Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A visit to the pub

The State of Missouri, finally deciding to follow suit and take the coronavirus seriously, closed all bars, restaurants, clubs, cafeterias, and pubs. No, they didn't specifically state "pubs" and we don't live in the UK, but they are my favorite. We have a few, and I have no idea how authentic they might be to their predecessors, but I know of one, founded by a poet who spent a good chunk of time in Wales, that feels like what I think a pub should be.

You step in from the street and find yourself crowded around the oval bar in the middle of what was once the only room. Stained glass in the windows, the wooden walls covered in art celebrating opera, jazz, blues, and poetry, tiny booths made of old five panel doors and church pews and there's a waitress asking you to wait just a moment and she'll find you a table. She leads you back towards the kitchen, a sharp left across a threshold into the other dining room, really in a separate building, the brick Central West End without gangways between the houses and shops. A center table beneath a large watercolor collage of Carmarthen Bay and we pass around the menus.

I don't know why I even look--I always get the fish and chips, though I have to specify I mean fries in this case, since St. Louis knows crisps as chips and I don't want them. Maybe you'll have the fish too, with the tartar sauce and the malt vinegar on the table just in case that's what you fancy. There's a flank steak on the menu, and a wild mushroom fettucine that I always think I'll try next time until the next time rolls around and it's fish and chips again.

The waitress returns for our drinks order. They make a fantastic boulevardier--a negroni with whiskey instead of gin--with a local rye, served up in a pretty little glass, ice cold but not watered down. One night the bartender brought it to the table himself to meet "his people" since this was the drink he would order at bars to stump the staff. He wasn't stumped, and he shook my hand.

The tables are filled with couples and families; the windows facing the street shining with the last bits of daylight echoing outside. Food arrives and another round and talk turns from casual catching up on the people we know and how our day has been to someone telling a story that we'd had her save until we got to dinner--save it, I want to hear the whole thing at once--and she tells it while we shake our heads or we laugh or we find our hands moving up towards our throats, worried. Whichever it is, the story comes out and it's there at the table with us, circulating like the salt and pepper and vinegar, a companion who can only stay for one drink but maybe settles in for the whole evening.

We make a toast to someone or to the relief that some great trial is over, tapping our glasses on the table before we drink up. Cheers to that, cheers to her, cheers to you.

Dessert is split, bread pudding with dried cherries and pecans and whipped cream. Maybe you scrape off all the pecans and I take them. Maybe you steal all the cherries and I pretend not to notice. Caramel sauce all over everything and perhaps just one more round before the bill gets split or it's really my treat and we don't argue but be sure to tip because we certainly stayed a long time at a large table.

Coats retrieved, we go out the side entrance so as not to have to weave through the bar again. On the sidewalk between the planters covered in old snow we say goodbye with hugs and a kiss and a promise to text and call and do this again, we have to do this again.




  1. Oh, I love this. I want us all to be there.

    That bread pudding sounds a lot nicer than the bread pudding I grew up with (and was one of the first things I learned to make). Fish and chips is a regular thing here, so I'd definitely have the mushroom fettucine, which sounds delish!

  2. Yummmm... that was a fabulous meal, Bridgett. Thanks. (And I think it was Mali who stole all the cherries.)

  3. I love a good pub and I love good company. This will be so much fun. I cannot wait! Now I must go break my fast...

  4. That menu? I'd be happy here. I love malt vinegar on my chips. You can have my pecans and I'll steal the cherries. But mostly, oh, I love this writing. Thank you. It's perfect.