Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Pubcrawling

by J.S. Holland

Last year I learned to pace myself for the 2010 Transylvania Gentlemen Pub Crawl. As the cute bartender gal said to Agent Mulder, "you've got to work out for that kind of heavy lifting."

Even though I'm of hardy Irish stock just a few generations off the boat from Cork, I'm not as adept at power-pubbing as my ancestors - not to mention I actually don't approve of outright drunkenness. So, then, when bar-hopping or pub-crawling, what to drink is a huge concern. If you drink serious beer you'll get schnockered and fold in the stretch before the night is through, but if you drink lame-ass beer you'll just be sick, bloated, carbed out and pickled in commercial preservatives.

Part of the key is to drink medium-quality beers, neither soopa-fine nor soopa-sucky. Another big part is to go slow. Like the fella said, nice and easy does it every time. Don't be like those hipsters who swan into a place, throw back a quickie and swan right back out again to be seen at the next place. When I enter a joint I prefer to be there for the long haul. Which is probably another good reason why I'm not wired for pub-crawling.

And then comes the inevitable "having said that..." A couple weeks ago, I was romping around town with a couple of girlfriends and ended up paying the price for not staying put in one spot.

The festivities started early, with a Duvel at F.A.B.D. Smokehouse in the Highlands. The grub there is grrrrreat, but I was really put out when the woman there tried to serve Duvel to me in a plastic dixie cup. I don't mean to be a snob, but damn, get real. You gonna serve a fancy beer that costs as much for a single bottle as a six-pack of a gas station beer, you'd better pour it in the proper official Duvel glass. She rummaged around, found a regular (non-Duvel) beer glass of some sort, gave it a half-hearted wash in the kitchen, then handed it to me steaming hot from the hot water. Sigh. I thought about asking her to stick in the fridge for about 15 minutes to chill it - I was willing to wait - but she was already acting like I was Little Lord Fauntleroy or something over the plastic cup thing.

The whole experience was so unsatisfying that I voted (Ron Whitehead style, that is - when ol' Ron says "My vote is..." you know it's not really going to be up to a democratic vote) we go to Ernesto's and throw back some happy-hour margaritas. On the way there, however, while passing through Clifton, it was decided that we might as well hit Sol Azteca on Frankfort Avenue rather than drive all the way to the East End. Initially, I was thrilled with Sol Azteca - the place is beautiful, clean, modern and elegant inside, both waitresses were charming and helpful, and the menu was a cut above the usual Mexican restaurant fare.

I noticed that the tortilla chips tasted weird. Knowing that I should keep the foodstuffs stuffed in me to cushion the alcohol, I kept pokin' em in anyway. Then I noticed there were a few green chips in there. "Oh, no biggie", I said, "they're just leftover from St. Patrick's which wasn't that long ago". But at the bottom of the basket I hit a red chip. Green and red chips could mean Christmas leftovers. Ugh. And the margarita also tasted weird - in a way that I am simply unable to describe. Its color was also unusually opaque and white, rather than the usual translucent yellowy-greenishness. I didn't give it much thought at the time and slurped away at it happily.

A couple hours later, we made our way out the front door of Sol Azteca. One of the gals suggested we nip into El Mundo for a bit since it was right across the street. El Mundo's upstairs has always been a little hit-and-miss for me over the years, but I went along. I took the mission; what the hell else was I gonna do? But as it transpired, the drinks here were not only the best thing I'd had all evening, they were the best margaritas I've had in a long long time. We all got different margaritas and passed 'em around amongst ourselves sampling each other's, and they were all three superb. My favorite would have to be the Blood Orange Margarita, which I recommend the highest.

Then I'm not sure what happened. Inexplicably, I became violently ill and also felt far drunker than I should have based on the amount I had imbibed. Some unknown something was acting as a co-factor and heightening the effects of the alcohol. And that's the problem with having been to three different places that day: there was no way to pinpoint with certainty what happened and where. And none of the three places could have had anything to do with it, for that matter. But in doing some research online, I've learned a lot about tortilla chips made with genetically-modified corn, which can turn ammonia-smelling and foul-tasting when stale - combine that with alcohol and that's enough to explain it right there. I also learned that some frozen margarita mixes used in restaurants contain evil artificial sweeteners like splenda and aspartame, which are literal neurotoxins and should never be consumed with alcohol, says me.

Mind you, I'm not necessarily saying anything was wrong with what Sol Azteca served me. As I say, whatever happened to me could have been caused by any of the places I went to that night, and it could in fact be none of them. I do know that now more than ever, I'm going to take a greater interest in what's in stuff.

And by the way, yes, there will be a 2011 Transylvania Gentlemen pub crawl. Watch this space for details.

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