Thursday, April 21, 2011

Celebrating our favorite neighborhood bar...Danny's!



I'm going to be honest with you here: When I first went to Danny's...I didn't like it.

It was early 2006. Having moved from San Francisco (my home for 12 years), where I experienced some of the hippest “lounges”, scenester hangouts, upscale b.s. clubs along with a slew of smelly ultra dive crapholes, Danny's didn't do it from me. Mainly, I think, it's because smoking was still allowed in bars and me A) being from California and B) never smoking a cigarette in my life I nearly choked the first time I walked through those doors.

It was a Friday night and it was packed. The ceiling at Danny's is rather low and with one small front door opened the smoke just cultivated in mid air like a choking bog of Marlboro and American Spirits. Once I sat down, next to the front door with my head literally popped out for maximum oxygen, I had a chance to size up the place. It was cool, nothing special really, just a decent bar for decent people where the drinks were decent and everything was decent. Sure. Whatever. But I was still trying to be mister big fish in a new small pond, so I think that with still glazed eyes from my time in CA and SF and a body still reeling from kicking a year long battle with cocaine, I essentially told myself that I wasn't impressed. Kids, I was a much different person six years ago. Basically....I was a turd.

Through time though, things changed, including myself. The smoking ban was initiated and non-smoking drinkers like me rejoiced. The next time I went to Danny's after the smoking ban, which was like the next day I think, the place was much more tolerable. It wasn't busy and I could actually breathe. It was here I began to admire the old style d├ęcor, much like your dad's rumpus room from the 70s or your strange uncle's basement bar from the 80s. Worn leather seats, deep captain's booths, vintage Budweiser ads were everywhere giving it a comfortable and familiar feel. Danny's was cool I thought. I like it here.

Then, things got even better. When new owners Richard Snyder and Eric “Chili” Hulten took over, they made Danny's even more awesome. 

 Chili and me at their annual badass Xmas party

The back room, which housed a few old pool tables and broken pinball machines, got a new look, well, an old one, one that matched the retro feel of the main bar, wood paneling and all, was cleaned up and a huge HD TV was installed. The back patio, which didn't exist when I first visited, had tables and chairs installed and even a large chiminea was installed because, you know, it does get cold here in Tucson now and then. The home away from home even felt more like...home. Awesome.

A great feature about Danny's is their Sunday Guest Bartender night where folks and fans of the place sign up and can bartend on a Sunday night from 8pm to close and screen their favorite movies on the back wall. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention they show movies sometimes on the large back wall on the patio. Oh yeah. It's awesome. In fact, She-Ra and I had our 5th anniversary there where we ate pastrami sandwiches and watched The Empire Strikes Back. That's how cool the place is. They totally let us do that.

What was I saying? Oh yeah...guest bartenders. Yeah, it's way cool, a lot of our pals have done it, even She-Ra and myself. I think we screened Snakes On A Plane and Xanadu that night. We...like to torture our friends and guests apparently. So, if you're out and about on a Sunday I suggest stopping by Danny's and you might see a new or familiar face.

So, I guess your wondering what the whole 'Baboquivari' thing is, right? Well, here's the scoop.

The building itself was a bar and restaurant since the 1950s. In fact, when She-Ra and I guest bartended we were surprised to find an old kitchen hidden behind the floppy doors the real bartenders disappear behind to restock or keg beer. It was pretty cool. Old and kinda weird but...cool. Anyway, it got bought out by some lady in 1977 who re-named it The Baboquivari in honor of the sacred Tohono O'odham site near Sasabe, AZ. Then the infamous Danny bought it in 1982 and apparently couldn't afford to change the sign so he just added his name and …bingo!, the legend was born. 

 

Danny's has gone through a lot of changes, ups and downs, but now, in its almost 30 years of being a neighborhood bar, it's the place you still wanna hang out with the folks you wanna have a drink with. Heck, I had my 40th birthday party there and She-Ra and I just might have our wedding reception there as well. It's fun, comfortable, great jukebox (when it doesn't skip...I still cant listen to A Tribe Called Quest, fix the disc Chili!), awesome vibe and the drinks are poured according to how awesome you are. You gotta stop by and sit in the naugahyde booths and sip their signature Baboquivari Brew, made especially for Danny's by Nimbus Brewery. How cool is that? Even the owners of a prominent brewery know a good “classy dive” hangout bar when they see one. 

 Some of the gang and me at Danny's for my 40th birthday bash

Here's the info:

Danny's Baboquivari

2910 E. Fort Lowell Road
Tucson, AZ 85716
520-795-3178
http://tucson.metromix.com/bars-and-clubs/neighborhood_bar/dannys-baboquivari-midtown/682928/content
Did you see who they have in the picture for the review site? That's right. It's us.
See you there!
 

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Homeskillet's ode to the 4th Avenue Street Fair





What would modern living be without the proverbial fair? It's been in the fabric of what we do and who we are since the beginning of townships forming, communities coming together and neighbors that just wanna show off their cute dogs and apple pies. Heck, I'm sure there were some cavemen that got together on some regular basis and shared like different ways to prepare Mammoth or had some contest such as “Best Use of Rock as Weapon”. There had to have been. We're human. We like stupid crap like that.

Well kids, I am here to tell you that I am no different in my appreciation and participation in any way, shape or form of fair. Back in California, near my hometown of Carmel, there was the Monterey Squid Festival, the first place I ever ate calamari as a kid and was not even close to being horrified to find out it was octopus. Up north from Monterey, we had the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the Castroville Artichoke Festival, the Watsonville Strawberry Festival, etc, etc, etc. So, as you can see, festivals were a big part of me growing up; and they still are. No matter where you live, be it metropolitan or rural no-wheres-ville, I'll betcha right now they're planning the next fair or festival as we speak.

Deep in the hidden confines of the Ozark outback, I am nervous as to what “affair” they are putting together.

Nevertheless, here in Tucson AZ, my home now for over 6 years, outside of the rodeo (which is a school and state business holiday, I am crapping you negative) and a bunch of other stuff, we have the bi-annual 4th Avenue Street Fair.

http://www.fourthavenue.org/fairs/general-information/

4th Avenue is the hip shopping and restaurant district, second only to maybe to Congress Street, which tends to be a bit more upscale. 4th is full of funky shops, casual dining, great bars, tattoo parlors and the like. But, before summer hits and right before the holiday season, the long stretch of road becomes filled with all sorts of vendors and artists all pandering their wares under tents in usually pretty high temps. This spring fair was no different. It reached 100 by 1pm.

Still, they come out every year, sometimes twice a year, to sell their goods, only to pack up and head off to the next street fair or festival. What a life. I couldn't imagine selling Kokopelli decorated crock pots for a living, and that living being one of some new age nomad. Not for me.


(This guy actually has a great product, serving pots that stay cold for hours, but the designs on the side are comical and he's kind of a douche...)

But, seeing as the Homeskillet is my food blog, the main focus of our visit to the 4th Ave Street fair is, of course, eating.

Now, She-Ra and I like art just like the next person but, lemme tell you here, outside of my buddy Josh and his occasional arrival at the fair (http://joshcicci.com/) or the stuff that Pop Cycle does to old records and vintage toys (www.popcycleshop.com ) most of the artwork is pretty horrendous. Not to mention, how many times did we have to get harassed about getting DirectTV? Really, a good portion of the 4th Ave Street Fair is kinda dumb...but the mullet count is usually pretty high.

The high point of the fair, for us anyway, is the food. There's always a bevvy of local fare, such as fry bread, Sonoran Mexican food, along with the usual lot of burgers and dogs. We can go to Lindy's anytime (http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2009/09/11/man-vs-food-meet-lindys-on-fourth) but it's only at the street fair that we can get our foot long Polish dogs at the Piggy Wiggly. Yep, that's what they call it.



First off, when you approach the stand, you are immediately hit with that wafting grilled aroma of several different kinds of meats and a pile of onions, horseradish and all sorts of slathery goodness.







Sure, just like any other kind of street fair, you-can-only-get-it-once-a-year kind of product, it's a little pricy: $8. BUT!, look at the size of this thing. I mean, it's pretty intimidating.







Our tradition, once we are properly mustard and hot sauced, we sit on the corner, eating our massive sausage (that sounds kinda wrong, right?) and watching the parading lot of fair goers, trying to not only count the mullets but the inappropriate jean shorts (on men!), bad prison tattoos, fannypacks, hairy backs and unattended children. Yessiree, it is always quite the spectacle.







It takes a while to get through the sausage but once you made that thing your lil' food bitch, the end result is not only having to not worry about eating for the next, oh, day, but also the gloppy mess that resonates on your hand afterward.







The rest of the day is usually spent running into friends, considering buying yet another Alice in Wonderland print from Pop Cycle, perhaps buying that sweet but spicy chipotle lime BBQ sauce (which we did) and trying to drink as much water as we can. Otherwise, the only vendor we spend a decent amount of cash on is the guys from the Garlic Festival (http://www.garlicfestival.com/)







All I gotta tell you is their products are a staple in our kitchen. Sure, we always use a lot of garlic in our cooking as it is but these guys have it down pat, as far as rubs, sauces, shakes and infused oils are concerned. We buy enough to get us through till the next time they arrive but, oh man, I always get excited when the newest street fair arrives because I know the Garlic Festival wizards will be there with their patented garlic gharni and spicy garlic mustard. Holy yum balls!



Usually after the fair we head home, count the loot then take a nap. Walking around 4th Ave for a few hours in the hot sun while avoiding gothy teenagers in Marilyn Manson shirts and 'the end is near' religious freaks can be pretty exhausting. It's always a fun time, if not for a good laugh, but the food is always the star and our corner is always empty, waiting for us to sit down, watch the free show while eating way too much tubed meat.



But, do I really need DirectTV? I mean, those guys were so...insistent. Gosh. 

 RIP Mary's Taco Bar...I was pretty sad to see it all boarded up and closed down. This place was awesome and really helped when drinking at Che's or the Wench went a bit too far. Those tacos were amazing. Cheers!