We didn’t see anyone try to climb on the horse when we visited Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen and we didn’t meet Larry. And we didn’t see any corpses or sandwiches, but we didn’t expect to, because right on their Facebook page they say “No Bodies, No Pastrami, just 45 handles of beery goodness.” But we liked what we did see.
We began the month with an April Fool’s post listing imaginary bars in Fresno we said we planned to visit, including Goldstein’s because the name sure sounds made up (which, I guess it is, as all names are). When we arrived at the bar, we wondered if we were the ones being pranked. It was early evening, but from the outside, the place from showed few signs of life, it looked closed.
But I tried the door, and it opened, and there was, in fact, a nice little gathering of people inside (all but one were alive -- more about that later). We were amused by the lively, kitschy decoration throughout the bar; from the shopping cart chairs to the black velvet Pink Panther to the dragon head on the heating duct. I especially appreciated the homemade sign reading “No Politics at the Bar” on which someone had scrawled “Yeah right” -- which seemed to rhetorically battle the tanks above bar stenciled with quotes from 1984 (“Ignorance is strength” etc. The bar is named for a character in the book, which is a favorite of the owner’s).
Pink Floyd was playing. We hadn’t been there long when two dogs dashed in from the back patio area (where food trucks provide edibles during the weekends). A woman head outside (light flooded in from the door on the west side of the building whenever the door opened) and came back a moment later saying, “I spilled beer all over myself.” Apparently she’d set her glass on an outside table and it tipped over -- possibly with help from one of the dogs, who quickly lapped up what hadn’t spilled on her pants. The bartender poured her a fresh beer.
We sat down at the bar and pondered the (mostly beer) menu which was both on paper and above the 45 or so taps behind the bar. I decided to go with the Sprecher’s hard root beer and after tasting a hibiscus mead and a coffee cream ale, Mindy went with Bad Apple Cider.
Next to us at the bar, a man brought in a Me & Ed’s pizza to share with the woman next to him at the bar. They discussed the various ingredients on the two distinct halves of the pizza and the bartender (Shana) joined the conversation. She said she was going to take a bite and the man put a slice on a paper plate and offered it to her. “My regulars treat me well,” she said.
We introduced ourselves to the couple with the pizza, first to Wyatt and then to Ruth. Wyatt offered to share the pizza with us, mostly because we’d just had pizza. (Ours was from Blaze, just to spread the free promotional pizza plugs around. But we’re listening if any establishment wants to give us free pizza for promotional purposes.)
We told Wyatt about the two questions we always ask at bars, and he agreed to answer them. In response to “What makes for a good bar?” He said, “The bartenders, it they’re kind and enjoyable. Clean bathrooms.” He didn’t judge Goldstein’s bathrooms to be the most pristine in the world, but thought they were okay. “I love the environment of this bar. This place has room to breathe.”
As for our second question, “Whether you go or not, what would make for a good church?” Wyatt said he hadn’t gone to church for a long time, but when he did go his favorite part was Bible study. “It was like history.”
Ruth seemed to be surprised, “You used to go to church?”
Ruth mentioned a nearby pub that had good beer but was too small and a nearby restaurant that was a little too big. She prefers Goldstein’s since it seems to hit a Goldilocks’ midpoint, “Not a divey stinky bar and not one that is commercialized.” She appreciates being able to “just relax and enjoy the variety of beers.”
Ruth does go to church, “I’m a faithful person...I go to church because I need the guidance. I need a positive direction. The Bible helps you to get your (stuff) together.” (We’re editing her wording a little, because this is a family friendly site -- there are so few family friendly bar blogs on the internet. We also aren’t mentioning the wifi password at Goldstein’s because it’s far from family friendly)
Ruth wants a church to be able to answer her questions. “You need to explain (things) to me.” She said her world religions class in college “(messed) me all up. I realized I have a biased faith, the one I was born into.”
She mentioned that the pastor and pastor’s wife at her church had a history of drug and alcohol issues so they encouraged abstinence from both. Ruth didn’t think that she needed to abide by that rule, since alcohol and drug abuse weren’t her problem (an attitude that does seem to have support from Paul in Romans 14).
Ruth pointed out that her name was from the Bible, though she didn’t really know the story of Ruth. Mindy happily told it, since the book of Ruth is one of her favorites from Scripture.
Shana the bartender also agreed to answer our questions. She said a good bar had “good music, dogs,” (dogs as a component of a good bar is, in our experience, wholly unique to Goldstein’s) “halfway decent beer, atmosphere, and good people.” We told her we found it a bit unusual for a bartender not to mention bartenders as an element of a good bar. She said, “I like bartenders that are (cranky). Because then I’m thinking ‘I feel you! People are horrible!’” I asked if she likes dives, and she said she does love them.
As for what would make for a good church, she said would prefer a place with not too many people -- she doesn’t like crowds. As she appreciates good music in a bar, she wants good music in a church. It should be welcoming, a family environment.
Shana asked if we wanted to close our tab, since she was getting ready to clock out. Another bartender, Megan, had just arrived.
As we were paying, Megan was willing to answer our questions, too. Echoing Shana she said, “Dogs are fun, yeah.” She talked about the importance of a good bartender that is “cool and funny. A good bartender can read the room.”
And for church? “I don’t want to go to church. They should accept everyone, no matter what they look like or what they were doing the night before.”
Like I said before, we saw the horse hanging from the ceiling, but we didn’t see anyone try to climb up on it. Shana told us there’s a prize if you make it, though she didn’t tell us what the prize was. And Megan told us about Larry; she said anyone who worked at the bar would tell you about Larry. Larry’s a regular who says he’s spent his life looking for his “Cheers bar,” and he finally found it with Goldstein’s.
So even though we didn’t see Larry, we did see a little of what he probably sees at Goldstein’s Mortuary and Delicatessen.