“Don’t get stabbed” was the usual response to mentions of 3rd Street Pub. In a town with plenty of blue collar dives I was curious what could make this one regarded as stabbiest. I’d driven by it a few times, always having to twist around in a double take at the dirty and poorly marked building with chipped white paint that looked eternally closed. I’d finally felt I had a good handle on its location when I decided to commit to going there, only to speed by and double take again at the now freshly painted maroon red building. The paint was layered on thick enough to smear over the dirt and defects of what lay beneath. The owner, running the bar, told me the hope was to be more noticeable and not blend in with the adjacent tattoo shop.
The place looks like the bits and pieces of a defunct Cascade West or Mountains Edge bar shoved into a long vacant space last held by a Payless Shoestore. Unfinished wood slats randomly decorate the bar and some walls. A plywood stage covers a quarter of the space sitting warped but recently expanded. Music must be a big deal here.
The owner handed Dave and I “the” menu. The only copy of it, a wrinkled and folded over sheet of paper off a black and white printer. There wasnt much reason for them to keep it updated or even be aware of what they offered. It was pretty certain than anything listed was buried someplace in the drop freezer beneath the bar. Only a matter of digging.
The jukebox was deafening but a highlight for the crowd of early evening regulars. As a 2 Live Crew song ramped up the owner screamed “Jesus, Todd’s in jail, I thought I wouldn’t have to hear this song for a while,” before she began singing along. She was the only woman in the building until a second entered, a dangerously thin young blonde with pierced nose and that eye of having both seen some shit and not willing to take any. Turns out she was the new bartender as the owner swapped to a more actively engaged position in front of the bar.
Dave and I ordered burgers. The blonde gave an uncomfortable wince and a look towards the owner. We added cheese and bacon and she gave a nervous laugh. We pressed her for details. Turns out she’s normally the weekend bartender, live music nights, when they only run the fryer. This would be her first attempt at these griddle items. We comforted her with false reassurances as she dug through the freezer for the bag of burger patties.
Dave and I discussed the merits of fully cooked frozen patties as ours slowly thawed on the griddle that hadn’t warmed up yet. Raised voices began erupting a few stools down. Those high pitched slurs of deep intent. Pure passion. Loss of reason. The tinged edge of Fighting Words. Those accustomed to the idle and fleeting anger of your habitual drunk would disregard such a commotion as temporary. This crowd was not unaccustomed. And they did not disregard. The woman next to me with which I’d earlier been discussing the inconvenience of wrongful police accusations was now standing and talking slowly attempting to calm the tension between the aggravated parties. The whole bar seemed slightly set back on their seats, poised and ready for whatever fury might errupt.
“Dont get stabbed” seemed the common thought across those of us at the bar. The sun was still high outside above the brightly lit street. It wasn’t even night yet. I smirked at how accurate the warning had been.
“HEY!” yelled the tiny blonde bartender, two hamburger buns clenched in one hand as she leaned back around to face the bar. “YOU sit there. YOU over there.” She separated the offenders like school children. An ease of calm fell over the bar.
I returned to thoughts and discussion of burgers. The place was back to jovial, if not with a touch of strain here and there. A hefty kid in an XXL Ultimate Fighter shirt at the pool table was beginning to argue with his opponent, a short older gentleman with neat gray mustache in a Panama hat and pressed short sleeved dress shirt. The Ultimate Fighter kid was without backup, no comrades to support his claims as he reached for his wallet and began begrudgingly counting money. The Panama hat gentlemen only spoke in Spanish, gesturing calmly to the four lean young men lazying about behind him, who also only responded in Spanish. In his own forced nobility, Ultimate Fighter kid handed over a wad of cash and walked sullenly back to the bar, likely never having understood a word of the transaction but comprehending every moment of it.
The blonde brought us our burgers, having coming together damn well for frozen ingredients, and accompanied by perfectly fried frozen fries. The bacon exceeded expectations, regardless of how low those expectations had been. We gave our compliments. I considered the quality of this burger and the fact that it was actually cheaper than Dandy’s. It’s a good value, all told. And that tinge of adrenaline fueled by the setting only builds on the flavor.
Score: 2.75 of 5
Price: $7.50 with fries
Beer: Coors Light