Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Red Front -- Downtown's Little Secret

It's time to tell you about a little place downtown, a hidden and perhaps unnoticed bar boasting a colorful cast of characters! The bar is named "Red Front" which I presume is for its blazingly red front? I had to wonder if it was maybe a "front" for something else; were there bodies buried in the basement? It turns out, the place doesn't have a basement, so I can surmise that the "Red Front" is only just a name with no hidden meaning. Although small and somewhat tucked away in a not-so-busy area of the loop, its red front should be easy for you to spot.

Walking into the bar, you notice some cool brick archways, round tables with comfortable seating, a tiled bar off to your left, and a room toward the back with more tables and an area for a stage. It's not a big place, but it boasted a cozy, dark interior.

The night I went, the bar was empty. My friend Chambord and I were the only two people besides the waitress--and I think there was a cook who might have been hiding out in the back somewhere. We took a seat at one of the round tables beneath an arch, and proceeded to strike up a conversation with the bartender, who had her name on a chalkboard sign outside the front door. That was odd, but I guess it's customary for the young, hot bartenders to put their names out front to help "lure" in their older stalker-groupies. (I hear those are the guys that leave the best tips.) An interesting marketing ploy if I do say so myself.

I think her name was Jamie, but I don't honestly remember. It very well could have been Bobbie or Linda. I didn't pay much attention to her name. I was more interested in ordering a beer. Jamie (or Meaghan?) proceeded to tell us fanciful stories about the people that frequent the Red Front. "There's A.J.," she said, "who sports an impressive afro and sunglasses, and always orders a double Crown Royal. Either that or a bunch of Coronas." "And then there's this really quiet guy (we'll call him Whispers), who likes his big rum and Cokes and always smells like weed." She goes on to tell us that one night, Whispers "accidentally" lit up a joint which he had pulled from his box of cigarettes not knowing that the bar owner was sitting nearby. Jamie (or Becky?) quickly made him put it out.

"OH, and then there's the 'after NV' crowd that filters in when the neighboring nightclub closes down." I guess the Red Front really busies-up since it's a 3 AM bar and people just haven't had enough to drink at the dance club. Either that or they just happen to see Janice's name on the chalkboard and need to swing in to slip her a phone number…

"Sometimes we'll get those 'business types' after work. They come here to hit on the all-female staff and to mess around on their laptops" (computers, not the ladies). "Oh, and also we have the daily weirdos." I asked Mindy what she meant by weirdos, and she said that during the afternoon hours, before the "normals" come in to drink, the occasional street nut will stop by for a book of matches. She said that it's amusing to listen to them rant and babble but she does worry about them; there is a huge homeless population on the city streets. But hey, it's a big city. You'll get that anywhere.

Diane said that the bar is generally busy during games. They have a couple TVs (it's not a big place), and there is NO happy hour. That was a little disappointing, but heck the PBR cans were very inexpensive. So technically it's like happy hour all the time, if you can handle a can of yard beer.

The hand-written sign on the wall, advertised that from 3-9 PM you could order a BBQ beef or a ham sandwich for $5.95 with fries, and for an extra dollar-fifty, you could tack on a side of COLD-slaw, baked beans or onion rings. I hear that the HOT-slaw isn't so hot. No, not so much. We didn't feel like pointing out the misspelling to Tina however.

The Red Front is located at 310 Admiral Boulevard on the northeast side of the loop. There is plenty of lot parking next to the bar, so no need to feed a meter! Swing by for me, and say hi to Flo! Tell her, Wes Port sent you.

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