December 6, 2016

The Bobblehead Bar

This past weekend I took a couple of days off work and headed out on the road for my almost annual NBDL trip, an effort to get me into smaller-than-the-NBA time pro basketball and some parts of the United States I wouldn't ordinarily get to. Before I arrived in Canton, Ohio or Erie, Pennsylvania, I spent a night in Cleveland. This is the second of two posts about that city before we get to some words about the D-League. For my minor rant on how I feel about Cleveland, read the last post.

In 2011, my friends Mike and Bryan and I hopped in a car and drove across America. It's a trip most people do right after they graduate from college. I waited until I was 43. Better late than never I guess. We took the northern route which ran us roughly out to St. Louis; then straight north to South Dakota; then pretty much westward through Deadwood, Yellowstone and the Bitterroot Mountains to Seattle. I recommend everyone take a major road trip in the U.S. at least once in their lifetime. It was incredible to see the country that way.

If you know me at all, you'd suspect we stopped at a lot of bars and breweries on that trip. And you'd be right, of course. The Old Point Tavern in Indianapolis; the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis (total American pilgrimage); our hotel bar at Yellowstone National Park (where we drank the amazing and awesomely named Moose Drool); Pike Place Brewery in Seattle; and countless (OK, so maybe four or five) breweries in Portland, Oregon. But the best bar on the trip hands down was in Cleveland.

When assembling a list of bars to visit in Cleveland I used a very scientific evaluation criteria: wherever people burned LeBron James jerseys the previous summer after LeBron announced he'd be taking his talents to South Beach. That meant two places: Harry Buffalo and The Winking Lizard Tavern. We hit up both while we were in town and found the former to be way too deserted on a non-Indians summer game night and the latter to be too big and sprawling, likely because of its elongated triangular floor plan. Neither of these turned out to be the best bar of that trip. And I didn't visit either last weekend.

The best bar in Cleveland (and in the entire country that summer of '11) for me turned out to be City Tap, which is located right next door to The Winking Lizard. We stopped in there after a disappointing drink or maybe two (the memory is fuzzy after five plus years) at the Lizard next door and I instantly fell in love.

I know, you are dying to know why it was the best. Was it the incredible tap list? Nope, although their range of draft beers is impressive. How about the featured Thirsty Dog brews from nearby Akron? No, not that either. The Carling Black Label in cans? Uh uh, although I love me some Black Label. Surely, it wasn't the UV Cake / Pinnacle Chocolate Whipped vodka shot, right? It wasn't, although just try it sometime and tell me it's not really good. 

No, the reason I fell in love with City Tap is because they have the most incredible bobblehead display I've ever seen in a bar anywhere.

City Tap's beer board. Tell me you've heard of all these breweries. I dare you.
OK so maybe I ought to qualify that last sentence. First of all, the subject matter (all Cleveland and Ohio State) is deplorable to this Wizards fan and Michigan grad but I guess you can't expect anything more considering the location. But if you can overcome that and appreciate the prominent way these things are displayed front and center among the liquor bottles backlit in multiple colors, I would go there about every night until I got sick of the place, which I may never do.

We rolled into Cleveland last Thursday at about 3:30 pm. 30 minutes later we were at the City Tap bar working our way through the beer list. I started with a Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale, just because I'm  a fan of the brewery after that one night there five years ago. We sat about where we sat last time we were in town towards the north entrance near the hoop bobbles and away from the Indians bobbleheads on the south side. Since we'd been here last, they actually expanded their collection, moving a good number of the Ohio State football bobbleheads to a new display case nearer the north entrance. This kind of dedication to bobblehead collections is impressive, even if the likes of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love caused the expansion.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, it should come as no surprise that bobbleheads occupy a significant spot in my Wizards fandom world and I'm all in favor of showcasing any bar that goes to the lengths that City Tap goes to demonstrate a commitment to poorly painted overseas manufactured bobblehead replicas of athletes that may or may not resemble the actual athlete. I'm proud to call this place my bar when I'm in Cleveland which is not likely to be very often.

As of last Friday (or likely way before that to be honest but I just became aware of it last week), City Tap is no longer stocking Carling Black Label. That sucks, honestly. Every bar needs a cheap local (Canada) brew to keep folks like me going after guzzling a few pints of the stronger stuff. And no more cake flavored vodka either. Don't let either of those things keep you from going to this place.

Finally (and of course) there's a Wizards connection here. Look on the fifth shelf up in the basketball section and two spots from the left end you'll find former Wizard Larry Hughes, who helped take the Wiz to the second round of the playoffs in 2004 before defecting to the Cavs. I never thought Boogie should have bolted town for Cleveland but they were offering more money so I guess you take what you can get in life. Larry's not waving; I assume he's playing some D.

Save me a bar stool next time I'm in Cleveland. Until then...go Wizards.

Larry Hughes in Cavaliers hell. Shoulda stayed in D.C., Larry. You and Gil could have done good things.

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