Oct 3, 2014

Barney's Bar & Grill: A fine burger, a blue Big Ass, muskrat love and why didn't we get here sooner?

Barney's: Food, drinks, games, fun
The hairy guy's report:

Sometimes, you can just be in awe of a bartender. Sure, it's not brain surgery, but it can be tough work.

Consider someone working alone in a bar. She has to get drinks, take food orders and cook them, deliver everything to the right people, keep their bills straight and clean up after them. And to do it well, she has to take time to talk, keep her sense of humor and make everyone feel welcome.

Above all, the key is to somehow stay calm. (Harry once worked with a guy who would loudly yodel at his desk to release tension. He might have been briefly entertaining as a bartender.)

And consider a likely scenario: A guy buys a bar and hires his wife and/or daughter. He gets loyal employees and gives them jobs. A good deal, but there's a risk. The owner might be great at running a bar. The others in the family -- maybe yes, maybe no.

But when everything clicks -- a great bartender, a friendly scene, good food, no yodeling or surgery -- it's a wondrous, inviting thing for customers. And if the beer is cheap, it's nirvana.

Or Barney's Bar & Grill.

That's where one afternoon we found Kristie Podleski, whose father, Gary, bought the place a few years back. And where she was calmly doing everything in the place.

Signs above the bar accurately sum up the scene at Barney's: Food, Drinks, Games, Fun

The food, drinks and fun were flowing among more than a dozen folks -- including, it turns
out, members of the Bay City Muskrat Club. (No Elks, Lions or Eagles here, just Muskrats.) 

The games -- shuffleboard, some video machines and the lottery -- were being mostly ignored until Harry decided to whomp his fellow bloggers at shuffleboard. (The not-quite-level table allows for some artful curving shots, by the way.) 

Kristie's absence wouldn't break Barney's -- it's a good place all on its own. And oddly, when the Bay City Times recently sought votes for the best neighborhood bar in town, Barney's wasn't even among the nominees.  So we hereby nominate it as the city's best-kept secret. 

Though maybe it's not much of a secret. "We're known for our burgers and Bloody Marys," says Kristie. Harry has no interest in Bloody Marys, which she says come complete with stuffed olives.

He did have interest in a burger (listed on the menu as "hamburg"), which turned to be among the best and largest in town. (It came with a steak knife because, Kristie says, some people like to cut it in half.) The menu also includes an assortment of other bar fare, though vegetarianism would be the only good reason to skip the burger.  

Miller and Busch Light are on tap. A 12-ounce shell is $1 (75 cents on Sunday), a pint or mug is $1.50. Some cans are $1.50 till 4 p.m.

And then there's the 22-ounce Big Ass, which comes in a blue plastic vessel that's shaped
A tall, cold Big Ass
like the bottom half of someone mooning the world. It's $1.75, or $1.50 on Thursday. The hairy guy found, both for aesthetic and practical reasons, that it's better to drink from the front of the glass than from the rear.

A Manhattan turned out to be the ersatz version, made with Southern Comfort, though it was large and only $2.75.

Barney's opens at 10 a.m. daily (noon on Sunday). There's no set closing time, Kristie says, but it's definitely open till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

One treat: The napkins are perfectly square -- a rarity that makes it easy to fold origami birds.

The only thing to complain about -- and we're really digging here -- is that the menu says "Home of the penny p-nut machine" but the machine was broken.

Not a problem. We'll be back.

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

... and the G-man's report: An old-school bar with friendly conversation, a maestro and Captain Crunch

  The particulars:
  Barney's Bar & Grill
  800 Michigan at 28th

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