Aug 15, 2014

Shot & Shell: Clean beers, pool tables and burgers, and a wrathful drink you've (luckily) never tasted

Shot & Shell: Clean inside and out
The hairy guy's report:

Suppose you wanted to come up with mixed drinks based on famous books. For "Gone With the Wind," you'd have something red (for Scarlett). "Call of the Wild" could include Wild Turkey. "Catcher in the Rye" would have rye whiskey. "Fahrenheit 451" could have three shots of Bacardi 151. (Yes, that adds to 453, not 451. But after three shots of it, who would notice?)

Maybe this would be cute in, say, a bar called The Library that had walls lined with books. Not so much in a place called the Shot & Shell, which sounds like either a joint for straight-up drinking or a cocktail lounge at a hunt club.

Unfazed by this, the Shot & Shell on Woodside in Essexville -- which is an otherwise very sensible and good bar -- offers a $3 house drink called Grapes of Wrath.

A Google search turns up a drink by this name that includes blue Curacao liqueur and vodka, and maybe one involving grape juice. The Shot & Shell folks picked another, made of that 151-proof rum, Grape Pucker schnapps and Sprite. "Prepare to feel the wrath," says a website.

We weren't prepared.

It tastes bad. Very bad. We had three sips, and then only because a beer was handy after each sip to serve as a mouthwash.

As a book, John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" won a Pulitzer Prize. The movie won two Oscars. The drink is a loser.

We hate to waste a tall glass of liquor but that's what we did. (As a kid, the hairy guy's mother drummed into him that he had to finish his dinner because people were starving in China. He figures they probably were sober, too.) We offered the barely-touched drink to a woman at the end of the bar -- she turned out to be the mother of Angie, the bartender -- and knew enough not to want it either.

Another drink advertised on the wall, called Purple Passion, has the same ingredients but with tequila instead of rum. It's only $2.50, which is likely the only thing in its favor.

Somebody out there must like this stuff. That's what makes the world such an interesting place, eh?

Well, no, it turns out.

Angie said I'm the only one who's ever bought a Grapes of Wrath. "You're the first person," she said. It seems that the owner noticed nobody was buying the Grape Pucker and found
The dreaded Grapes of Wrath is at left.
the recipe online in hopes of unloading some of it. If there's a sucker in every crowd, the hairy guy was it this time.

Don't dwell on the downer drink, though. If you skip the purple or blue stuff, which you were evidently going to do anyway, this is an inviting bar.

The first thing that struck Harry when he walked in was that the place was notably clean. Gleaming, actually. Actually, the parking lot and the building's exterior are clean and tidy, too.

A hamburger (a giant one, actually) turned out to be notably clean, as well, even with all sorts of toppings piled on. Something about the size and consistency of the bun and the burger made everything hold together cleanly without oozing out the side.

Angie (yes, she's clean, too) said she's been tending bar for 15 years, earlier at Hooter's and the Circle Bar and now sometimes also at Bemo's in the South End.

There are three pool tables (50 cents a game, and almost all of the cues are straight), a lottery machine, jukebox, darts and an ATM. Everything looks clean.

Miller Lite, Busch Light, Bud Light, Bud and PBR are on draft. Pints are $1.75 except the PBR, which is $1.50; shells are $1.25, $1 for the PBR. Harry had to tell Angie how to make a Manhattan, but the sweet vermouth and cherries were on hand (no bitters, but who cares?). She even used a jigger to get the proportions right. And it was only $2.50.

One more thing: It probably doesn't much matter to anyone else, but the bar can't quite get its name straight. The sign outside says Shot & Shell. A sign inside says Shot 'n' Shell. The bar's own Facebook page says Shot n' Shell. Other online listings have it as Shot N Shell. Angie says the outside sign is right, and she seems reliable, so we're going with that.

Only three other people were sitting at the bar on the afternoon we walked in. There were six by the time we left. There should have been more. It's a good place to be and opens at 10 a.m., except at noon on Sunday.

The bar is located just barely into Essexville, behind a 7-Eleven. A good hardware store is just a block away -- and whatever project needs work at home will surely go better after a stop here for a beer. No Grapes of Wrath.

See Doc's report: A visit to the Shot & Shell conjures fond tales of boilermakers, bumps and more. Oh, the etymology!

  The particulars:
  Shot & Shell
  201 Woodside, Essexville


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