A trio of winemakers and vineyard managers who a) hail from Australia and b) ply their craft in China recently hopped into town like ravenous kangaroos in search of Dame Edna’s bilby pie smothered in vegemite on Nicole Kidman’s birthday and… have I carried the Down Under references too far? Anyway, we were on walkabout for three nights. Night one…
12SQM: This modestly sized bar is co-owned by an Aussie who, it turned out, had the night off after three straight weeks without a break. Luckily, in his absence, I can always show this photo of him hard at work:
Seriously, he’s doing the accounting on a superb application called Bejeweled.
Anyway, we ordered Cooper’s Pale Ale — my “dessert island” beer — which the Aussies found a refreshing change after spending many weeks in northwest China. Good beer in a reliable and cozy venue. Nice start.
MAO MAO CHONG: Another modestly sized bar co-owned by an Aussie who, it turns out, was on site but busy out back making pizzas. We could barely squeeze in given the crowd. In such situations, I like to enter wide-eyed, say things like “Wow, a real ho tong bar!” and elicit at least a half-dozen, “Oh no, the riffraff is discovering our quaint little place!” looks. I’m all about public service. Anyway, given the size of the crowd, we bid farewell and hoped to return later.
PASSBY BAR: An underrated drinking establishment. We gawked at the beer fridge and its 100-plus options, including brews you rarely see about town, like Magic Hat Demo from Vermont and Yeti Imperial Stout from Colorado, though you best bring an extra wallet if you want those two. We went for BrewDog Punk IPA, with lots of hops, the house pale ale, far less jumpy, and Brooklyn Brown Ale, a pleasant tipple.
We also saw a patron at the table next to us lose a bet based on whether or not he could pound six Punk IPAs. He finished five. Not much later, he was in Napland and then carried, still in his seat, to a space near the door for further rest. So, too, was one of his hard-drinking companions. Realizing that the allure of the beer fridge might have us headed in the same direction, we headed to…
SALUD: Let’s start with the bad news. First, as regulars know, the toilet lineup can be horrendous, especially if 1) someone is locked up inside and hurling or 2) there is a Frenchman hitting on women in line and thus slowing down entry and exit. Both situations were in play on this night. Second, the mango anise rum smelled as though it had been filtered through a used sweat sock. Maybe even the sweat sock of someone who had spent a few hours standing shoeless in the nearest public toilet because a Frenchman was hitting on women in the bar’s toilet lineup.
Even so, we had a good time. Salud had its usual standing room only crowd and we settled upstairs with beers and watched as one of our acquaintances joined a table of ten people playing dice games — he claimed he knew the sport inside out — and got thoroughly thrashed, and thus trashed, in about 20 minutes. Apparently they were picking on him.
MAGGIE’S: My first visit in about a year. No shortage of people even in the wee hours of the morning. Two observations:
- The band is fun. You don’t often see “Two Princes” by The Spin Doctors And it was amusing to see one of the singers shut down an obnoxious drunk in the crowd.
- The hotdogs. The de facto comment is, “the best in town“, but I lean toward the Double Dawg at Fubar, which is cheaper and available with more toppings. More research needed.
And more on Aussies in the Jing coming…