on this story
(out of five)
1817 Lake Avenue
by Les DuLunch
The three martini lunch. It's one of those grand myths from back in the days when balding white men in pinstriped suits ran the world and their very, very bored wives played lots of bridge. Nowadays, even in the free-wheeling new economy, it seems many of us barely have time for a hurried sandwich over an online Salon article in our cubicles.
But, even though I'm unable to enjoy the real deal's approximation at some swanky treehouse for grown-ups like Club LeConte, I'm still determined to revive the tycoon tradition of the three martini, or as the less-connected case may be, three beer lunch. And this past Friday, I traveled to Cool Beans, a new little joint located just off the Strip on Lake Avenue, to do just that.
With a name like Cool Beans, you'd either expect something along the lines of Asheville's Laughing Seed, a regular cornucopia of bountiful granola goodies like plain brown rice and squash, or midtown Atlanta's fun-as-FiestaWare Agnes and Muriel's with its fabulously updated spin on square country cooking. But neither is the case here, where the focus is really more on the suds than food.
Basically, Cool Beans is an ideal place to sneak off and have an incognito beer or three with lunch. Take colleagues and play a round of pool, or take some transportable work, sit back in the cool quiet, and enjoy. At night, I'm sure the place transforms itself into frat daddy and smoronity sister hell due to campus proximity, but during the day, it's a pleasant enough hideout.
Texans and rednecks take note: Cool Beans has cornered the market on the roadhouse concept. Much of the parking lot outside is gravel and the large porch will be quite pleasant once UT has completed the parking garage it's currently constructing across the street. Traveling inside, you may pass by a row of hard-hats left on the banister by diners within. The floor is concrete, the walls and ceiling are unfinished wood, the tables are spaced far apart, and neon beer signs are the sole decorative device. (The metal trough-style urinal and doorless stalls add an extra-special rough and tumble touch to the restrooms.) It's dark. It's quiet. And the dripping of condensation from air conditioning ducts that snake through the exposed-beam ceiling above adds to the cavernous atmosphere.
Once my eyes had adjusted to the gloom, I gravitated to the specials board, which contained the clear, one-sentence instruction to order at the bar. Since only one single bottle-bedecked bar stood in clear view at the back of the room, I proceeded to it and placed my order with the friendly barkeep. There were no menus on the tables and no proliferation of food service stations to confuse mejust a simple command that was easily obeyed.
"Big Ass Wings" sounded like a dandy appetizer, and although amused by the colloquial cleverness of their title, I opted instead to try a basket of Cool Beans' curious spudsters ($2), which add an interesting new element to the arsenal of deep-fried bar food appetizers. The acorn-shaped puffs of deep fried mashed potato have the sort of vaguely chemical aftertaste that combines the effects of potato "flakes" and deep-frozen mass-produced foods. But after an initial pause to ponder their oddity, they became quite addictive, even with plain ketchup as the sole sauce clinging to their lightly crunchy exteriors. But they would've been even better with some sinfully grease-laden cheese and bacon dipmaking them sort of like a bite-sized version of the overloaded potatowhile still retaining their distinctive bar food appeal.
Cool Beans' menu offers a basic collection of burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and Mexican. The veggie burger ($5) left a lot to be desired, as it's one of those pitifully thin little patties that tastes like refugee Thanksgiving turkey dressing instead of the currently popular bean-heavy burgers' more rich and savory flavors. Cool Beans' quesadilla ($5) fared much better; try it instead. Served with tortilla chips scattered with beans and cubes of fresh tomato and little cup of plain salsa, the seriously fat inch-and-a-half thick quesadilla was filled to the gills with sliced mushrooms, an inordinate quantity of jalapeno slices, strips of juicy chicken, and a mixture of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. It proved a fine thing, and matched particularly nicely with the beer.
Which I seem to have forgotten to mention.
Cool Beans has about 15 draft options that range from low- to upper-end American. Tossing a coin between the Pete's Wicked and Sierra Nevada Pale ales, I landed on the latter, and enjoyed three frosty glasses full of its hoppy, full-bodied flavorthe friendly server made sure I never ran out. I veritably zipped through the work I'd brought. After all, not only is beer a social lubricant, but a creative one as well.*
As I began to make my woozy ascent from the table, "Comfortably Numb" began to hypnotically pulse its way out of the 103.5-tuned speakers. Coincidence? I think not.
Ahhhhh....back to work.
*Les DuLunch is self-employed and so does not in any way condone drinking while on the job. The webmonkey, however, is presently producing this edition of the Metro Pulse website on a laptop in the newly-opened downtown bar McCleod's with a mouse in one hand and a Sierra Nevada in the other.
July 27, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 30
© 2000 Metro Pulse