesday, so we headed over around 5:00. .

As we approached the place, it looked dark. The sign wasn’t lit up. We considered these things clues and wondered if it was closed for the evening. We pulled into the parking lot, got out of the van, and headed for the door. A sign in the window thanked the guests for their patronage and said the place was closed as of a week before we got there. We were never going to be those guests.

Back home, Mindy checked some reviews including some complaints about the service. She even saw a review where (apparently) a bartender who got negative comments argued with the reviewer. There were a number of four and five star reviews. We might have had a great experience or a lousy one, but we will never know.

I did a little research as well. I’d heard it said the ninety percent of restaurants fail in the first year, but apparently that’s not true. One article mentioned a 55 to 60 percent failure rate in the hospitality industry,* which is better than what I was thinking, but still, failure is more likely than success.  Even some places we visited in the last two years are gone -- One of our favorites, the great Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den in Minneapolis, is no more.

So we wish we’d made it to Taps and Tacos. We might have had great food and drinks and met some great people. It might have led to an incredible post.

I do have some doubt that a post from us would have saved the bar. We will never know.