Aug 29, 2014

A night at the Kerry Irish Pub, New Orleans

In my previous blog post, I wrote about the Chart Room, a French Quarter dive bar which I love to go for day drinking.  Now, it’s time to look at another French Quarter dive bar which I love to visit for late night drinking – the Kerry Irish Pub.  And so it came to be that on the same Monday in late April that my friends and I started at the Chart Room, we finished at the Kerry. 

We were all fortunate to have gotten our second wind because we did not want to miss a chance to see good live, local music.  After all, we were in town specifically to check out local music during Jazz Fest After Dark, and the Kerry’s choice seemed as good as any – Kim Carson and the Real Deal. I had no idea who Kim Carson was prior to that evening, but she and her band left a lasting impression.  More on that in a bit. 

The Kerry is, obviously, equally suitable for day drinking, too, but every time I've been to the Kerry, they always seem much busier at night.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with the fact that they have live music every night, ranging from traditional Irish music to metal, punk, classic country and the occasional acoustic solo singer-songwriter, and I've never known them to charge a cover. 

Aug 21, 2014

A commoner reviews the Chart Room, New Orleans

Commoners love dive bars.  Maybe that’s why my recent look at a favorite local hangout in Decatur, Ill., resonated so well with so many commoners like me.  And that provides me the perfect segue back to my New Orleans trip earlier this spring, because if there’s one dive bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter that resonates strongly with locals and tourists alike, it’s the Chart Room.

The Chart Room is the type of dive bar that has earned enough notoriety to be mentioned in popular travel guides (and a plug in Esquire’s list of 100 Best Bars in America), yet it still feels like home to its regular clientele.  Located on 300 Chartres Street on the corner with Bienville, its French doors are seemingly always open until 4 a.m. nightly, delivering the perfect atmosphere for the crowd to quite literally spill out onto the street or, in rare quieter moments, providing enough perspective for you to sit, drink, chat with friends and slowly watch the world go by one French Quarter resident at a time.  

Aug 13, 2014

Reeling in the Redneck Fishing Tournament, Bath, Ill.

I’d like to be able to tell you the annual Redneck Fishing Tournament held the first weekend in August in sleepy Bath, Ill., shows what can be accomplished when a bunch of good ol’ boys get together to do something positive about the environment.

In reality, it’s just a clever reason to combine a lot of fun summer redneck activities – drinking, fishing and partying in the middle of nowhere.   

Of course, if it wasn't for the invasion of Asian carp into the Illinois River threatening the ecological balance of not only the river system but eventually the Great Lakes as well, there would have been no impetus to start such an event in 2005.  And since the war on the flying fish invaders began, the tournament has grown in notoriety, if not popularity.  There are even three websites and a couple of Facebook pages one from the tournament’s founder) devoted to the event. 

Aug 11, 2014

A commoner reviews The Winery, Decatur, Ill.

The Winery has to be one of the most inappropriately named drinking establishments I've ever been fortunate enough to have visited. 

On the other hand, if you’re judging The Winery by its merits as a dive bar, it has to be one of the best I've ever encountered. 

Like other Decatur establishments Lock, Stock & Barrel and University Dogs, located on the strip of businesses that cater to the Millikin University crowd, The Winery serves its fair share of college students.  But it also serves a fair share of college professors.  And other locals.  And professional barflies.  And anyone else who just wants a place where they can feel comfortable having a shot and a beer, a burger grilled to order and an old jukebox filled with CDs catering to the owner’s personal musical tastes. 

Yeah, it’s a dive bar in every sense of the word.  In fact, if you actually did make the mistake of ordering wine here, your choices would probably be white or red, and you might get it served to you in a rocks glass.

And this is yet one more reason why I love my girlfriend … she knew this was my kind of place.  Conveniently, it’s her kind of place.  That’s a sign of compatibility if there ever was one.    

Aug 5, 2014

Breaking out of blogging limbo (or moving lessons from a commoner)

If it feels like it’s been a month since my last blog entry, that’s because it actually has been.  But there has been a very worthy reason for my longest hiatus as a blogger, as my girlfriend and I have moved in together. 

Yes, we’re now living the classic Midwestern lifestyle with the three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch-style house on a slab with a two-car garage, located on the edge of town.  Cornfields are visible just past our block of houses, and the interstate traffic is audible in the distance.   

This does not mean I will no longer be recounting my travels; however, in the short term it may mean a lot of my travels will be closer to home.  It will also mean some of my travels will have a new focus, as I will be going places with my girlfriend and her daughter that I otherwise would have not considered.  Of course, I still have a lot of catching up to do from my travels earlier in the spring, and I am committed to getting caught up, so I have even more reasons to find new blog-worthy places.   

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...