The Hungover Gourmet


2 Bars We Love...

It's a chilly spring morning as we depart Collingswood, NJ on our way to Ithaca, NY for a performance of the Off-Broadway musical BATBOY (no resemblance to the Dark Knight but plenty of relation to the Weekly World News's unofficial mascot).

By the time we decide to stop for lunch in Clarks Summit, PA it is decidedly chillier than expected. In fact, "raw" would be the word I'm looking for and I'm beginning to guess that packing shorts and sandals for this late March trip was a wee bit optimistic on my part. I'm no meteorologist, but the cold rain that's soaking us on this side of the mountains is sure to change to wet snow at some point during our trip.

Hungry and thirsty, we ignore the chain eateries and fast food joints that dot this freeway exit masquerading as a town and opt for JJ Bridjes, which beckons us with its promise of 'Food & Spirits.' The comfy booth soothes our joints and after the first beer goes down it becomes apparent to all involved that it's a good thing we have plans. This is the kind of place where you could easily spend the day drinking the night away. It doesn't help that we're fascinated by the cast-off from White Snake who is parading in and out the establishment's doors lugging guitar cases, amps, cables and more.

After downing beers and sandwiches with ridiculous names, we bid farewell to our high-backed, heavily-padded booth and start down the driveway to finish our trip. But not before stopping to check out the marquee and wonder which member of Village Idiot our axe-lugging friend is.

Later, much later, that night we retreat to our hotel rooms. Dinner was great, the musical amazing – with a tour de force performance by my niece as Batboy's mother. The only drawback has been the gigantic, uncharacteristic zit that has erupted on the tip of my nose, and a dinner conversation that took an unexpected turn towards politics.

Though an early wakeup call and snowy forecast awaits, we decide to head across the street to the Ichabod Restaurant & Lounge for a quick nightcap. Upon arriving at the lounge's surreptitious side entrance we find that the doors are locked, despite what looks like customers inside. Thinking that the entrance lay elsewhere, we head to the front of the building and enter into the diner/restaurant portion.

It's at this point that we have one of those moments usually reserved for movies. As we step into the diner – simply looking for the entrance to the bar, mind you – what appears to be an army of Jack Osbourne clones (work jacket,cuffed jeans, ironic glasses, curly hair) immediately stop eating/drinking/chatting/ smoking and look directly at us. All we need is for the needle to be picked up off the record.

We look at one another and silently agree... slackers.

Not finding a secret entrance to the bar we circle around, see the doors are still locked, and decide to call it a night. Until five minutes later when the phone in my room rings.

It's my other niece telling me that she was so stymied by this situation that she phoned the bar. They're not closed, she tells me. The doors were simply locked because the bartender was downstairs restocking the bar.

Energized by this info, we walk back across the street – looking like desperate boozers to our hotel clerk – and enter Ichabod's.

A handful of booths along the wall and a small back room are deserted. A few people – with the look of regulars – hang at the bar with the pierced twenty-something waitress. It seems shocking, to us at least, that in a college town on a Saturday night we have doubled the number of bar patrons just by entering.

Settling in at the end of the bar we order up drinks and begin chatting about the events of the day... the show, Village Idiot, and the unexpected talk about world events with my brother-in-law Politic-Al. All the while my niece's husband and I exchange glances that ask that musical question: What ARE we listening to?

While I consider myself fairly musically savvy, he's a longtime rock journalist with a dozen or so books to his name. It makes me feel better that he's perplexed, too.

After a couple drinks and more conversation we ask the bartender what she's playing and she brings over the CD case for an old album by Dead Can Dance, which leads into a conversation about 80s/90s Goth bands, the Cleopatra record label, and other things I never expetcetd to be talking about at a diner bar in Ithaca, NY on a Saturday night.

Pretty soon she's mixing in discs from her stack, filling us in on details about this one and that one, writing down names of those we like. All is calm and pleasant at Ichabod's.

And then Gavin arrives. Actually, I can't remember if his name's Gavin or not, but it somehow fits. He is apparently her boyfriend – or some type of significant other – and his arrival brings the whole room down. He's loaded, belligerent and, unlike everybody else in the place, unfriendly.

His friends aren't much better and the mood begins to sour.

But we like Ichabod's.

And we like our bartender with the pierced nose and her taste in music, though we're starting to question her taste in men.

So we stay for another round or two. Last call brings the evening to a close and we bid Ichabod's and the bartender who plays Dead Can Dance and her crabby boyfriend farewell.

I hit the bed in my room with a thud and flip on the TV.

A movie featuring Santo, the masked wrestler/ superhero is playing on a local channel and the guest host is the owner of a used car lot.

"Why haven't I been to Ithaca before," I ask myself as I drift to sleep and the snow begins falling outside.

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