The Bar Tab: A decent enough place, with one warning

Decor

Mr. Bitters and Olive

At the Den, the decor is rather heavy on the steel and concrete.

The Den could be described as conveniently located but easily overlooked. Recognizable but forgettable.

It is tucked behind Lucky’s Market and has a street address of 1595 Grand Ave., but is actually located more than half a block north of Grand, just past the roundabout in the West Park Plaza. You would have to be looking pretty hard to see it while driving past on Grand.

When you do finally get there, appearances can be deceiving. The exterior seems to scream “casino”—in the Montana sense of the word—rather than “sports bar,” though it is more akin to the latter.

Inside, we found a rather dark, industrially decorated room. As our eyes adjusted to the dim space, we made our way to two empty stools at the far end of a half-full bar. We were quickly greeted by a bartender who looked fairly relaxed in her athletic apparel. She wore it well, leading us to believe the clothes may be used for their intended purpose.

Mr. Bitters decided to try his luck and asked for an old-fashioned; she said she could try to make it, but “I’ve never had anyone say they were any good.” You have to appreciate her honesty. Deciding to trust the wisdom of the previous patrons, Mr. Bitters stuck to a bourbon on the rocks. Olive chose a beer from the handful of drafts available.

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We should note that we were not carded when we ordered our drinks. We’re not encouraging those under 21 to try their luck, but since we look fresh out of high school this was a noteworthy rarity. Perhaps our youth is finally fading?

As we sipped our drinks, we looked around to get a sense of the Den’s character. Full of corrugated metal, fashionably rusty decorations and a concrete bar, it reminded us of the Stadium Club and numerous other newly-renovated-to-look-old establishments.

A surprisingly inviting patio was visible, which was unexpected for a bar located in a strip mall. We highly recommend the bar stools, which are much worn but insanely comfortable. Don’t let the cracked Naugahyde scare you off.

The Den offers a decent variety of liquor and beer, but we’re guessing you wouldn’t know this if you looked at their sales history. The other patrons at the bar were throwing back cases of Lites and Lighters with abandon, and seemed to view cocktails and microbrews as a fleeting trend.

Luckily for us, their copious consumption seemed to loosen their tongues, and we were treated to some delightful trash talking. The two of us followed our usual custom of talking quietly while shamelessly listening in on the conversations around us.

One customer seemed irrationally upset over the lack of coat hooks and offered—very nearly threatened—to return and weld some to the walls himself. We sincerely hope he sobered up before attempting to operate any power tools.

We learned that one of our fellow patrons had spent a year in prison after assaulting two cops; he received a deferred sentence thanks to some innovative legal maneuvering. All attorneys involved shall remain nameless.

At this point, Mr. Bitters’ glass was empty so he ordered a refill. The pour was incredibly generous—perhaps the bartender was more talented than previously noted.

We nursed our drinks and felt increasingly sober as everyone around us kept chugging domestics as if in a drought. As we sat, people came and left, ranging from salt-of-the-earth manual laborers to middle-agers fresh from the golf course. Everyone seemed to get along well, and the amiable environment made us feel welcome.

The Den doesn’t have any food available, but they will let you bring in whatever you want. Sometimes it’s even available for free. For instance, we were offered some pizza that had been delivered that morning. As tempting an offer as this was, we question whether dairy products should be left out all day. This didn’t seem to bother anyone around us.

One woman ignored the pizza in favor of the olive tray behind the bar, which she treated as her personal buffet.

Before we leave you with the impression that the Den is a harmless, unremarkable watering hole, we should point out one major flaw for our female readers. Based on our experience, the Den is, well, to use Olive’s words, “a dirty old man bar.” Females beware: this is a bar where patrons will ogle, patronize and sloppily hit on you with little provocation. The bartender took it all in stride, but she’s probably used to this treatment.

One last oddity to report is that as we sat, every customer was asked to pay as they drank—no tabs offered. Even the regulars who were in for their daily case or two of lager traded a couple of bucks for each round. We were the only exceptions to this rule. Never once were we asked to pay, open a tab, etc. We must look trustworthy. Who knew?

After our second round was depleted, it was time to leave. We paid our tab and found the prices to be average. We suggest you give the Den a try the next time you’re in the mood to throw a few (dozen) back in the company of some men of questionable morals.

PROS
Cute bartender with some great stories
Patrons don’t judge copious alcohol consumption
Décor was favorable and seats are amazingly comfortable

CONS
Females aren’t necessarily treated respectfully
Cocktails don’t seem to be their specialty
Domestic beers abound

Previous reviews

Chapter 1The Squire Lounge.

Chapter 2The Alpine Casino.

Chapter 3Buck’s Bar.

Chapter 4Stadium Club.

Chapter 5Bones Arcade.

Chapter 6Southern Empire Emporium.

Chapter 7The Holiday Inn.

Chapter 8The Tap Inn.

Chapter 9Fiddler’s Green.

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