Oct 3, 2014

An afternoon at Barney's, an old-school bar with friendly conversation, a maestro and Captain Crunch

Walking into Barney's
Report from the G-man, a guest blogger who took us up on our posted invitation:

A friend of mine once told me there were two kinds of people in the world -- word people and numbers people. I have always been a numbers person. Accounting, math, auditing -- that's me. Today, I entered the world of the word people. Let's see how that goes.

I have been a fan of The Unsung Bars of Bay City since I discovered it about a year ago. When they offered a chance to join in at a local saloon, I could not resist. So there I was, meeting up with a couple of professional bloggers (Doc and the hairy guy) at Barney’s Bar & Grill on Michigan at 28th in Bay City's South End.

I am not unfamiliar with Barney's, having been there on several occasions. But I have never been there with a purpose. Mostly, I have been just there on monkey business.

But this trip was different. I would need to pay attention, to some degree, and write about the experience. Yikes!


When I arrived, there were quite a few cars in the parking lot. It seems Monday afternoon may have been a busier time than was anticipated.

The building outside is old school all the way -- a one-story building with a pretty large front entrance with a few cement steps. It also has the obligatory side entrance, which most people use, since it is accessed from the parking area.

The inside is pretty much what you expect. Long bar, a few tables scattered about. A couple
Video games
video games and keno screens. And of course, along one wall there was the long shuffleboard table. Most bars these days have removed all pool tables and shuffleboard tables to make room for more patrons. Did I mention Barney’s was still old school?

Our waitress/barmaid/cook (Kristie) greeted us with a smile, and was wearing an orange Detroit Tigers shirt. Quite appropriate since the Tigers had just nailed down the divisional title the day before.

Come to find out, Kristie was the owner’s daughter, and pretty much runs the show. She was knowledgeable, friendly, and very willing to chat, albeit between trips to other tables and also taking care of the patrons seated at the bar. She handled it with ease, and barely skipped a beat.

I always ask about the drink specials of the day. Let me tell you that if you are on a fixed income, you will not blow your budget on a drink at Barney’s.

You can get a can of beer for $1.25, and the value continues on to something called a Big Ass Beer for $1.75, served in a 22-ounce frosted mug shaped like the lower torso of someone with their “big ass” hanging out. The hairy guy had to try one, and I was amused just watching and waiting
Kristie behind the bar
to see if he would drink it with the big ass facing him, or turned away from him. He tried both ways.

Kristie searches the internet and comes up with the Shot of the Week, which she advertises by writing it on the mirror behind the bar. I eventually tried the week’s special, the Captain Crunch. It was made with Captain Morgan rum and RumChata. It was OK, but I was not getting a big Captain Crunch vibe.

The menu was full of very typical barroom fare -- chicken wings, burgers, and the like. Their signature sandwich is the Barney Melt, which I have tried on previous visits. It consists of a burger patty on grilled bread topped with mushrooms, onions, cheese and probably other items which I can't recall.

But today, I wanted something lighter, so I ordered the olive burger and some fries. Kristie pointed out that a full order of fries was quite large, and she gently steered me to a half order. Kristie knows her stuff. The half order was plenty. The burger was tasty and the fries were crispy.  A very nice bar burger.

Being a rookie blogger, I can tell you that writing about all the interactions that took place this afternoon would probably become too wordy for me.

There were the men from the muskrat club, there were the classic gentlemen seated at the bar complete with the key ring on the belt and trucker hats, there were a few older couples having
View out the front door
lunch, which is probably a regular part of their schedule.  A pretty typical afternoon crowd at many local pubs, saloons and bars across this city, and really probably across this country. This is Americana -- living, breathing Americana. Where is Norman Rockwell when you need him?

I'll tell you what makes this seemingly typical barroom scenario take on a special feel. It isn't the building. It isn't the menu. It isn't the furniture.

All of those things are part of the package, but they need to be pulled together by the one thing that can be the difference between success and failure in a place like this. It's the people -- starting with the maestro, Kristie, who glides around the bar with the ease of a figure skater, hardly wasting a step, and making everyone feel like they are the most important people in the place.

And the interactions with other patrons is extraordinary. Can you imagine having running conversations with the next table at an Applebee’s? And I don't think you will run into too many members of the muskrat club at B-dubs.

I hope I get invited to the next blogging location. I may not be the best writer in the world, but I can spot a good time from a mile away.


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See the hairy guy's report on Barney's: A fine burger, a blue Big Ass, muskrat love and why didn't we get here sooner?

... and Doc's report: A great bar to find new friends, the shot of the week and fraternal muskrats. Oh, it's heaven!

1 comment:

Allan Schultz said...

The exterior looks the same but not the interior. I'm from old school Barney's back when Martha, Mary and Stan ran the place. They are brother and sisters and if my memory serves me correctly Stan's last name was Laskowski. I see the bar was moved to the opposite wall from my days at Barney's. At the old bar there was very little storage so all the beer was kept in the basement and hand carried up. Where Kristie is standing in you picture used to be the shuffle board table. The also was a pinball machine called Four Aces. It was in the corner on the left side of the front door as you exited onto Michigan. There was also a pool table just inside the door as you came in the side entrance. Barney's was't very popular in my days so if Stan was tending bar we could easily play pool for an hour without interruption. Stan was a bit of a hustler and there was one thing he taught me, how to miss a shot. He would say if you had a tough shot and think you will miss it just be sure to leave the cue ball in a bad position for your opponent. By the way, the price of a game, twenty five cents.