May 17, 2016

At the Spinning Wheel, the pool tables are clean and the clientele isn't square but - aha! - it's a T-square!

Spinning Wheel: the sign, we're told, doesn't spin
The hairy guy's report:

On a trip up north awhile back, the hairy guy found himself turkey hunting with a shotgun-toting friend. Harry's job was to pretend to be a female turkey, the goal being to lure a horny tom out of the woods to his doom. This is not done by dancing provocatively in a short skirt but by making squeaky sounds with a small wooden box. Some guys apparently like that.

Harry was a failure. No gobbles. You might say he was acting like a total turkey, but evidently the real turkeys didn't think so. And you can only imagine what a blow to the ego it is when even a turkey doesn't find you appealing.

Of course, we humans have more civilized places to handle the mating dance. We have bars.

Like the Spinning Wheel, which might be a good place on a weekend night to see if you can arouse any interest from a hen or tom. Or sometimes both, it turns out.

The weekday afternoon we walked in, the place on Broadway near 31st was empty except for Angel the bartender. She assured us that things get livelier at night.

And then there's that third Saturday of each month -- swingers night. Angel describes the bar as a meeting place, a safe haven to arrange a swap. The bar often holds a party of some sort on those
nights so whatever meetups happen aren't as obvious.

"It's not a swingers bar per se, it's swingers friendly," Angel said.

Swingers, right here in river city? "There's a lot of them in Bay City, and nobody notices it," she said. Which is probably how everyone involved wants it.

We did find some firsts at the Spinning Wheel:

• Angel had the two big-screen TVs tuned to SyFy and FX -- first time we've seen that -- though she did admit that a game is usually on.

• The shuffleboard table (which, by the way, is level) has a T-square hanging on the wall to easily settle disputes over close pucks. It's the first time we've seen one in a local bar.

• Angel took time to clean the two pool tables, wiping off fingerprints and who knows what. We've never seen anyone do that. (The whole place, by the way, is notably clean. The bottles behind the bar -- with the top shelf liquor on the top shelf -- were sparkling.)

Revel Stoke pecan whiskey. Feeling adventurous after a couple beers, Harry asked for something interesting and Angel suggested this. Harry follows the rule of avoiding beer with fruit
Blue scores at shuffleboard
in it. But whiskey with nuts is in a different category, and this stuff smells and tastes alluringly of pecans. Purists may turn up their noses at such things, but of course that just leaves more for the rest of us.

Beyond all that, the Spinning Wheel is like a good neighborhood bar, sitting between a cellphone store and a grassy lot. A sturdy park bench in front of the lot is handy for a cigarette break.

Back inside, the decor includes lots of beer art, beer flags and a tin ceiling. Besides the shuffleboard and pool tables, the back room has a dartboard. The place was long called the Old Spinning Wheel and has been in business as a bar since the end of Prohibition, according to city directories.

On tap are Killian's and Angry Orchard (each $3.25 a pint, $2.25 a shell), and Bud and Bud Light ($2 and $1). Large 25-ounce cans of Busch Light are $2.50. Assorted bottles of craft beers are in a cooler.

Beer is the big seller, according to Angel -- "lots of Bud Light." But the bar is well stocked. When
Ending a fine afternoon
Harry asked for a Manhattan, Angel checked her phone for a recipe and made one with orange bitters for $2.25.

Bagged snacks are the only food for sale (Harry recommends the potato sticks for $1), though Angel says the boss sometimes brings pizza. Bringing in food from outside is fine, and we'd suggest something from Ole Tyme Broadway a couple doors north.

The bar opens every day at noon. It's open till midnight Sunday through Thursday if people are still around ("If it's dead, then we close," says Angel), till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

We've heard rumors that the spinning wheel sign out front sometimes spins. Angel says no. "It lights up but it doesn't spin," she says. We like to check things out for ourselves, but we'll take her word for it.


See Doc’s report on the Spinning Wheel: Going up (and down), and the lowdown on Red Bull

  The particulars:
  Spinning Wheel Bar
  1616 Broadway

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