Month: June 2006

Cheyenne Social Club 

Ontario is one of those towns that isn’t really a destination. It’s more of a stop along the journey. So in some weird way, it is totally appropriate to review a restaurant housed in a building that up until the 1970s was the Greyhound and Trailways bus station. Smack-dab in the middle of town on 1st Street, the building with blue shingles is fairly hard to miss. A pair of nubile Greek statues adorn each side of the entrance and when we entered during the apex of the sun one fine weekday, we discovered a dark, bordello-esque space. As the door shut behind us, the sun disappeared. In the foyer a stairwell ominously goes down into the basement. Inside is cozy. Walls break up the space into semi-private spaces and it is dark, in a moody way. It has an old West saloon feel.

We opted to sit outside on the patio since daytime temperatures were not oven-like yet—and because we wanted to be reminded that it was still daytime. Wrought-iron tables and chairs dot the patio space sandwiched between the building next door and the restaurant. Red umbrellas over each table give the space a Christo art installation feel. More naked statues and a large faux fountain adorned with grapes balance the real grapes growing against the wall. Since it was a little past the noon lunch rush, we had the space to ourselves.

The menu was your basic small town lunch. Half-pound Cheyenne burgers and sandwiches like ham and cheese and patty melts competed with prime rib dips, finger steaks and traditional salads. All were reasonably priced for lunch between $5.50 for the kids menu items and $9 for sandwiches, which came with a choice of salad, soup or fries. The spawn ordered the same thing, grilled cheese sandwiches, the only difference between them being the appetizer. One went for the salad, the other with the soup. I took the waitress’s recommendation of the taco salad, which, according to the menu was “the best in town.” Since Ontario isn’t necessarily the taco salad capital of the Northwest, I wasn’t expecting much. The spawn scarfed their sandwiches and worked on their fries while I worked around the taco salad. While it may be the best in Ontario, I felt it needed something more than taco meat, lettuce, cheese, bacon bits, black olives, salsa and refried beans. A requested side order of jalapenos and a liberal dousing of ranch dressing made it a meal for me, but I prefer the spicier side of things.

With good service and reasonable food, I may eat there again. And I’d love to check out Midget Mary’s Lounge downstairs—it could be a crazy place to be with the right crowd.

—Bingo Barnes walks on the spicy side.

Cheyenne Social Club, 111 SW 1st St., Ontario, 541-889-3777. Mon.-Thu.: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m., Sat.: 5-10 p.m., closed on Sunday

The Big “D” 

Well, we broke the news to the kids tonight. We told them how mommy and daddy were still great friends but we didn’t want to be married anymore. I was surprised to hear my son say now he had a better chance of getting a new little brother. My daughter was actually excited about having more people in her life. I don’t think the ramifications of what we told them sunk in. It will later.

In a world where most couples end up in divorce, the spawn will now have more in common with the other kids at school. Hmmmph. Strange. I always thought that since both Sally and I came from parents who never experienced divorce we wouldn’t either. How naive was I?

What I find interesting is that we’re better friends now, just not together anymore. To quell the rumor mill here is the dirt. Sally is buying out my share of the Boise Weekly. She is the most competent publisher I’ve ever known and the Weekly will continue to excell under her stewardship. I’m still writing for the Weekly, just not managing the editorial or any other myriad of jobs I did over the years. On occasion I will act as a consultant or work on special projects. Right now I’m the online Forum moderator and will make sure it doesn’t degenerate into some awful thing like the Neurolux message board.

Michelada: One more hangover cure for the cabinet

If you could rank career types in order of their group’s ability to drink I believe journalists would be at the top. And if there is one subgroup of journalists that could drink the most it would be the members of the alternative journalism crowd. For years I have been part of this elite group of miscreants and at this year’s convention held in Little Rock, Arkansas there was little evidence to disprove my theory. But along with the ability to empty a bar of all wine, beer and spirits, which nearly happened at the host hotel’s lobby bar, along with the power to drink comes the inevitable powerful side effects.

Besides missing most of the morning seminars, collectively the hotel groans in one large hangover every morning. The drinking usually starts early as most experienced alternative journalists heal the prior night’s wounds with a little hair of the dog. Usually, this comes in the form of Bloody Marys, the tomato and vodka concoction that is usually more of a meal than a drink. But other variations of a theme are found passing parched lips. There are those that substitute gin. There’s the bloody bull in which beer is substituted. A Bloody Maria has Tequila. There’s the simple beer with a dash of hot sauce. Then there’s a new one I have added to my arsenal, the Michelada.

On the day of my departure I had created quite a storm in my head from the previous night’s activities when a cornucopia of liquids passed my lips from the hosted after party, to the hotel bar, to Midtown. Shots of Jagermeister, vodka on the rocks at 5 a.m. and a beer toast to the sunrise make for a powerful mix that will make one wonder if you’ve been struck by lightening when you try to arise the next day, actually just a few hours later. Thankfully my Arkansas tour guide knew the right place to fix me up. She warned me that we might be the only exclusively English speaking patrons on a Sunday morning and I knew that was the place we had to go. A big plate of chicken enchiladas, hot salsa and a beer would fix me right up before my flight returning home.

Then I noticed the strange brown drink at the next table in what looked like a squashed margarita glass. It was big and dark and mysterious. She informed me that it was a Michelada and I had to have one of those. The first taste is one of pure sodium. From the salted rim to the soy and Worchester sauce your tongue recoils at the variety of flavors. Then you notice the lime juice, Tabasco, spices and finally the carbonization of a beer behind the scenes. It took a few sips to adjust to the saltiness, but after sipping about half of it down, my hangover was beginning to wane.

If you search on the Internet you may find varying recipes for the cocktail. A company making a mix out of McAllen, Texas has tomato juice, but the version at Taqueria Karina and Café in Little Rock had none.

In a survey of online recipes the common ingredient is beer, Tabasco and limejuice. Quite a few recipes include tomato or Clamato juice, but after an impromptu survey in my home bar we settled in on a sans-tomato recipe.

1 Teaspoon Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon Worchester Sauce
Juice from one lime
A couple dashes of hot sauce (Tabasco is nice but a good Habanero sauce is killer)
Black pepper to taste
A couple dashes of Maggi seasoning
A dark Mexican beer such as Negro Modello.
Mix all ingredients except beer over ice in a salt-rimmed glass, then top off with the beer.
When finished, make another.

Virtual Drinking 

They are called MMORPs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing games) and the biggest one of all is World of Warcraft that claims over five million online players. Players range in age from seven (as in my own son who I let play on occasion when I’m not hogging the computer) to seniors. Judging by the banter on the live chat portion of the game I would guess the statistical bell curve peaks out in age somewhere in the late teens or early 20s. This means a large number of players are definitely under the legal age of consuming alcohol. Even if my guess is way off, by sheer numbers alone it is possible that those under the age of consent could be pushing a million.

What does this have to do with imbibing you say? Stay with me.

Within the game players have a character that has to complete quests. They fight monsters, each other and search for treasure so that they may have virtual money to increase their skills and buy that enchanted glowing sword so that they can kill more monsters, each other and find more treasure. Along the way, they must monitor their health, feed themselves, and, visit taverns where they can get beverages. Naturally some of these beverages are alcoholic. And, being part of the game–when sipped, chugged and swallowed–impart benefits which enhance a characters stamina and strength. But drinking comes at a price and characteristics of being drunk such as loss of agility and coordination come into play as well. After drinking several Thunderbrew Lagers my dwarf’s screen seems to waver in and out a little. Some quests are specifically designed around finding the ingredients for a keg of beer or getting goblins drunk. Not only that, but some special concoctions cause some players to behave erratically, unconsciously taking off their characters clothes in the game to run around in their skivvies. Most player’s characters are plain fun to look at (who wouldn’t want to see a naked gnome?) while others border on the slightly erotic. A naked female night elf dances like a stripper and can be quite engaging to look at. But I digress.

I never gave it much thought while playing the game, but that little white angel on my left (or is it right?) shoulder whispered in my ear the other day, “What kind of message does this send our youngsters?”

“You’re right,” I said. “The first experience some kids have with alcohol may be within this game.”

Then the little red guy on the opposite shoulder reminded me about growing in an extended family full of German and Chzec immigrants in South Texas. At wedding receptions the kids ended up being the gophers for beer and we’d always sip a little off the top thinking the adults wouldn’t see us. They always knew what was happening, of course, and allowed it out of entertainment to see a bunch of kids act all crazy, but also because they knew we’d crash hard for a nap later and allow them to play dominoes in peace. But I digress again.

I’m not the type of person who imposes his own personal morals on others. Heck, I’m of the mindset that if you are old enough to die for your country you should legally be able to toast one to it. But within MMORPs such as Warcraft, I find slightly unsettling the glorification of booze. It would only need slight modifications. I could be made fine with it if they added in more realism for the characters such as alcoholism, DTs (delirious tremens) and guards that issue public drunkenness tickets or put people in the drunk tank. But that probably would only make it more fun for people. Has anyone created a game with a virtual liver transplant?