Let me tell ya ’bout my trip to Stage

I got pleasantly drunk during my fantasy baseball auction on Saturday afternoon. Nothing goes better with spending pretend money on major leaguers than spending real money on quality Belgians. What? No! Beers, not actual Belgians! Gosh, what kind of a monster do you think I am? I only traffic in Swedes.

So anyway, here’s me with almost four hours of quality booze time under my belt, and here it is still light out. And the Liquor, which has taken up residence in a tiny corner of my brain like some sub-Saharan parasite bent on driving its new host to an area at the proper temperature and humidity to birth its young, whispers in my ear: “It’s still early. You should go do something interesting. And have another drink.”

And I says back to the Liquor: “Good idea! I know! I’ll go to that new Vaudeville club, Stage!”

I’d seen the place on Boston’s finest source for hard-hitting local journalism, Dirty Water TV, a few months ago. It’s billed as a swanky 1920s-esque speakeasy full of expert mixologists and old time-y performers: dancers, magicians, acrobats, the works. It’s the sort of ambitious concept that could either turn out really, really cool or just be sort of silly and awkward if it isn’t executed well. I would’ve been ok with either because that’s just the way my sense of humor – which probably should be on a heavy ritalin prescription – sees the world. I was skeptical about Stage’s ability to deliver; every time I’ve been to an area bar with some sort of hook above and beyond “bar” or “we have bowling,” said hook is usually tiny and shoved into a corner where it won’t interfere with the hordes of Boston dude bros pounding Bud Lights or Camberville yuppie-wannabe-hipsters daintily sipping Pretty Thingses. The Liquor had high hopes for the place, but I was prepared to end the evening ironically amused and slightly disappointed.

After a quick dinner, the Liquor helped me pick out a nice shirt and my least crappy pair of black jeans and we got on the T. Stage is in the Alley, that bastion of learning and culture in downtown Boston. The front room was neat but disappointing because I’m a big dummy and I initially thought that was the entire place. A long bar ran the length of the room. A small stage in the front corner was occupied by a woman in makeup and a corset doing magic tricks.

I decided to test the bartender by ordering a Bulleit rye Manhattan, up with a twist. When I placed my order, his face lit up like it was Christmas morning. Dude was obviously tired of pouring Stellas. It showed in his work, too: he spun the shakers around and tapped the low ceiling with the bottom of the bottle as he poured. The results were perfect – and surprisingly large. On my side of the river, there’s been a definite trend toward tiny cocktails you can fit in a Dixie cup that still cost an arm and a leg. It felt like pouring the thing out of the shaker and into the glass took about three days – which is not a knock at all on the bartender, just a comment on the serious size of the drink. For real, I was briefly intimidated. This Manhattan wasn’t cheap, but hot damn was it worth every penny. And old fashioned I ordered later was just as delicious.

I was there for maybe fifteen minutes when the crowd around me began a mass migration toward the back of the room. A secret door in the rear bookshelf had been opened to admit us into the rest of the club. I followed the herd.

Holy crap. That back room is huge. It’s gorgeous. It’s so spotless you could do body shots off the glittering wood floor. I counted three giant bars. A series of booths near the main stage looked like a great place to hangout with a group of friends. I didn’t know where to look; there were performers dancing, balancing on things, swinging things, and doing tricks in every direction. The light show and sound system were top notch. I couldn’t help feeling like I’d walked into an old-timey circus montage. It was really fucking cool.

I didn’t stay as long as I would’ve liked. I’d been drinking all day and the Liquor was beginning to gain too much influence. It would’ve talked me into doing something dumb, like trying to talk to the brunette down the end of the bar who wouldn’t stop staring at me. The Liquor thought she was undressing me with her eyes, but I was pretty sure she was just trying to determine if she’d seen me on the wall of fame at her local post office. I got out of there before the Liquor could convince me otherwise.

But I can’t wait to go back with a fresh liver. Stage is legit. It’s nice to see a new bar hit Boston that’s actually different from the usual vanilla scene. It’s the sort of idea that should be happening in Somerville, maybe in a particular former diner car – you know, if Somerville actually gave a crap about being different and wasn’t just resting on its reputation. The Liquor agrees on all counts. Check Stage out.

The Drunkard’s Guide to Davis Square

I’ve lived in or near Davis Square for seven years or so now. People tell me it’s the place to be. I don’t really see it any more, but I guess that’s ok. I’m still here more because I’m lazy than because I particularly like it.

You, however, are likely one of those people who hear about Davis and think it’s an exciting place to go out for food and drinks. You’re mostly wrong, but whatever. I know the scene and I’m about to school your ass on Somerville’s hippest (hey, it’s relative) neighborhood. Finally, my alcoholism and laziness have joined forces for the greater good!

Save It for the Third Date

Posto has easily the best food in the square. Pizza, pasta, a supposedly impressive wine collection–it’s a great date spot, but it doesn’t have much of a bar scene.

Spoke Wine Bar is small, cozy, and oddly classy in a way that isn’t obnoxiously pretentious. I mean, yeah, it’s still kind of pretentious, but it’s tolerable. Spoke’s solid menu of small plates and surprisingly decent beer list make it a good place to stop for a snack. If you’re a single dude, don’t go there by yourself unless you’re in the mood to have an array of yuppie couples look down at you and lonely cat ladies ogle you like you’re their latest knitting project.

Too Nice for You

Everything at Saloon just flat out costs too much. You won’t have a bad meal, but it’s not the sort of place you just drop into randomly. Lack of cellular service (it’s in the basement) is a huge negative.

The Rosebud American Kitchen and Grill is a place I typically avoid on principle. It fills a space that used to be a diner and a semi-attached dive bar. A recent remodel turned it into just another cookie-cutter “nice” restaurant with overpriced entrees and $12 cocktails that just happens to have an interesting front facade–in other words, it’s a total waste of a perfectly good diner car. The food’s good, though, and it’s worth stopping in for the pie alone.

Only If You’re Watching the Game

The Joshua Tree is the neighborhood’s premiere sports bar. Granted, choosing the best sports bar in Davis is kind of like picking out your favorite toenail, but whatever. It does the job. Just make sure you’re out of there before the Tufts rush around 10 on Friday and Saturday nights.

Just Right

Do yourself a favor and hit the Painted Burro. Some of the entrees are a little expensive for what they are, but you can’t go wrong with a couple tacos and a margarita. They’ve also got quality karaoke on Tuesday nights.

Five Horses fills the neighborhood’s beer bar niche. The food can be very hit or miss, but they’ve got good tater tots and a bigger beer list than anywhere else in town. Their regular door guy might just be the nicest person in Somerville.

Just Don’t

Orleans is that place you go when you’re over thirty and want to hang out with other people your own age. Then you go to Orleans and realize it sucks so you head to Sligo Pub and hope everybody in there thinks you’re 24.

Avoid The Foundry unless you’re an attractive lady who can get both the bartenders’ attention and a few bucks off the inflated tab. The service sucks otherwise and the food and drinks don’t make up for it. They have good bread and butter, if that’s any consolation. Please don’t go just for the bread and butter.

The King

Want some cheap booze with no bullshit? Itching to play some Buck Hunter? Don’t care about the quality of the pisser? Sligo Pub is perfect for you. Don’t bank on food unless you grab a burrito at Anna’s on your way. Rising rent prices and an ongoing invasion of stuck up douche bags is ruining the neighborhood, but there’s still one last bastion of High Life-pounding,  Fireball-shooting sanity in Davis Square.

Update: The Places I Missed in My First Draft

Guess you know how I feel about this spots, huh?

The Burren can be fun if you really, really want to slum it with a room full of Tufts kids dancing to reasonably well-covered hits of the 80s and 90s. Otherwise it’s nothing special.

Redbones and specifically its basement level, Underbones, would’ve been in consideration for the Just Right section but probably wouldn’t have made it. The beer selection’s top notch, but it’s a dark, cramped space that tends to get a little too crowded with the sort of amateurs who don’t do well in dark, cramped spaces. Most people like the food, but I’ve never been a fan.

Flatbread Company belongs in the date spot category with an asterisk. The food’s solid and it’s all made from locally sourced ingredients. The beer list is loaded with brews from the area and they make some fun cocktails. And there’s bowling! Two things hold it back a bit for me, though, both related to said bowling. First off, it’s  far too loud. Secondly, nothing is more disappointing than gearing up for an evening of candlepin and finding out there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get a lane before closing time. When this place gets busy–which is often–it’s not worth the wait.