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Another questionable establishment wins my heart.
By Hannah Wallace
I love me a good dive bar. Like strip clubs and dirty jeans, there’s something comforting in seeming so casual and unsavory.
I’d love to have written the guide to the great dive bars of the area, a la Creative Loafing, who’ve already got it pretty well covered (What say you, Loafers? Can I rep some Bradenton holes?) (…er not to be confused with “Bradenton hos,” whom I do not want to rep). But dive bars are, by definition, intimidating, and I am a pansy. I mean, I walk into these places and I feel like I just reek of English major. Fortunately, Big J’s mom (and his sister, too) work at the Hi-Way on 15th Street in Bradenton. THAT my friends, is a place you drive by and say, “Dude: dive bar.” And like the Bahi Hut and the old Broadway, I’d driven by the Hi-Way enough times to develop near-mythical ideas of what frightening characters might inhabit such a place.
And, just as I had at the Bahi Hut and the old Broadway, I would eventually become one of those frightening characters. It’s kind of like when kids dream of being pirates.
The Hi-Way has all the makings of a great dive bar:
A great dive bar opens at 7 a.m.
A great dive bar has one coin-operated pool table that lists toward the center of the room.
A great dive bar does not tolerate popped collars.
A great dive bar, much like a 1940s movie star, leaves you smoky and satisfied.
So Saturday evening, CCB and I sidled up to the Hi-Way bar, trying not to look like punks or troublemakers, surrounded by a few grizzled regulars and hand-written signs outlining payment plans and house billiards rules. I like it. Moe Syzlack could bartend at the Hi-Way. They even serve food (although I haven’t gotten so daring—or so drunk—as to order anything).
And what a great, low-key Saturday night—no crowds, no hassle, no line for the bathroom, no aggressive sexual tactics or loudmouth Hilfiger-wearing boys challenging for the pool table. Just me and CCB, Big J and his little sister and her boyfriend—a 6’5” 300-pound ex-petty-con we call White Kimbo, whom I beat at pool. Twice.
Oh, and the regulars: Smokey, Burly, Gnarly, Scary and Drunk.
In all seriousness, we were actually quite well received. It’s as much like hanging out in someone’s living room as it is being in an adult beverage establishment—the whole place gets involved in conversations. Makes me wonder if I should give Cheers or the Dolphin Lounge on Ninth Street a try.
…yeah, I don’t think so.