It's Tuesday, February 5th and my very first column for Scene is due Friday, February 8th. My assignment: showcasing the cool vibes in Cleveland. Writing about the cool spots, a bar, an event, or just interesting, debaucherous or otherwise like-minded people that I run across—Cleveland though my eyes.
Where do I start? I live in Lakewood, but what about downtown Cleveland? Should I start at West 6th or East 4th? What about East 25th with all the hipsters, local TV reporters, and young business professional douchebags? What about Parma, where I once ran for mayor in a wacky radio stunt?
Wait, it's a text message from ESPN 850 host Will Burge inviting me to his celebrity bartending event in downtown Willoughby at Frank & Tony's. BINGO! This is where I'll start my very first column. What will I call it? How about SPRING BREAK WILLOUGHBY! (No, clearly I won't.) Now it's time to assemble a group of my scumbag friends that would go out on Tuesday night to the western Pennsylvania or wherever Willoughby is located these days. Hot Carl would be the driver, along with my friends Brian Sopko and comedian Steve Guy. It's time to head east (Cue Jerry Reed's "East Bound & Down" theme from Smokey and the Bandit.)
A Tuesday night in service industries are generally pretty slow, so a bar has to have their heaviest hitting bartenders that draw well. So I was out to visit the best Tuesday night bartender Willoughby had to offer. My hopes were somewhere between tepid and tepid-er.
8:15 — Frank & Tony's: First stop of the night to visit my friend Will Burge celebrity bartending. The bar had an interesting vibe. A lot of bar seating, very casual. I loved their commitment to Christmas and New Year's — they still had decorations up. The four of us bellied up at the bar and quickly realized Will was a shitty bartender because he didn't know how to make a vodka soda. Thank God for the smoking hot Victoria; she was on point. She knew our names and was very friendly, but more importantly, she knew how to make drinks. That is a skill I like in a bartender. Sorry, Will.
9:35 — Mullarkeys: As soon as we walked into this authentic Irish Pub located on the corner or Erie and 2nd we knew, as the kids would say, "It's about to get weird." There were four girls (employees) sitting at the bar, two behind the bar, and a random black man dressed as a Man in Black that could have easily have passed for a Huxtable. I still don't know what bartender was actually working because they, at one point or another, were all serving us. Two names I got were Amy Duffy and the beautiful Amy Lynn. Shortly afterward, three more girls came in and started playing the mop game. What's the mop game? It's where two people spin their foreheads around for a minute on a mop handle and then race to the other end of the bar to do a shot. Did I mention this was a Tuesday night?
10:31 — Ballentines: Pretty busy for a Tuesday night. We were just in time to watch the end of the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game (Spoiler Alert- Michigan won.)
The bartender, a girl named Caitlin Cassidy, was by far the best bartender of the night. Funny, cool, and really made us feel like we all had a shot with her. Even my friend Hot Carl felt like he had a chance. At one point I asked if they played the mop game. She said, "No, we play "the bartender serves drinks to the customer game."
12:05 — 1866: This is one of the greatest dive bars of all time and was completely packed on Tuesday night. They have dollar bills hanging from the ceiling like an NBA baller came in one day and tried to make it rain, only there was glue on the ceiling and the bills never showered down. Apparently all the bartenders from Mullarkeys had followed us over which leads to the question: "WHO IS BARTENDING AT MULLARKEYS RIGHT NOW?" The very first thing I hear when I walk in was: "Chad Zumock, what are you doing here?" I just said, "Hey man, it's something I like to call Spring Break Willoughby"
The night eventually ended at one point or another. After 1866 I quit taking notes, so we either went to another bar, left and went home, or possibly blew up a 1981 Buick Regal. All I know is that it's Willoughby, and Willoughby rules on a Tuesday.
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