D&H rail trail: I rode every day of the vacation but Thursday, when it poured rain). Wednesday it got hot, and I decided that there were things I'd rather do in the afternoon than ride...like go to bars. Our family friend, John Lelak, went along with me in the Saab (I don't think I mentioned that: we bought a 1984 Saab 900 (28,000 original miles!) for the kids, which became our second car when Thomas had an accident in the Passat in late June). We went back into the hills, a mile up a dirt road, to Chet's Place.
Chet's Place is a sprawling complex of entertainment. Besides the bar, there's a dance floor, a softball diamond (for the bar's team, still alive in the playoffs), volleyball courts by the lake...like the sign said, "Welcome to Chetsville." We went in, sat at the bar, and ordered draft Yuenglings. I'm not sure what we did get, but it wasn't Lager: maltier, with a strong note of caramel. Not unpleasant at all, but not Yuengling Lager. I ordered a bottle of Lager to be sure, and clearly got a different beer. Honey Brown, maybe? Dunno. But things got real pleasant when the fellow down the bar asked, "Are you the guys who came in the old Saab? That thing is cherry, real nice. What is that, an '84?" Wow, good guess! So we talked cars for a while, had a good time, and then we headed out.
We drove down into Dickson City. I got a swimsuit (apparently I packed all mine away!), a gaudy pink flowery surf model (no, there are no pictures) that was on close-out for $3.75, and then we hit a Starbuck's where I got caught up on e-mail using their WiFi (and got caught up on sleep by abusing their caffeine). After that, it was into Scranton, where we dropped anchor outside the Backyard Ale House, right across the street from the county courthouse in the middle of town.
We thought we were alone in the place; the front barroom, cool and clean, was empty except for a bartender. John and I sat down and I started looking at taphandles, then asked her for a list. As she handed it to me, she started asking me what beer I liked. "I like all kinds," I said, "I just want to see what you have." She kept after me, making suggestions (most of them, like the ones of the people who would follow her, were IPAs or double IPAs). I wanted something light -- I was driving -- refreshing -- it really was hot -- and not too outrageous -- John's pretty new to craft beer. Ha! "Two Palms," I said. The keg blew during the first pour. Crap, back to thinking! By this time, we had three other people behind the bar trying to help out. I made it quick: Franziskaners! Keg was just put on, and all she got was foam.
I was already looking at the bottles by now, and got John a Newcastle (which he really enjoyed), and a can of Mama's Little Yella Pils for myself. Perfect. Then we strolled out back, and that was great! Open patio, felt more like the shore than downtown Scranton. We sat at the very nice outdoor bar, along with a bunch of business casual-types from across the street, and relaxed. When it was time for my next beer, I decided to keep the can theme going with something I hadn't had a chance to try yet: 21st Amendment's Back in Black dark IPA. Unfortunately, I think I got an off can; there was a sourness to it that went beyond huskiness. The bartender agreed. (I do not mean to sound critical of BYAH here; we liked the place, they just had a bad run of luck on the beers I happened to choose, and their instincts were right on the continued trying to find me a beer; I'm not a normal customer!) I left the remainder, and we headed to our next stop, an old hotel bar I had once spotted quite by chance on a drive through Scranton, and had been hankering to try out: the Hotel Sun.
Coney Island of Scranton! I pulled the Saab in under the railroad bridge, and dragged John into the place. The Coney Island burned in April, 2008 (a still unsolved arson, sad to say), but they've recently re-opened, with a larger kitchen, but painstakingly restored black-and-white tile floor and wooden booths. And the Texas Hot sauce (greek sauce, 'chili,' coney island sauce) was superb on the custom-made split, short wieners. I love it when a place is good. I was wrecking my diet this week (I'd wind up gaining back a little, despite all the biking), but it was worth it.
The Hotel Sun...I don't know why I like places like this. Smokey, run-down, foul-mouthed patrons, crap booze selection (but almost always clean, fresh draft Yuengling); it could be any of a number of hotel bars I've been to in PA. But it's so solid, so real, so authentic, I just can't help myself. This is, as my friends would say, a Hunt bar, a place we can walk into and feel comfortable, a place where you could get a shot of spearmint schnapps and not worry about what your cocktailian friends might think (er, if you wanted to; I didn't actually, though I almost got Rock n Rye). We had one, and headed home.
Postscriptually...we all went out to Arcaro & Genell's in Old Forge for dinner on Saturday night (at the advice of Scranton native and good friend Rich Pawlak). We got the famous Old Forge pizza (plain red and broccoli white, again on Rich's recommendation), and it was delish. We also split two pitchers of house Chianti, which was tasty and went great with this classic red-gravy Italian menu. Definitely recommended if you're in the area (don't even ask about the beer...); as Pawlak said, "My mom's pick every time." Smart woman.