Singing of a Few Bars

How did I get here?

I feel quite strange, not unlike Captain Kirk in the classic Trek episode, "Turnabout Intruder".  I feel outside of my body somehow, perhaps in another body, in another place if not also another time... a place familiar, yet also new....

I've really got to stop drinking absinthe and Tabasco shooters.

Anyway -- the closing of Michael's Pub last week in Kings Contrivance made me think about bars gone by in Columbia.  Michael's was the third Columbia bar near and dear to my heart to close in the last decade.  Ah, the halcyon times of the 80s and 90s, when these places teemed with good food, better drink and excellent community spirit.  Columbia will never see their like again. (hocofood@@@)

First, I have to speak of the recently-departed Michael's.  Michael's had been doing excellent business the last few years -- so it seemed at least.  I went there several times for Thursday night Ravens radio broadcasts, which always featured a player or two; the place was always packed as people would get there hours before the show started to eat and drink while scoping out the best places to watch the show.  And they had a Thursday night comedy club which was well-attended.  My favorite item on the Michael's menu: gotta be the buffalo chicken breast sandwich, by far!  The buffalo sauce was hot and always went down well with a cold Bud (OK, three or four)

Second, the former JK's pub in Wilde Lake Village Center.  Back in the day when neon clothing was last popular (that'd be the late 80s), I remember attending many a political meeting's after meeting happening at JK's.  Not exactly a smoke-filled room, but a lot of business got done!  Most notable about JK's was what I still say is and should be the official appetizer (official snack?  official meal???) of Columbia:  JK's hard pretzels with sour cream.  Sound simple?  It is: simply take a basket, stick about 6-8 hard pretzels in it, and serve with a large dollop of sour cream on the side.  That's good eating!  How good?  Imagine a day where you find an extra $20 in a pocket of a pair of jeans you're about to wash, except the $20 is in the form of a gold coin that you think is one of those bizarre James Monroe Presidential dollars, but it's really a genuine Spanish doubloon from the 15th century worth about four hundred thousand bucks!  That's how good hard pretzels with sour cream are.

Third and last is the bar whose slogan comprises the name of this very blog: The Last Chance Saloon.  Located in the Oakland Mills Village Center, Last Chance excelled in so many ways.  How many?  So many that, if you took Columbia Compass guy, grafted Watson the supercomputer onto his brain, and then gave him a kilogram of Omega-3s for two weeks -- he still wouldn't be smart enough to count how many.  For example -- Last Chance had the ORIGINAL Tuesday night half-price burger special.  The place was always packed but you never waited more than 10 minutes for a $3, half-pound burger.  Another way -- well, you can always tell the quality of a bar from it's nachos, I say.  And Last Chance's nachos ruled!  A dinner plate stacked six inches high with chips, chili, cheese, salsa, jalapenos, olives-- all the toppings!  And incredibly spicy!  Third -- Last Chance was the only place I knew of -- anywhere -- where one could buy Old Foghorn barley wine -- from California, 9.8% alcohol -- on draft.  For like four bucks a pint.

Dammit, I miss these places.  And before I started my weight loss and exercise regimen I made it a point to always keep hard pretzels and sour cream in the house.  Of course, I still take my liberties from the diet in another ways -- but, anyway, this isn't about me!  

Back to the bars -- there are plenty of worthy successors -- Second Chance, Sonoma's, Zapata's among them-- but nothing beats the vibe, the neighborhood-level friendliness, the just plain Columbia authenticity of these places.  When each of these places closed, so did some of our community connectedness, and that's a commodity that takes time to rebuild.

Marshmallow Man outta here!  Regularly of 53 Beers on Tap, visiting just for today!  Check the date.  ;)


  1. Great post, Bill! And, I'd like to remind you -- as I do -- that anytime a blog is about the hoco food/bar scene, simply adding hocofood@@@ inside the post will push the post into the FOOD section of hocoblogs.com, automatically. How cool is that!

  2. Whoops, that was my mistake. Fixed! :)