Let me just say this one thing: strip clubs and me just haven't gotten along in the past. It's not like I don't like them, I think they are fine but....I also think they are very bizarre.
Why, you may ask. Well, it comes down to one thing basically, something that I have wrestled with many times in the past when I have been, uh, a "patron" of certain gentlemen's clubs, one thing that I just really can't wrap my big yet little brained head around.
There are beautiful naked women dancing all over the place for your entertainment and we just have to sit there as if we are watching an infomercial.
I don't get it. How can dudes just enter a club, slap down some money and then not lose their cool when, uh, "stuff" starts happening to them? It's insane. Now, see...I personally do not want to get in trouble at certain gentlemen's clubs, knowing that most hire very large and intimidating bouncers to deal with those that lose their cool, so I tend to avoid them. BUT, there have been moments in my life, a few to be exact....okay quite a few, where I have been asked, invited or pulled into against my own will, to partake in the affairs of these mentioned certain gentlemen's clubs to enjoy the, uh, "stuff" that goes on in such establishments.
Some results have not been pretty. Let's just say that I have been kicked out twice and have run screaming from one of these arenas of hedonistic pleasures. The rest I was usually hiding behind a couch of some sort, quietly watching the events unfold as if I were a kid alone at home watching a scary movie on TV.
It's the, uh, "over stimulation" you see; I just don't cope well with it. So when this assignment started to take shape I was a little nervous going into. But, to uphold all things virtuous as a dedicated food journalist, I took this particular conquest with a manly gusto that I really did not know had in me.
First though....I would require a little help.
|Metal Mark in a strip club? Yeah...he's gonna need some assistance.|
The task at hand was such: I had heard that a certain gentlemen's club served up free burgers and fries every Friday from noon-7pm. Are you serious? Food? In a strip club? That's...
No, wait. If I recall, there was a certain gentlemen's club back in San Francisco (which I called home for 12 years before moving to Tucson...not the strip club, the city. Jeeze.) that actually had a chef driven menu and, like, $30 steaks. Okay, so maybe I just never put the two together. Why would I? Food...in a strip tease establishment? C'mon man. That's like having an open bar at Disneyland. Sure, the two would go great together but....is it a good idea? The notion about eating free burgers and fries in a place where, uh, "stuff" happens, nearly made my brain become a lint collector in a dryer where I scooped out the left over gray matter from the screen and tossed it into the bin.
OKAY!, I said to myself. I'll do it. But I'm going to need some help. I can't just go into a venture like this on my own. No way. It'd be weird me hiding behind a couch without a group of friends as an anchor for my weirdness. Or what if I just spontaneously combust and leave a mess for the poor employees of the strip club to clean up on a hot Friday afternoon? I'm gonna need a wingman. So, luckily, my good friend Erik, aka Chili, owner and bartender of Danny's Baboquivari lounge here in Tucson (http://www.dannyslounge.net/, 2910 E Ft Lowell Rd.) stepped up and said he would help.
He's a brave one that Chili. Give this man a gold star by his name.
So, at around 11:30 on a Friday afternoon, we met up at his bar, consumed a bit of needed pre-strip club antics medication (as noted before) and then drove out to the far reaches of Tucson to eat free burgers and fries in a place that would be writhing with half naked women.
First of all, Chili was the best choice for this assignment for various reasons. #1, he's awesome. #2, like me, he is in his 40s. #3, he is married with kids and I have been engaged for over 10 years, so, basically married. #4, he said he'd do it. And, #5, he said he would drive.
At around noon-ish we arrived at our destination and, to be quite honest with you, I was really hungry at this moment. Hopefully the free food would be a scant decent enough to quell the gurgling feed me beast that was jiggling my belly. I had heard from those that have been to places like this for the food explain that the free food is pretty bad, pretty small, and usually the, uh, "entertainment" was not A-list. In fact, from a reliable source, I had heard that if certain, uh, "entertainers" became less, uh, "inviting" they were sent here to do their penance.
But as a strident feminist (that's right, food blogging Metalheads can be feminists, just read Caitlin Moran to find out what I'm talking about here) this did not interest me. As a very heterosexual man I was a bit curious but...whatever. Free burgers and fries. In a strip club.
|Here we are. Let's see what they got...|
This particular place was pretty far from our homes in mid-town Tucson and was right next door to a run down Circle K. It was here that I began to get worried. Perhaps I was in over my head. Now I had dragged a good friend and all around nice family guy down with me. Would risking eyes, stomach and neither regions be worth a dopey article to entertain you good people who read food blogs? Man, I hope so. Because we had made the trek, made the decision and now that we were standing on the precipice of peril, the only choice was to re-ignite that husky man gusto and step inside.
|O en to 7pm? Sounds tempting!|
Now, here is where things get tricky. See, cameras are not allowed in these certain gentlemen's clubs. It's pretty obvious if you think about it. A dark den of salacious goings on, you think the owners and operators want a bunch of half drunk duders snapping photos all over the place? Yeah, not happening. What if the mayor was here this afternoon and we caught him red trouser'd enjoying the grinding lap sway from some lithesome glitter siren? Like I said, it aint gonna happen.
Knowing this, I had emailed the establishment a few times saying that I was a food reporter doing a take on the free food that is served up in sin mills such as this, but I never got a response. Huh.
As we entered the place the first thing we were hit with was how dark it was. The foyer was only lit by the front door (which was the back door actually...) when it opened or the occasional beam of light that came our way from the disco like main area just a few steps down. We were frisked, we had a metal detector swipe over us, our i.d.s were scanned and processed. Man, these guys don't fool around. Kinda shows you what we are up against. I then told the doorman that we were here from the Tucson Homeskillet and we had emailed the management a few times saying that we would need to take photos of the free burgers and fries. The young man look confused, but after handing him one of my business cards, he said he'd contact a manager and see what he could do.
That was good enough for us. So after passing all of the pre-entrance tests, we made our way down the few steps, into the club and sat at a table.
|Chili: a man who is ready for anything...|
Our table was front and center of the stage. This particular place was not all that big; only one main stage with a smattering of tables and chairs throughout surrounding it, almost stadium style. A full bar was off to the right and was busy with servers and patrons crowing it. At 12pm on a random Friday afternoon in Tucson, the joint was jumping just a bit more than anticipated. It wasn't busy by any means (I could only imagine what this place is like at midnight, that's when the questionable "all you can eat taco bar" starts up. Yikes...) but there were guys seated and ready all around.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness that was cut with lazers, strobes, pinwheels and black light, I noticed that the setup wasn't as skeevy as had been implemented. It seemed clean, it seemed rather un-scary, in fact, it was kind of cozy. The chairs were soft and comfy, the servers were nice and, well, articulate, and the performers were like Cirque du Soliel but topless and with a pole. I began to relax. Perhaps I wont freak out and need some couch to shield me from the happenings squelching before my eyes.
Mainly because I couldn't find a couch. So...there's that.
|Metal Mark + strip clubs, usually = not awesome...|
When our drinks arrived I informed our server what we were here for and that I would need to take pictures. She seemed fine with it but would still have to get the okay from the manager.We ordered the free burgers and fries and awaited a response from the manager. At this time I went to the restroom, when I returned Chili leaned in with some information.
"Hey, so I found the manager," he said over the pounding psuedo-Metal blaring from the house PA, "and he didn't seem too happy about taking pictures. I don't know. It may not happen."
Crap, I thought. How am I to convince the Homeskillet reading public that we actually ate free burgers and fries in an actual strip club without photo proof? I mean, like all 3 or 4 readers out there will not be convinced if I can't get photos of the free burgers. It'll just seem like two 40 something dudes going to a nudie palace and then claiming they ate free stuff.
Nope. I had to get photos.
It took a while but I finally got the attention of what I assumed was a manager. He had on a tie and wore an ear piece while carrying a clipboard. Seemed managerial. I then explained why we were here, that I had been emailing them for a while, then after I handed him my business card he seemed to relax a bit and go along with the gag. The manager claimed that the burgers were "Some of the best in town!", which made me even more excited than I currently was at this juncture. So I sat back down, enjoyed another round as the "artistry" that was unfolding before us on the circular stage near by.
After a while the food arrived. And, to be honest with you, even in the disorienting flashing light near darkness, the burgers looked pretty good. Bigger than I thought. The server placed a basket of freebie goodness in front of us and it was then that I had to ask if I could take pictures of them.
"Yeah, sure," she said super casually. The manager guy then returned to our table, patted me on the back and said go ahead and take some pictures. I fumbled for my phone, opened the camera mode and took a picture. The first one I got was so dark you couldn't even make out an outline. Rats, I thought. This is a total bust. They'll never let me take flash photography here, even with all the flashing (of lights) going on all around us.
"No, go ahead and turn on the flash," manager said. "You need to get your picture."
So I did. And glory be, these are what the free burgers look like at the strip club:
|Ladies and gentlemen...free strip club burgers!|
Not too bad right? They were quarter pound burgs with onions, pickles, tomatoes and cheese. Chili and I were dutifully impressed. So we fixed them up to our liking, tucked in and then took a bite.
The result? They were pretty tasty. For reals, the free burgers at the strip club were actually quite good. It wasn't the greatest sandwich I had ever had but considering the location, the fact that they were free, what was going on the stage and all around us, the sensory overload took over and made me go "Mm-mm. This is a tasty burger!"
Here's the thing. Not only were the burgers and fries free but we also got in for free. How did that happen you might ask? Well, in the back of the Tucson Weekly, there is an ad for the establishment and with it a coupon that reads "Free Admission With This Ad". Chili and I both had those lil pieces of paper in our pockets and before we even entered the club, we presented the door guy with them and after the frisking and metal detecting, we got into the club for free.
Free admission. Free burgers and fries. At a strip club.
Why is not every dude aware of this! I'm telling you, if you are over 21, have means to get out to Golf Links and Wilmot on a Friday afternoon, have enough cash for a drink or two, cut out that coupon from the Weekly...you will get into a strip club for free and be fed free burgers and fries. God bless the frikkin' USA.
With that said, at first I wasn't going to reveal where we went because I thought I would be bashing the food, place and the, uh, "entertainment", but after our awesome experience I am proud to say that Raiders Reef (aka the boat that don't float) was a lot of fun.
|A good time was had by all. Well, at least Chili and Metal Mark...|
After we finished the burgers and another round, we had realized that we were there for over 3 hours. How did that happen? With no lights, no clocks and, well, "things" going on all around, we got distracted, quite easily, and had to pack it in. Chili had some family get away to attend to and I was going to go to Raiders Reef "sister" club, Curves, to get another free burger to round out this assignment.
The thing was...I was full! I'm not kidding. Those burgers and fries filled me up. Holy moley, I was impressed. So after dropping me off at the bar, I got in my car, drove home and took a post free burger and fries at a strip club nap. I'm pretty sure I dreamt of an endless meat and glitter buffet only to wake up and inform my wife She-Ra that I was okay and had made it out alive.
Something almost persuaded me to go back to the club, knowing there was more free food to consume, more "entertainment", all in a cool dark time vortex where I could just while away the hot after noon in the Sonoran desert.
Instead I hung out with the cat, watched "The Muppet Movie", all the while feeling glad I didn't freak out with a belly full of free meat and potatoes.
All was right with the world...
Raiders Reef: 6475 E. Golf Links Rd, Tucson, AZ
Camera and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Mid July, 2015
Melvins, "Honey Bucket"