By Dr. Ink
South Park’s smallest dive bar often schedules the kind of music and art events better suited for venues quadruple the size.
Evenings at the Whistle Stop usher in everything from Brit-pop dance parties and “videodrome” events to hot DJs and Booty Basement nights, where hip-hop of past eras offer respite from common playlists and turn the dance floor into a celebratory frenzy.
Lines and cover charges become the common consequences to such cultural events, especially when held in unpretentious watering holes located in cool, laid-back neighborhoods like this.
The bar’s mellower side, however, is for the taking during happy hour — draft beers are $4; well drinks are $5; and you-call-it cocktails are $1 off. But be prepared to add a couple bucks to any of those if you show up without cash in your pocket. Credit and debit cards aren’t accepted, hence the ATM machine inside that slaps you with a $2 surcharge for every withdrawal.
Before I ever began drinking beer, wine, tequila or gin, Dewar’s Scotch was the only booze that passed my lips. Considered the Olive Garden of scotch, I eventually moved on to better brands. But every once in a blue moon, its medium-bodied honey-kissed flavor calls, just as it did when I learned it’s the scotch used here in well drinks.
I initially took a seat at the bar, next to a customer who gave his frilly dressed dog her own bar stool. If only because she was ridiculously cute, I didn’t mind her cold, wet nose poking into my forearm. Even the nice, bearded bartender was smitten as he stepped away briefly to fetch her a treat.
As requested, the generous pour of Dewar’s mingled only with a splash of water and a few ice cubes. Nostalgia swept over me while the jukebox cranked out tunes by Dylan, Blondie and Bowie, with the sun beaming through the front window onto peeling layers of band promos papering the entrance walls. This is what going out for drinks used to be like, before anyone called these kind of establishments “dive bars.”
After buying a second drink, I wandered out to the long, narrow smoking patio and took a few hits off my vape. A few others flaunted similar devices while perched on stools parked at little wall ledges protruding from the funky green walls.
For the entire duration of my late-afternoon visit, there was plenty of space to move around. The bar’s only pool table was up for grabs. The dance floor, marked by a boldly colored mural of a train, was dark. And it was refreshingly easy to strike up conversation with other customers.