Saturday, March 4, 2017

We Walk into a Bar in Old Town Clovis

500 Club Bar and Grill, Clovis, California
Reading Facebook posts from friends in New Orleans made me think it would certainly be an, um, interesting place to be during Mardi Gras season. Holly wrote about a drunk guy throwing up in a post office box, an amorous couple in a portapotty, and her own loss of a high heel shoe on Frenchman Street. Looking at pictures from other friends, I saw throngs of people in the street. New Orleans is a quite lively place to be on Fat Tuesday.

Thinking of that inspired us to go out for drinks on this odd holiday, so we went to Old Town Clovis. Where the streets were quiet and subdued.

We went into our bar for the week. People there were watching the Warriors game without much enthusiasm, which was somewhat understandable because Golden State was losing.

One would have to come to the conclusion that in Clovis Fat Tuesday is just, well, Tuesday.

We had a particular reason for going to Old Town Clovis this week. In fact we’ll be there all month, because I just began working at a motel just off Clovis Avenue. Since I work the 10:30 am to 6:30 am shift, guests rather frequently ask me about local watering holes. We thought we might as well explore them ourselves so I could give first hand testimony.

There’s a card room in the 500. When I asked the staff about it, they told me it used to be a more central part of the place’s appeal, but now the food is their biggest draw. When I started at the motel, I was told by other motel front desk staff about the excellence of the 500 Club’s food. (The 500 Club’s sister establishment, the 500 Casino Club on Shaw Avenue, is also said to have good food, but I think gaming is the primary draw there.)

For the last month as we went only to Applebee’s, we stuck with the same two drinks, mostly because we’d heard a lot about the chain’s consistency. Mindy got pretty good at ordering a mudslide and a Long Island Ice Tea. This week we had to actually think about what we’d drink.

But we didn’t think too hard. I ordered a bourbon and water (“Are you fine with Kessler’s? That’s my well tonight,” said Whitney the bartender), and with a little more difficulty, Mindy went with a pinot noir (after narrowing from white and red and changing her mind about the merlot.)

Clovis is the home of an annual rodeo, which is a big thing, so it’s not surprising that some the decor is rodeo related, like the statuettes of bucking bronco riders behind the bar. There are also plenty of signs with typical bar humor (such as “Beware of Attack Waitress”).

Whitney was tending bar when we arrived. She was wearing a 500 Club tee shirt, which not only has the name of the bar, but the name of the bar bedazzled front and back (Some say everything's better with bedazzling. I’m not taking a stand on the issue). Whitney has worked for the company for the last six years, the first four years with the 500 Casino on Shaw.

She greeted some of the customers by name and moved efficiently back and forth, greeting people and checking on their needs. She agreed to answer our two standard questions, what makes for a good bar and what makes for a good church (whether you go or not).

She said the most important thing for a good bar is customer service and a friendly atmosphere. “We have family ownership and usually the owner is here. But I think they have a dinner or something tonight.” She also talked about the excellence of the food at the 500 Club (and at the casino, which also has Asian food).

Whitney admitted she didn’t go to church. “I used to go to church, but I didn’t feel I needed to believe in God to go to heaven. I didn’t need to dedicate a day to it.” She used to go to church when she lived in a small town where “everyone went to church.”  She said that when you went to church there, you saw everyone you knew. She liked that.

We usually tell people that we need a name to use for the blog, and they can use their real name or make one up. The man next to us at the bar, who was eating and watching the Warriors game, agreed to answer our questions. He said his name was George Herman “The Babe” Ruth. We think it might not be his real name.

The Babe said at a good bar “the people who work there will explain to you the variety of beers, let people know about the wines. Good atmosphere.” I asked what he meant by good atmosphere. “Too much music dampens my mood. The music shouldn’t fight with the game. Sports bars won’t be playing music.” As for what makes for a good church, he said, “I don’t go, can’t imagine going. But if people go, they should be involved with their cause. That’s the most important thing they do.”

Whitney’s shift was coming to an end (it was 6:00 pm), and she was replaced by Joe, who also agreed to answer our questions. Joe answered what made for a good bar by talking about the 500, “This is a good small town bar with lots of regulars. Everyone here is kind. Everyone who works here gets along; it’s been here for forty years. All the food, everything is excellent. I’ve never got a bad thing off the menu. The grill is seasoned, they make my favorite New York steak sandwich. It’s off the charts.”

As for church, “I don’t go to church. I have gone with my sister to church, and the people were really inviting. They make you feel comfortable, even if you aren’t comfortable, if you know what I mean.”

Though Fat Tuesday was a mild party night at the 500, it was a pleasant place. Though the Warriors lost, we can’t blame the 500 for that. I’m glad I’ll be able to recommend it to others.

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