A Young Lad and a Dive Bar

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The Whistle Stop is one of my favorite dive bars in Boca Raton.  Right off of Camino Blvd. in the old Winn-Dixie shopping center, it can be easily unnoticed like many of its kind.

This was the first bar I ever truly drank at.  At the tender age of seventeen, I used to purchase booze for my friends with my older brother’s I.D.  Don’t tell anyone…

On one fateful historic night, I discovered my peculiar love for dive bars.  I remember as if it was just a fortnight ago.  It was a wondrous night.  That is until I got alcohol poisoning and made a fool out of myself in front of the parents.  But that is a completely, somewhat unrelated story.

I was driving two of my friends, the gorgeous heavy-chested Suarez and the self-appointed American Hero himself, Glen Armstrong.   A sort of hybrid involving Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.  The plan was to acquire a bottle of vodka and meet up with a few others at the intracoastal bridge on Camino Blvd.

As a young Armstrong waited in the 2000 silver Mustang, Suarez and I reservedly entered the smoke-filled bar. It was like someone forgot to turn off the fog machine.

“Vodka please!  The largest in stock, money is of no object here,” I exclaimed, trying to hold back the cracks and squeaks on account of the intense puberty.

We were waved to the back corner behind the bar where the liquor was stored.  Swiftly connected eyes, we were both conscious that our rouse may soon be revealed.  It seemed we were being lured into a back room where I would be severely bashed in by the wooden club that undoubtedly lay behind the bar.  I was sure that it was used in such similar circumstances.  And only Satan knows what would happen to my young counterpart after my spouting blood soaked into the maroon carpet.  The color did not seem to be a coincidence.

Luckily, none of that actually occurred.  The bottle and cash exchanged hands without inquiries and beatings.  The grim-looking characters lurking in the shadowy corners turned out to be enthusiastic and entertaining fellows.  I felt compelled to stay and have at least one drink, unaware that Armstrong’s patience would soon expire.

I ordered a White Russian and Suarez got a Long Island.  I was in a White Russian phase after discovering the hilarity of The Big Lebowski.  I don’t know what the hell Suarez was thinking.  Maybe because she was about fifteen or sixteen at the time.  It was obvious that we had yet to acquire the taste of beer.

The old lady barkeep asked if we were dating in her timeworn scratchy voice.  And right before I could confirm her mistaken suspicions, Suarez blurted out, “Hell no! I’m his older sister,” as she grabbed and rubbed my buzz-cut head.  “He’s my baby brother,” she said excitedly.  She knew if she wasn’t quick with a response, I would say ‘yes’ and try to embarrassingly kiss her and deal with the repercussions afterwards.

A short time later, an angry Armstrong poked his dumb face in through the door.  A fury raged within his eyes as he witnessed the two of us laughing it up with the regulars.  It seemed our stay was about to conclude prematurely.  Clutching the bottle, I paid the tab and we exited the dark, yet cheerful bar with soaring expectancies of an amusingly adventurous night.

I knew right then and there, these would be the type of bars that I’ll go to when I was old enough.  A place where I can sit down at the bar and watch the game without interference from jerkfaces.  Not overwhelming and not as loud as a shitty club.  Where the music doesn’t suck and fashionable mainstream products don’t affect the people.  No thank you.  I like a place where the mugs are dirty and the toilets are overflowed with turds.

I should also note that the Whistle Stop has been under new ownership since this experience occurred nearly a decade ago…

The Duck Tavern

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The Duck Tavern in Boca Raton is located off of Jeffery St. and Federal in Boca Raton.  It’s an excellent place for an alcoholic beverage.  On a cold sunny day, the glass doors will swing open into a wide entrance, allowing a cool breeze to filter out the sweet scent of burning tobacco.

The Duck utilizes a few promotional tools including an “Around the World” drinking game where the patron will guzzle down every beer the bar offers.  An arduous task, but quite rewarding.  Your name will be placed on a small plaque at the back wall with the other “Around the World” gulping heroes.  And the obvious benefit of enjoying different types of brew.

The Duck also has its own T-shirts to where during Happy Hour.  The bar offers 50% off to those wearing their shirts on Mondays.

Inquire about snagging your Duck Tavern shirt with Shane or Lilly.

Friday night always has a live band.

The men’s bathroom is nothing out of the ordinary, a couple of urinals and one stall.  The same with countless other dive bars, the stall is normally used for non-toiletry needs.

Swampgrass Willy’s

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Swampgrass Willy’s in Palm Beach Gardens is a larger back-alley bar located in the Publix shopping center north of Northlake on Alt. A1A.

It can be easily overlooked, passed by. But if you’re fortunate enough to locate it, this bar offers more than just booze and tunes. In addition, Swampass (as locals fondly refer to it) functions as a recording studio.

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This bar offers a wide range of beer, from mainstream domestic to irregular craft selections. Food and smoking is recommended.

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There is a $5 cover charge on Friday and Saturday where the large stage becomes the focus to live cover bands, such as, Searat. And Thursday Swampass transforms into some type of Asian rave I’m told. That seems stranger than most things I usually encounter. I’ll skip that…

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Two regulation sized pool tables, an electronic dartboard and a surplus of flat screens showing whatever current game that’s on. The bar is long enough to minimize waiting for your bartender’s attention.

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If conventional bar entertainment (pool, darts, drunken banter) doesn’t suit you, Swampass offers alternative methods of amusement. Most notable, Super Shot (the free-throw game) and Golden Tee. As far as I’m aware of, these arcade games are only found at just that, arcades. Well, I know Super Shot at least is never in a dive bar. I’ve seen Golden Tee before. Super Shot replaced air hockey here which I’m sure some patrons were upset about.

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And as always, the “shitter” must be examined. The men’s bathroom consists of two stalls and one urinal. Everytime I was in there, there were always two dudes in one stall. Only a few creepy things could be happening in there. I’ll let you choose which one it could have been.  Use your imagination…

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I was able to convince a pretty lady to snap a picture of the lady toilet, but other than the picture, I’m unfortunately unable to describe it to you. I usually test it out, so I apologize. Won’t happen again.

Being an enormous Hurricanes fan, it angers me to give this Gator bar a good rating. Though it did receive a slight downgrade as a result. 4 out of 5 dirty mugs please…

I drank $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon over here and had a $15 bar tab. I’m quite sure I had more than five beers. The simple fact that I can’t recall exactly how many, reveals that I must have had more.

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The Downtown Pub

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As I crept into the Downtown Pub, wild-eyed gazes were fixated on a bubbly bartender flipping coins with her massive breasts. Clearly a talent best utilized here. The party seemed to have commenced without me. By this time it was nearly 10pm and the six or seven customers appeared to have been enjoying themselves for the last few hours. Ordering a pitcher of Yuengling, I scanned the bar for any recognizable faces. None. So, I meandered my way to the other side of the barrier that separates the bar stools from the two pool tables with my $9.50 pitcher in tow.

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Making myself comfortable at the modest black squared tables, the short heavy breasted barkeep approached with her way too revealing outfit for someone of her age. She boldly dropped a sandwich sized Ziploc bag of ice into the beer and with a gentle wink she seductively said, “Here you go honey.” Standard practice at these establishments when they notice a miserable hapless drunk drinking a pitcher by his lonesome.

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Over by the computerized, touchscreen casino games, I detected a peculiar figure lurking in the corner. Something seemed amiss. The man was pushing maybe four feet with his elevated black boots. Dressed in leather and denim, he had on a bandana to control his long, filthy unkempt hair. By the looks of the impressive handlebar mustache he wields, a motorcycle must be parked out front. Stumbling toward the bathroom, you could hear the clunk of the deadbolt locking behind him.

Now, there are only two reasons someone would lock themselves in. The first is the most obvious… Taking a dump. The second is to indulge in some variety of narcotic. If you have ever been in a dive bar bathroom, then you would know that most would avoid the toilet short of dumping out in their pants. After about five minutes, the tiny biker staggered out with eyes have shut. No doubt at all what he was up to. This is ordinary and happens often in most places. As long as you’re not blinded by ignorance of course.

The most amusing event of the night came when the tiny man undertook the apparently arduous task of putting on his jet black trench coat. He was halfway there and awkwardly searching for the left sleeve when the rest of the bar finally noticed his struggle. Swaying side to side, uncoordinated stumbles, he managed to slip into the elongated coat. This dressing endeavor took him longer to complete than his time spent locked up in the bathroom.

There is no one under the age of forty here. Most college students will usually flock to a lame ass bar that’s promoting a ladies night in hopes that they can coax a misfortune innocent woman into their “Too Fast Too Furious” Mitsubishi. Maybe a stop at the local Abercrombie and Fitch for a latte would be in order.

But those places won’t have that recurring character with some variety of randomized rant selected seconds before entering the bar.

“I’m the most hated man in Boca!” Sonny exclaims in his ruffled Bronx accent.

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This spherical gentleman runs the Downtown Pub with an iron fist. If you’re lucky, you might catch him yelling about his hatred of cheap scoundrels and tales of tossing unsavory inebriates to the street by neck collar and waistline, as well as, baseball bat beatings on cellular phones.

“They don’t call me bat-man for nothing” he informs with a wide grin.

The 53 year old Bronx native moved to south Florida in 1986. Sonny acquired the Downtown Pub in 2000 from one of his customers while he was operating and distributing vending machines down here.

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By the time I finished a few rounds of Ms. Pac Man, I noticed my beer appeared to be watered down. Upon further inspection, I discovered a minute puncture in the Ziploc bag. One must proceed with caution and be vigilant to maintain the integrity of their alcoholic beverage.

This place is never too crowded or over packed. Its a simple bar that allows smoking and is located next to a pizza place and a 7-11. Anyone that ever hangs out at a bar that doesn’t serve food and is there for more than a few hours, knows that those two places can be quite useful on the late-night.

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Wednesday and Saturday is free pool all day. There is a happy hour from 4pm to 7pm which is only $1 off. And it has the “In The Business” (ITB) discount from 11pm to close.

Compared to other adjacent pubs and bars, the Downtown Pub is slightly more expensive. An unfortunate consequence of not possessing a real extensive client base. To my soon-to-be millions of followers… Just go there and play a game of Ms. Pac Man and have a cold beer. Don’t be a jerkface.

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Pitchers

Yuengling- $9.50

Bud Heavy- $8.50

Bud Light- $8.50

Miller Light- $8.50

Bottled brew– $4/domestic $5-5.50/ import

Domestic Bucket– $15

Purely a wine and beer establishment, the Downtown Pub in Boca Raton should be considered the epitome of dive bars in the tri-county area. It is equipped with all the essential components of the typical backdoor bar: Two non-regulation size pool tables with split cues. Smoking inside. A dartboard. Touch-Tunes jukebox. Nine televisions in every conceivable position throughout the bar. And, of course, a Ms. Pac Man machine for $.25 per game.

I used to frequent this bar on a regular basis in my glorious younger years. The patronage and staff may have changed, but the entertainment remains the same. Its comforting to enter a barroom and be accosted with constant mockery and half-congenial greetings from regulars you would only see at that bar. Just the normal banter one would encounter when drunkards assemble in a dark simplified atmosphere.

It might cost a little more, but the Downtown Pub is definitely worth going to for a night.

The state of the toilets are as reasonable as it’ll get here. Not completely filthy, but no where near suitably clean.

-Lady ToiletImage

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-Men’s toilet

3.5/5 Dirty Mugs with a $19 tab.

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