Apr 10, 2016

The Silver Palace: It's not silver or a palace, but the popcorn is free and you can get Kinky anytime for $3

The Silver Palace, or maybe just the Palace
The hairy guy's report:

A bar's name can leave you full of anticipation, or not.

For instance, at the downtown bar called Jake's, you might expect to find a guy called Jake. You probably won't, because he sold the place. But you really should stop in, if you haven't recently, to see the large new windows looking out over Third Street. Tearing down wood panels to restore what must have been the building's original look gives the place an entirely different feeling.

But that's not why we're here, except to note that naming the bar Jake's makes it sound like a friendlier place than it would if the then-owner had used his actual name -- Jacobs, which sounds a lot more formal.

And if you come across a bar called the Silver Palace, you might expect something grand. Maybe dark wood paneling. White tablecloths. Hefty silverware. You'd wonder if you'll need a dinner jacket, or if you should at least tuck in your shirt.   

At the Silver Palace on Woodside in Essexville, you'll have nothing to worry about. There's plenty
Back bar at the Silver Palace
of Formica and free popcorn, and you'll wonder why anyone ever thought to name it the Silver Palace -- or even just the Palace, according to the sign over the front door.

It's a nice place, for sure, but nothing there is silvery. One afternoon, looking out over a mostly empty large barroom, it did seem almost palatial. But that would be a stretch.

Carrie the daytime bartender, who says she's worked there for 20 years, has no idea how the bar got its name. "That's to try to get you in the door," she guessed.

Whatever the excuse, the bar has been around awhile. The online Bay Journal historical site explains:

One of the principle places of businesses carried on in a community in the old days was at a saloon. Men would meet and exchange news of the day and consummate a deal or two.
Such was the spot on the southeast corner of Woodside and Main Street where Anthony Walraven (Walraffen) arriving from Holland in 1858 would build his saloon and hotel that very year. Later on Anthony would trade the saloon to his son Frank in exchange for farm land in Hampton Township.
During the prohibition period and under the ownership of "Duffy" Hebert, the combination tavern restaurant would be given the name of the "Silver Palace". In 1942, William Karner Sr. purchased the business which became a popular spot for excellent perch dinners.

The current Silver Palace has little to indicate such history, though. Part of a carved wooden back bar remains and a bit of the wooden bar top itself peeks through modern laminate.

None of this is a knock on the place. If it was called, say, the Woodside Bar, we wouldn't think anything of it. But calling it the Silver Palace just, well, sets the bar too high to ignore.

The name itself harks back to a part of ancient Tibet that is thought to also be the origin of the fictional Shangri-La -- a heavy burden to bear for a bar in Essexville, which might be a nice place to live but surely has never been anybody's idea of Shangri-La. Checking online, we find that Las Vegas once had a Silver Palace Casino. And there is still a Silver Palace bar in Aruba -- which isn't Shangri-La either but is closer than Essexville.

We also found a Silver Palace dinnerware set, but it looks a bit fussy for the place at Woodside and Main (which really isn't much of a main street) in what remains of downtown Essexville.
House drink specials
Across Woodside are a trophy shop, photo studio and insurance agency. A mostly concrete triangular park is to the west, and the long-closed Colonial Theatre is a block down. Around the corner, a small house has a sign proclaiming "Salon & Day Spa."

Back inside, Bud Light, Miller Lite ($2.50 a pint) and some Short's and Leinenkugel brews ($4 a pint) are on tap. For happy hour (3-6 p.m.), bottles of domestic beer are $2.

A cooler holds assorted bottles of craft beers and other drinks. Among them, a $3 bottle of a blue liquid with the brand name Kinky caught our eye; it's a malt beverage described as "A fiercely yum blend of wild berry and tropical flavors that’s so-good-it’s-naughty." Our usual policy is to make a point of trying such things to satisfy a twisted sense of reportorial obligation. In this case, though, we passed. "Kinky" did have a certain appeal. But something about the term "fiercely yum" and those excess hyphens in the description scared us off.

Besides the free popcorn, there are a jukebox and a lottery machine. No pool table or shuffleboard or other games. You can eat and drink, look out the window, watch TV (one of the sets has news during the day; another sticks to sports) and talk.

Asked for a Manhattan, Carrie made one with Southern Comfort for no apparent reason, since bottles of whiskey and sweet vermouth were visible. But that's OK.

The regular menu includes plenty of stuff. A burger is $5.25. An item with the alluring name of
Afternoon news on TV
Strips of Fire (chicken strips doused in hot sauce) is $6.75. Ten wings and a pitcher of beer are $11.99. Bags of American Gourmet pretzels, made down the street, are for sale. Harry had a fine BLT.

The grill is open until 9 p.m. On Monday and Saturday, $10.99 can get you a 12-oz. strip steak and fries. Fish fries are on Fridays. Saturday breakfast includes a full menu of eggs, pancakes, omelettes, etc. Saturday nights are for karaoke.

The Silver Palace opens at 10 a.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. for breakfast on Saturdays. It's open till around 11 p.m. Monday and Tuesdays, 2 a.m. other nights. It's closed on Sundays. But you might try the one in Aruba.

Maybe for a special occasion in another lifetime, Harry will head back and order Strips of Fire and a bottle of Kinky. Or maybe not.


See Doc's report on the Silver Palace: History and cuisine carry on at the Silver Palace

  The particulars:
  Silver Palace
  1500 Woodside, Essexville


Anonymous said...

Rumor has it, it was called the silver palace because it was painted silver during WWII because that was the only paint they could get because of the war rations.

Laura4472 said...

One of my favorite places. We walk down there often. Love our neighborhood bar.