Saturday, June 10, 2017

We Walk into a Sports Grill

PressBox Sports Grill in Clovis, California -- deanandmindywalkintoabar
PressBox Sports Grill, Clovis, California
The play by play continued in the restroom. Since this month’s bar choices are all about the NBA Finals, this is no little thing. It was still preferable, of course, to time restroom breaks with commercials, but that doesn’t always work out. So it’s nice to know one won’t miss any of the action.

Usually music plays over the speakers at this PressBox Sports Grill location, but for the big games, the audio of the game trumps music.The majority of the screens are assigned to that game. For game two of this year’s NBA Finals, 16 of the 22 screens, including the giant indoor theater screen, played the Warriors vs the Cavaliers. (One screen near us had ESPN drag racing followed by Ultimate Fighting -- which did get rather bloody.)

Dean at PressBox, Clovis, California
There are three locations of the PressBox Sports Grill, all opened in the past few years. We decided on the Clovis location, as opposed to either of the Fresno locations. We wondered, as often happens when we’re deciding about a place to visit, would PressBox really be a bar or more of a restaurant? Going inside, we were happy to see the bar with bottles on the shelves behind it.

But PressBox is also a restaurant. The evening we were there, several families with children (and maybe a couple of youth sports teams) were eating in house -- so it wasn’t the kind of place where we expected to be carded at the door. We didn’t even have to show our I.D.s when we ordered our drinks. The bartender was confident, one would guess, we were of age. I ordered “The Press” (Pinnacle Cherry Vodka with soda and Sprite) and Mindy ordered a Dirty Root Beer (Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, Amaretto, whipped cream and Barq’s root beer).

While the bartender, Sarah, was preparing Mindy’s drink, some whipped cream splashed up on her face. Wiping it away, she said,  “Not the first time that’s happened. I go home smelling like booze.”  About the drink she said, “It’s dangerous.  You want to drink it like root beer, but it’s not.” (When we mentioned we like cider, Sarah gave us a sample of a ginger cider, Ginja Ninja, from Oregon.)

Through the evening, we had opportunities to talk with Sarah.  She manages the bar. In fact, she works at all three PressBox locations, working as many as sixty hours a week. She started a few months ago, and is working hard to shape up the bars and their staffs.

She thinks of much of the staff as kids, since they’re mostly a decade or so younger than she is. She has been amazed at what they don’t know about popular culture. It was one thing, she told us, when one of her co-workers didn’t know the TV show The Facts of Life, but when another co-worker didn’t recognize Bruce Springsteen, she realized there had been a failure of parenting somewhere down the line. She believes it may be her job to teach the history of pop culture along with the essentials of service. (She thought she might start with Tom Petty.) We encouraged this work of philanthropy.  

One of those young co-workers is a barback named Tommano. He’s only been working there for about a month, but he appreciates the new job, especially the tips (which are better than at his previous work). We asked him our two standard questions, “What makes for a good bar?” and “What makes for a good church?”

He said he looks for atmosphere -- the people who come to the bar, and the conversations that happen there. “On top of that, good service always,” he said with a smile. As for a church, Tommano said he attends The Well (a church we visited recently). A good church depends on the pastor, he thinks. He says that a good church is “more for the message for me.” He said that it’s good for some people to have a supportive group. The Well has lIfe groups that he said his girlfriend’s parents appreciate, but for him, “I go for the pastor.”

When Sarah had a chance to chat, we told her we visit bars and churches. She said, “Those are the best two places to socialize on the planet.” Which is, of course, part of the point of our travels. As for what makes for a good bar, she said, “There’s a lot of things; good staff, fun, good sports, a little bit of everything.” She added, “You could have the best food, but if the service is bad, it won’t matter.”

As for what makes for a good church, she said, “A sense of community. A church that isn’t favorable to the members who donate the most money. A church that isn’t run like a corporation. A lot of churches are like, ‘We need this and this, so donate, donate, donate.’ The people they’re getting money from have less, and the pastor lives in a million dollar house. A lot of churches are nicer than the schools, you know? That’s ludicrous.”

Because we were taking up bar space for a long time so we could watch the game, we ordered food along with our drinks. The chicken wings and garlic tots didn’t disappoint, and thankfuly, the Warriors didn’t either.

Neither did the staff at PressBox, who made it a very pleasant evening.

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