I've always been partial to the local joints--they have all the character and quirkiness the franchises like Applebee's and Bennigan's and O'Charley's strive for with their carefully orchestrated imitation "authenticity." The real good places have cheap tap beer, regular customers who are full of stories and irritating tendencies to talk too much and greasy menus that haven't been updated for decades (except to scratch out old prices with a ballpoint pen). The classic dives have their names on the backs of Little League t-shirts, dusty bottles of Johnny Walker (because the locals don't drink the expensive booze) and Johnny Cash on the jukebox.In Mr. D's hometown there stands a really old building that housed the Corner Tavern. New Year's Eve was the Corner's last night in business, so we dropped in to say goodbye.
The first time I met Mr. D's family was in the front booth--we had beer and chicken and potato wedges. The broasted chicken was nothing short of amazing. That alone would've kept the Corner in business except the new management sold the trademark recipe to the competition down the street. No kidding!
Actually, as I recall, it was Lent and everyone in Mr. D's family ate fish. I was the only person ordering chicken (and the only non-Catholic), and only realized my faux pas after the food arrived at our booth.
more than one person in our party remembered sleeping in these booths as children, oblivious to the noise and smoke while their parents visited and had drinksWe spent several nights in this tiny bar. The smoke-filled air would choke you to death until a couple years ago when the Iowa state legislature banned smoking in public places.
I've been in other old bars with the same set-up--a tiny bathroom, doorways so low that you have to duck your head, a single sink out in the main bar, just outside the bathroom door.You probably don't know one of my (many) dirty little secrets: I'm a crackerjack craps player. My luck is just incredible. Back in my wilder days I had a really crazy winning streak playing craps on the pool table in the Corner's back room. Sure, it would've been easier to just take everybody's money straight out of their pockets, but half the fun is playing the game, right?
Another time one of my brothers-in-law took me down to the Corner for a beer--I believe it was on Thanksgiving. We sat right here and had 50-cent tappers. It's true, people really do bond over a few beers and we had a good time. Another brother-in-law recalls it differently, however. He told me New Year's Eve that he remembers me coming back to the Thanksgiving party a couple sheets to the wind.
It's a shame to see a wee little town bar close it's doors. It's full of a lot of memories, grease and building code violations (as you can see here by the Men's Room door--in the kitchen, next to boxes of food!). Inside that building are some darn cool beer signs, photos of old baseball teams and gorgeous cabinets from when craftsmen made things from scratch with care and love.
Maybe someone will buy the Corner Tavern and do something cool with the building. Hopefully Mike and Frank and an architectural salvage crew come through if someone decides to raze it. I wasn't even a modest part of the Corner's history, but I'm glad I got to have one last glass of beer and toast it's memory.