Maryland Heights, MO
|Doug and Rob, posing.|
Once again, a last minute invite to go out for lunch with Rob and Doug. A beautiful, unseasonably warm, March day. Rob drove again, Doug sat in the front seat and I in the back. I am not quite as altitude-privileged as Doug or Rob, so for me it’s not about who sits up front with whom, it’s merely a matter of physics and anatomy. I fit better in back seats than grotesquely tall (over 5’10”) people. It doesn’t bother me; I’m still waiting for my promised growth spurt, some guys are just late bloomers. Once that finally happens, all bets are off.
I’d not heard of Hot Shots, but learned quickly that it was one of the many sports bars in the area, within a metaphorical stone’s throw of Maryland Yards.
It sits in an upscale strip mall, blending in quietly with its retail neighbors. Another thing Rob and Doug have become accustomed to is the delay for me to take a picture of the storefront, this time they even pseudo-posed at the door.
As soon as we opened the door we were met with a sonic storm. This wasn’t background music, it was well into the foreground. It was turned up happy-hour loud which I found distracting, especially since the music selection wobbled between twangy country and what I believe the kids today refer to as hippity-hop. I’m not a big fan of most music, these two genres in particular, I was not impressed.
The place was only sparsely populated with fellow cubicle drones, and we were told to find our own seating. The main floor around the bar was equipped by tall tables and stools, and each tall table sported a condiment rack as well as an ashtray. I didn’t actually need to see the ashtrays to know it was a smoking-allowed place, the ambience, the aroma had already given that away.
The walls were lined primarily with large, bright, flashing flat screen TV’s all showing sporting events and channels. On the largest screen, as well as a few of those on the sides, a Hockey game was starting up, the local Blues playing against the Chicago Blackhawks. Every time I looked up at the screen, it seemed yet another fist fight had broken out. Why they pretend to be about ice skating and sportsmanship I can’t imagine. Why not just dress up in bright, stupidly-fitting clothes and swing big sticks at each other and be done with it.
We’d already started the sports talk in the car. “So should we get the sports out of the way now or wait until we get there?” Doug had asked. I was ready this time.
“As a matter of fact I’m sort of into this March Madness thing, have you heard about it?” I asked the front seat.
They both looked a bit startled, so I explained.
“My grandmother, my mother, and my sister all graduated from Murray State, in fact my beloved, yet dreadfully homely sister recently retired from there as the Registrar.”
They seemed impressed.
“And my older brother attended Western Kentucky.” Whose team I knew to be wild-carding their way into the tournament.
“And of course I’ve got all kinds of ties to U.K., My saintly mother even listens to their games on the radio. In Kentucky, where there are only one or two huge schools, and several smaller ones, it’s not unusual for a person to root for two or more at a time. You can be a fan of Murray and U.K., or Louisville and Western, it’s not seen as a contradiction there.” I was making this part up, I never attended college in Kentucky myself. “So I even filled out one of those bracket-y things I saw on Yahoo, picked U.K to take it all.”
That was the extent of my contribution to the sports talk, as I’d hoped, they didn’t pop follow-up questions regarding scores, players, stats or team mascots.
The menu was a simple two sided affair the typical sports-bar offerings. Burgers, sandwiches, pizza, etc. They obviously served alcoholic drinks as well, squeezed between the TV’s were a plethora of beer banners and neon signs, mostly touting Budweiser products. The bar looked well stocked as did the petite bartender. I couldn’t see any further down on her than her neck, though the taller Doug pointed out that she was wearing a tight tube top.
The servers were all wearing referee-like black and white striped shirts and black spandex short-short-short-shorts, all clothing three sizes too small.
It’s a sports bar thing. I could go on for pages about the sociology, psychology, and anthropology of scantily clad, fetching waitresses at sports bars, but I won’t. Suffice it to say if I were to open an eatery next door, tuned to the Lifetime Channel on big TV’s, played gospel music on zithers and accordions in the background and clad the wait-staff in Amish midwife apparel, who do you think would go out of business first? I don’t try to rationalize or defend the business model, it’s cheap and tawdry, and it works$$.
I asked what on the menu was good, my two pals shrugged their shoulders. They mentioned the Royale, a big sloppy burger that included a fried egg and bacon. Though that sounded really good, I could almost hear the Lipitor pills begging for mercy from their bottle.
Doug ordered one anyhow, along with a side of horseradish. Oddly enough, though the actual origin of the name 'horseradish' is unknown, one thing that is known about that particular root is that it is poisonous to horses.
Rob went with the ‘Upper Deck’, a turkey club sandwich with a little bacon. Both the boys asked for the Hot Shots house chips.
I’d had a burger recently and a beef sandwich the day before at a Panera-catered meeting. So I decided to pretend to be concerned about my red-meat intake and ordered 'The Fisherman', a beer-battered cod filet topped with cheese and served with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, and a side of traditional fries. Not that a battered, deep fried cod filet is that much healthier than a burger, it just sounds like it. Rob and I cheaply asked for nothing more than water, Doug asked for tea.
They continued sports talk, I glanced around the joint. I noticed an upper deck, a loft area with regular tables and chairs that was unoccupied. The place was bigger than it seemed from the outside, more beer banners and neon. I’d heard the place gets pretty packed during its happy hours, but for a Wednesday lunch, not bad at all.
The food arrived rather quickly, nothing splashy or fancy, just baskets of lunch. My filet was brown and crispy, the fish well cooked, moist and flaky. The fries were okay, nothing special. Rob handed me one of his chips, eager to know how they would fare in my review. They were actually pretty good, though it did seem to be a bit soft in the middle.
Our waters got refreshed, Doug wolfed down his horseradish-laden Royale in near record time, as expected. He was panting and red-faced, a state he seems to enjoy. Rob and I didn’t even try to compete, there’s simply no point.
When polled, they seemed quite content with their meals, as was I. I told them that in places where fish was not a main item that it’s easy to screw it up. Breaded fish filets, usually frozen, don’t fry up like burgers or fries. They have to be nursed through the process to avoid cold spots or over-doneness. They did just fine here.
Not bad, not bad at all. I finished my sandwich, left some fries, the other guys cleaned up. The service, aside from being scantily clad was efficient and professional. The bill for all three of us came in at just over twenty four dollars, well below the ten dollar lunch barrier. I picked up the tab since somebody else did the last time, the boys thanked me like it was a big deal. For all their other flaws, and there are quite a few, Doug and Rod are genuinely nice guys. That is unless you bring up politics, then Doug goes all zealously scorched-earth.
I can’t speak for Hot Shots at prime-time, but for a working day lunch it was pretty good, except for the ashtray smell and the too-loud music. Given those two things I’d prefer Maryland Yards just across the street.