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Volume 68, Issue 158, Monday, July 21, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

Tavern's weak drinks good for elderly, naïve

Liquid Diet

Mario Gudmundsson

The Tavern on Gray advertises itself as, "A Most Excellent Watering Hole," and it really does take a blue ribbon for truth in advertising, because that's what most of its drinks taste like water.

It's a festive place, a bright kelly-green room full of neon signs and tipsy girls, with pool tables, darts and even ping-pong. Computer trivia games compete for attention with sports and random programming on the dozens of TV screens, which keep the place brightly lit.

There is a simple and decent bar menu full of greasy burgers and wings, and drink specials are celebrated by the Tavern's regular crowd, with happy hour stretching from 4 to 9 p.m. every day. Domestic pitchers are priced at $4.50, and pints at $1.50. Margaritas and Bellinis go for $3 each. Prices like these would be an excellent deal, but there's only one caveat: The Tavern's drinks are weak, weak, weak. These are drinks for elderly folks on life-support.

New patrons to the bar should always be politely warned to stick to bottled beers, because what passes for draft beer at The Tavern always seems flat, warm and watered-down.

A selection of more than 20 draft beers looks impressive at any bar, and the Tavern is very proud of its offerings, but the equally generous selection of bottled beers are the only ones on hand that actually taste like beer and not a very expensive glass of water.

Mixed drinks also fail to please. Stingily poured and filled with too much ice, they arrive quickly from the bar and just as quickly disappoint. Stick to bottled beer, it's hard to louse up.

The notoriously uneven and frequently maligned service at The Tavern was actually decent on one Thursday night. The cocktail waitress was pleasant and very friendly, although rushed by the impatient crowds. A harsh-looking woman who brought a very welcome tray of squishy jello shots and test-tubes full of non-watered down Jagermeister seemed spacey and tired, and a few of the roaming waitresses were also a little tart and snippy, but it's understandable considering the rabble around the bar.

The Tavern can be a rowdy place. People from all walks of life cram in and elbow each other out of the way frat boys, girls in sequined tube-tops, men in basketball jerseys, the after-office element, all sorts gather and get noisy and more than a little sloppily drunk.

That may be the reason why parking is the one universal complaint here, because despite the watery, weak drinks and sometimes rude or negligent service, massive crowds still can't stay away. A smallish lot wrapping around the building fills up quickly. Sometimes a space can be found in the surrounding residential streets, but beware of home and business owners who are only too happy to have cars towed.

The Tavern

340 W. Gray St. at the corner of Waugh Drive.

The verdict: If you stick to bottled beer, it's not that bad.

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