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Day 223: Dance at Bradfordville Blues Club

24 May

BBCSimply put, if you live in Tallahassee and are over the age of 21 and have not been to the Bradfordville Blues Club, something is wrong with you. The first time I went to the famous Bradfordville Blues Club was in 2005, when I briefly lived in Tallahassee and my husband (then boyfriend) wanted to show me all Tallahassee had to offer. The club is located on the northeast side of town, down a dirt road and surrounded by oak trees with their chandeliers of Spanish moss. It’s easy to feel like you’re lost the first time you go – “Are you sure it’s down this dirt road? Really?” Just keep driving. The club is filled with the ghosts of blues legends past (B.B. King and Ray Charles is the rumor) and the warm bodies of blues legends of today. The best part about the club is its history. The Tampa Bay Times wrote a terrific article about the club’ s history. Bradfordville Blues Club was part of what was known post-World War II as the “chitlin’ circuit” for black musicians and was the place folks would go to after last call at Tallahassee’s Red Bird Cafe. It was bought by its current owners in 2002 by and offers a steady diet of blues musicians. The small cinder-block building that makes up the club is unimpressive. The intimacy is part of its charm, though. The club is only open on weekends and depending on the night, you will need to buy tickets in advance or get there early as it sometimes sells out. Its clientele tends to be all-ages, though it leans more Baby Boomer than most clubs.

Address: 7152 Moses Lane

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Day 222: Sing karaoke at Top Flite

17 May

ImageApologies for the terrible photo. This is what happens when you snap pictures with an iPhone in a dark club. The big night to go to Top Flite, surprisingly, is Wednesday. Situated a few blocks from Florida A&M University, Top Flite is extremely popular with southside residents and FAMU students and graduates. I went recently with my husband to celebrate a colleague’s birthday and was really surprised to see how packed the place was on a Wednesday night. We had to pay a small cover charge and wait in line to get in. Once inside, we were able to grab one of the few open seats left. Top Flite isn’t known for its tasty cocktails or glamorous decor. You know the kind of club I’m talking about – floors and furniture with the wear and tear of decades of high-heels and spilled beer. The club is popular because of the location, atmosphere and fairly strong drinks. It was karaoke night and we kicked back to watch a half-dozen wannabe singers and dancers take the stage. At times it felt like we were judges on “American Idol” – the singers were that good. I was way too intimidated to try to sing or join the dancers on stage. Overall, an evening well spent.

Address: 623 Osceola Street

Day 221: Go back in time at Alchemy

31 Jan

Alchemy

Alchemy is the worst-kept secret in Tallahassee. The first weekend this Prohibition-era secretive bar opened I heard about it from friends on Facebook and learned that even out-of-town actor Seth Rogen was spotted there. It’s a good thing the secret is out. Tallahassee could use more bars like this one, that taking mixing cocktails as seriously as heart surgeons doing a triple bypass. The first thing to know about Alchemy is you can’t just stroll in after a Friday meal. You have to make a reservation online. Then you receive a secret password to get in. The door to Alchemy is disguised near a pool table inside the Midtown Filling Station bar. You deliver your passcode to the doorman and then are brought into an alley in which the doorman sternly explains the rules. One of them is no flash photography, which explains the dark photo of the bar above. Once we got inside we were ushered to our table. The lighting is dim and romantic and they have banquette seating as well as standalone tables. Each table has its own waiter/bartender who serves you drinks. The menu is just cocktails – no snacks, appetizers or even beer and wine. Personally, I was disappointed there weren’t any vodka-based drinks. The rationale has something to do with what alcohol was available during the Prohibition era, such as rum and tequila. I’m not a big drinker so I’m not the best judge of a great cocktail. I like my drinks to disguise the fact that I’m drinking alcohol at all. That said, I definitely enjoyed the “Mary Pickford,” which is light rum, maraschino liqueur, pineapple juice and grenadine. The entire bill (a total of four drinks between my husband and I) came to $60, including at tip. And that’s what worries me about Alchemy. Tallahassee isn’t a city with a lot of high-rollers who have the kind of cash to drop $60 on drinks every weekend. I hope Alchemy sticks around, but for me it will be a once-a-year treat.

Address: 1122 Thomasville Road

Day 211: Eat and laugh at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack

22 Oct

This week was my first stop at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack, which sits in a rustic space near the Greyhound station in downtown Tallahassee. It was Wednesday night — Comedy Night! I chuckled, a few times. But frankly, the comedians weren’t quite ready for prime time and my table of friends was more interested in our own conversations than what the stand-up rookies had to say. We were a little rude, I’m sure. But I’ll be back – and probably again on a Wednesday night because the food was good, the price wasn’t bad, and the entertainment was worthy considering that there wasn’t a cover charge. I ordered a dozen steamed oysters, and they were pretty tasty and nicely sized. Still hungry later, I shamed myself and took in a burger. It’s a build-your-own burger-the-way-you-like-it kinda place. At request, mine came piled high with a plain treatment of lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion, along with some fries. The walls at Bird’s are covered in pictures, posters, album covers and signs, and the bar looked to be a restive place to hang out with a few TV screens nearby. Some nights there’s karaoke. Other nights they have bands. So don’t be fooled by the name, Bird’s is far more than an oyster shack. Beware that the menu is limited though it’s slightly broader than just seafood. And this isn’t a shack. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, and obviously on the right nights, a fun-filled group of patrons and friendly staff. –Mark Hollis

Address: 325 N. Bronough Street

Day 191: Have a beer at Liquor Loft’s Proof

11 Jul

I had driven by Liquor Loft many times and thought it was just a liqour store. But only half of the building is a liquor store. The other half is a cozy, contemporary bar called Proof with a huge selection of European beers. Their menu offers over 100 different beers. My husband settled on the Golden Monkey, a light Belgian beer. I had a White Russian, which was made adequately, if a little strong. The bar itself has a great atmosphere. It wasn’t overrun with college students, but that could just be a product of Tallahassee’s slow summer nights. I liked the bartenders, who were helpful and knowledgeable without relying on, let’s just say, other charms. If you are a beer connoisseur, you will love Proof. It’s also a pretty decent place to meet a large group, with several large tables handy.

Address: 1717 West Tennessee

Day 175: Land late night at the Spaceport

25 Jun

Spaceport, the trippy lounge behind the polynesian night club Waterworks, has terrible curb appeal, good libations and a cozy atmosphere for closing out a night with friends — especially if they’re under 30. It’s hard to imagine anyone just stumbling upon Spaceport because it’s so hidden in the back of Waterworks. Once arriving, begin the voyage by entering off the parking lot and climb aboard a wooden “Poop Deck” that makes for a potentially awesome outdoor hangout on not-so-muggy nights. Inside, the main barroom, which is probably no bigger than a traditional family living room, glows due to spastic multi-colored blinking lights sealed in the walls. One wall also is adorned with 60s-era HiFi radios that sport big knobs and other gadgets that give the bar the look of a either a rocket ship or a psychodelic-laced dorm room. An even smaller adjacent room has a few chairs opposite a big monitor. On the screen was playing old space-based TV shows and movies. It’s definitely a place to go if you want to feel a bit disoriented. The female bartender on call Friday night gave us snappy service, had a friendly attitude, gave me good advice on several cool beer choices, and she served Lilly a dreamy White Russian concoction that oddly enough wasn’t cream-based. We expect to return to the Spaceport! – Mark Hollis

LOCATION:  1133 Thomasville Road

Day 161: Bring a friend to the 4th Quarter Bar and Grille

10 Jun

“Thirsty Thursday” at the 4th Quarter Bar & Grille this week needed more dry-mouth Tallahasseeans to be much fun. Maybe I went too early in the evening but attendance was slow, and some of the patrons were downright weird. A long-haired man at the bar, who apparently is a regular, didn’t just talk to himself; he engaged in a full-throttle, incessant solo conversation. He was annoying and sad, just not the kind of person to brighten your mood or get the joint jumping at the Happy Hour time of day. I’ll forgive them this one time because over the years I’ve enjoyed 4th Quarter. They have fairly good food, by tavern standards; plentiful televisions tuned to about any sport of your liking; a polite, family-dominated staff; and both breakfast menus and late-night hours (most nights until 2 a.m.) First timers can’t go wrong in trying food options like these: Chicken Cordon Bleu Bites served with with bleu cheese, the “paddy melt” with ground beef, sautéed onions served on rye bread; or even simpler options like their platter of nachos. Yet, while it’s never easy to change a good thing, 4th Quarter is in need of a little sprucing up. The place is getting a little dank, dark and dingy, which didn’t whet my appetite and was a reason I departed early. The wood paneling walls, like the kind that was popular in the 70s, coats the indoor surface. The old photos and memorabilia on the walls are interesting but needing update. However, at least one item, a framed jersey of the owner’s late child, holds charm that shouldn’t be let go. – Mark Hollis

ADDRESS:  2033 North Monroe Street