Visited Downtown Joe's today, a brewery, restaurant, and bar in downtown Napa. Maybe this place should be called "Downtown Dicks" because they certainly weren't very welcoming in my first ever visit to this establishment. I showed up at about 5:55, paused to take a photo outside, then walked in the door and up to the counter -- wasn't exactly a rocking place, but it was also around 6 pm on a weeknight, so I don't know if it gets more exciting or not. The crowd was mixed, but definitely in favor of the gray-haired gentlemen camp.
I walked up to the bar, where I saw a late-night menu and happy hour menu specials menu (good until 6 pm) which I started perusing. The bartender said nothing to me, did not even acknowledge me. An older guy walks in, sits down next to me, and is immediately chatted up and served by the bartender, who then finally asks what I want to get (after checking my ID -- I guess my 20 or 30 gray hairs just didn't hold a candle to the sea of them around me.) He says "What can I get for ya? And do you want something to eat? Happy hour just ended." and with that he removes the happy hour menu that I was looking at. I mean, was that the tactic all along... ignore me until the clock strikes 6:00 (which it was, on the dot, when he did this... but it wasn't when I walked in the door) just to save a few bucks? Bad move -- extremely poor taste and rude. I've worked in a bar, and I can tell you: you just don't remove a menu that was there and available when the person came to the bar, who you just ignored for several minutes, and then say "too bad, you just missed it."
The irony is that the tourist you're serving might never come back, or will return once in a blue moon. I am a local that could patronize your establishment weekly... but now I'm not so inclined to do so.
I ordered the "Tantric IPA" a strong Indian Pale Ale. So I start drinking my pale ale (which is okay, pretty standard high-gravity, high-ABV IPA, not bad) and perusing the menu for something affordable. I suppose I'd gotten spoiled by the delicious $1.75 tacos and $8 tri-tip BBQ sandwiches I recently rounded up in Calistoga, because I simply didn't feel like paying the $12 they charge for their burgers. I was originally going to get calamari (at the $5 happy hour price -- a good deal) but that jumps to $12 when happy hour is over. I settled on the pulled pork sliders with cole slaw (also $5 at happy hour; $8.50 normal price)
An older man, the one who came in and sat next to me at the bar, starts to strike up a conversation. I ask where he's visiting from, he says Omaha and is enjoying getting away from the cold for a bit. Talks about the 9 day road trip he has been on to Kansas or Oklahoma (I forget which) then to Vegas and up to here. Then things get interesting. Sort of out of the blue, he tells me he's a conspiracy theorist.
"Have you seen the movie Conspiracy Theory?"
"Yep," he chuckles.
"Like, what kind of conspiracies? Political?" I query.
"Well, there's an organization that is running the media, spreading lies and deceiving everyone... they pretty much rule the world and pull the strings in secrecy."
"Oh, you mean like the Illuminati."
"Exactly. And they've been around for a long time, founded in 1776 by the Rothchild family, who own more than half the wealth in the world and are tied in with Satanism..."
Now, I've heard some of this stuff, bits and pieces. I find conspiracy theories fascinating. I'm skeptical enough that I don't get carried away in them, yet not close-minded enough to think that we don't truly get deceived and manipulated in certain ways.
He goes on to explain his beliefs, founded in becoming a Born-Again Christian in his 30s (he's now 63) after living a worldly life of sex, booze, and partying in his early years. Now he believes Catholics are paganists, Obama was born in Kenya, the Bushes have blood ties to the Rothschilds, and the End Times are upon us. He goes on to explain some of his revered celebrities in this arena (particularly Texe Marrs, Dr. Monteith, and Alex Jones' "infowars") and that he has compiled a book that lays it all out, but just a private book he gives to friends and such, not a published one. Also said he had been recently interviewed on Dr. Monteith's radio show.
Told me his name at the end of the conversation (which lasted two beers) and it sounded like "John Burke", but after thinking about it later I figure he probably actually said "John Birch" (haha, sorry... not buying that one, buddy)
Why do I mention all this? Because it just goes to show you never know what kind of people you'll run into in Napa, because they come from all over! Plus, there really wasn't much else noteworthy with Downtown Joe's... typical brewpub environment, with the same fare but above-average prices, and an unfriendly service.
Oh, but for my second beer -- it was an "Old Magnolia" nitro-pulled stout, which was more or less incredibly good: smooth and creamy, with that trademark toastiness of a stout but less biting and pronounced. It almost had an Asian feel to it, a flavor like toasted sesame and misoyaki; a little toasty, a littly salty, a little sweet, and a little tangy. Probably one of the best stouts I've ever had, actually.
And the conversation was definitely one of the most fascinating ones I've ever had with a stranger at a bar. That and the stout made the stop-in worthwhile after all.