Chad and I are constantly on the hunt for a delicious crunchy taco. Pinches in Culver City is our favorite at the moment, but today we were in Redondo Beach when the craving hit. A quick Google search indicated that Tom’s Tacos has the best crunchy tacos, so we high-tailed it over. Once we arrived, we noticed something even more mesmerizing next door….The Anza Inn.
Unfortunately closed for remodeling, The Anza Inn looks like a wet dream: a nondescript dive bar/Thai restaurant hybrid located in a random strip mall in Torrance. Yes, please!
I WILL see you next week!
Every summer as a kid, we'd jump in the Oldsmobile and make the 60 mile drive to a wonderland called Wisconsin Dells. The Dells, and neighboring town Lake Delton, are sleepy little burgs tucked away in the pines along the Wisconsin river in south central Wisconsin with a population of around 5000 souls between them in the off season.
Come Memorial Day weekend, the area begins to swell as it becomes the Midwest's premiere vacation destination. In the 60s, developers decided this was the perfect location to create what essentially became a city-sized theme park. There are too many miniature golf courses and go-kart tracks to count; innumerable themed restaurants and resort communities. They've got bungee jumping, penny arcades, a Gyrotron, at least a half dozen Old Tyme photo joints, stage shows, ski shows, sky shows and even robot shows. Also, the area has the world's highest concentration of water parks (indoor and outdoor, including America's largest park, Noah's Ark). Not to mention it's Indian country, so you can throw tomahawks and spears at a multitude of native preservation attractions. This place was the apex for bored and restless Midwestern kids deeply in need of stimulation.
The last time I was here, I was maybe 14 and not yet really able to look past the flashing lights and street barkers at what all the parents, who were bankrolling this whole thing, were most interested in: the bars.
As Andre and I were passing near the area, I forced him to detour so we could at least hit the Big Chief Go-Kart track (which we did...and it was fucking awesome!) and grab some lunch. It was a few weeks before "opening" weekend, so the town was pleasantly quiet.
Lunch at Monk's Bar & Grill: I throw my hands in the air, shrug my shoulders and say, "Eh, it's a sports bar". Admittedly, the burger was pretty damn good and it was the first time I tried deep fried pickles. If you can get over the blisters on the roof of your mouth from eating them, they're delicious. Also, they had Leinenkugal on tap, which is always fun to see. It's new and clean, but not my scene.
Naturally, we needed Old Tyme photos so we stroll across the street. Jesus, these guys have this system perfected. I think the whole thing took a total of four and a half minutes and $47 later, BAM!, photos in hand, thank you very much, arm over shoulder and shoved cooly out the door with a pat on the butt. I felt a little dirty and used but look at how handsome these guys are!
I look up from the sidewalk and see a sign erected, long before political correctness and concern for social mores, inviting me to have a swig with someone named Nig. Not one to refuse an invite of this caliber, I concede, and step up into a gorgeous bar in a building from the early 1900s when they still made them solid. This is a really great space: high ceilings, hardwood floors, wraparound bar and that pleasant smell of hundred year old cigar smoke so deep in the woodwork that, even with current smoke-free laws, you will never get rid of it.
Midday local patrons bellied up to the bar in the classic stooped posture of the committed day drinker? Yes, and they were none too happy to see what appeared to be the first wave of tourists. I'm sure if you caught them in the middle of the winter when there's 10 feet of snow outside and a fair chance you may need to sleep at the bar as the blizzard won't let up, they'd be a jovial lot, but you could feel the tension in the room. Like the moment before the doors open at WalMart on Black Friday...everybody was a little spooked.
I presume the Nig in Nig's bar is an abbreviation for the name of the gentleman who opened this joint in the mid-40s, but most everything I've read online alludes to how offensive they find this place (this is admittedly misleading as you need to take in to account the type of person posting some of this stuff. One review I found made me laugh out loud. Should you ever meet Angela P from Plainfield, IL, please give her a cunt punt for me as she states, in part, "I had a cranberry vodka, he had a captain and coke. Drinks were fine. Then we ordered Jello shots. They were prepackaged, like pudding cups! And they tasted awful.").
The fact that they offer a camouflage shirt and hat combo above the bar with the logo and tagline does not help them, however, this place is a real slice of small town Main Street bar culture that does not appear to have changed much since they opened their doors back in the day. Most of these establishments have disappeared. Something like this would never fly in a place like Los Angeles. Just based on the name alone, by now it would have been shuttered and repurposed as something safe and inviting like Obligitory's Pub -- most likely subdivided to include a baby clothing boutique.
My point is, should you find yourself near Wisconsin Dells, make a pit stop at Nig's Bar and enjoy a cold, cheap beer while not taking yourself so seriously for a minute. You might find you enjoy it. I most certainly did.