Ready for some George Bookerian qualifiers? Okay, heeere we gooo...
This list is not actually TOP or BEST...just like every other list I have made lately, these are favorites. I point this out because I do not actually think I am informed enough to write about the subjects I choose. If I knew what I was talking about, it would be boring to me. Nothing is worth writing or saying if there is nothing questionable about it that one hasn't really thought of.
But let's talk about drinking. I'm doing it now, so further mistakes are method. I returned to Norfolk after school to find a much more active night life than when I was a high school student. We now have gastropubs and tapas bars and even hip enclaves. These are often real fun, and real expensive. Tragically, the superb ambiance and expense often distract from the task at hand: drinking.
Alternatives are necessary, so we need our drinking bars. I've heard them called "dives" and very occasionally "hip enclaves", but they are the places that strike a sweet spot on a venn diagram with circles attributed to selection, budget, and a quality we'll call "unpretentiousness" until some older man with a beard starts a decidedly racist rant at 11:45 AM. These are my favorite drinking bars, and they correspond with their convenience to places I've spent time around in the last few years.
5103 Colley Ave
This seafood place gets a spot for its location. I'm thinking more of the old Coach House, but I'm happy anytime a bar stays open for more than a few years at the end of 51st street. Convenient to Old Dominion University, the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People and Aardvark Glass.
2104 Pleasure House Rd
Perhaps a fairly typical neighborhood dive by initial sight and smell. There are plenty of nearly identical places around here, but this is the only Vietnamese owned, black managed dive I know of with a surprisingly great Jazz night. And they actually let me do a comedy night there for two years without anything so restraining as a "format". Go with four or more people and you can run it. Otherwise, the prices are good enough to tune out whoever might be screaming at you.
394 W Ocean View Ave
I've often heard Greenie's recommended for some cheap Ocean View drinking, but I prefer to head up a little further to this spot with the same owners and menu but with less of a bay view or quantity of jerks. For some reason I don't find the pathological poor service at Greenie's to be cool in any way, unless you like being keenly aware your waitress is trying her best just not to let a "faggot" slip out as she begrudgingly take your order. Thirsty Camel aims for a different vibe by actually being nice and serving consistently. I'm just more into that.
26 E Mercury Blvd
Ever engage in behavior that, on retrospect, is in fact stalking? Onetime I pursued a carful of women who made some playful comments to me at a traffic light. I'm sure I scared the hell out of them and derailed their plans for the night, and I feel rather embarrassed about that now. The happy ending for me was discovering this place in Hampton, a classy little place with a menu full of slow roasted meats and one of the best beer selections in the area. I will never again laugh at one of those "Hampton people don't have an eclectic taste in quality beer" jokes.
2727 Azalea Garden Rd
Go ahead, eat all you want here. Keep drinking until you need need to call a cab to get home. Laugh, love, sing, dance, take your cab home. Get another cab in the morning and stop in for a little hair of the dog. You've had a great time and abused your body thoroughly. But here's the Twilight Zone-esque twist: You probably still haven't spent more than $20, because TJ's likes to make value absurd.
1200 Atlantic Ave
Nothing especially modest, nor spectacular about this restaurant and bar. Just the only place on the oceanfront I feel okay spending more than an hour at. If you ever have to take people down there, I recommend sneaking in here for most of the day. Whatever you have to do, beat the sunshine.
1010 E Ocean View Ave
In my daysleeper days in Willoughby, this place was a revelation. A pretty basic local bar, most of the space full of two pool tables where one would have been cramped. But if you ever find yourself getting off work at 8:30 AM, one day you might understand how grateful I was to find a place that would fix me full, greasy, grill-cooked meals and serve me cheap drinks before the crack of 9, no questions asked. I read many a newspaper here, unfortunately a bit lost in the regular conversation that tends to revolve around being a military retiree.
Feature: Quick Takes (March 2017)
4 days ago