Sean Beckwith: Nearing the last bottle of beer on the wall
Friendships in Aspen are a lot like that scene at the end of “Sandlot” when the narrator tells you what each kids goes on to do as they slowly fade away.
“Trevor would move to Wisconsin and never piss on another laptop again.”
“Big Dan moved to Jersey, where he would regularly exclaim, ‘I’m so high!’ to no one in particular.”
“Burry moved to Alaska or some shit I’m not sure, he just kind of disappeared.”
And each group of friends has their own sandlot, but in this case, it’s a bar.* I’m like 90% positive Jimmy’s was that bar for us.
I’m not certain how many times I’ve shuffled up the stairs on a blustery, cold night and into the warm embrace of a Oaxacan Standoff and a warmer bar or seen Jimmy mac and breadsticks bring someone back from the brink of a blackout. It’s the place I regularly take visitors for a delicious paloma … and also to ply them with mezcal.
“Jimmy’s” was the answer to “Where should we go now?” after the first couple of bars were too crowded, too expensive or too artificial. You were never mad after a company Christmas party, Food & Wine event or Cocktail Classic stop at Jimmy’s.
There were other sandlots that came before. You know what I’m talking about; these magnetic after work or before concert bars that kind of manifest themselves.
I was too late for Bentley’s but that seemed to be the Jimmy’s for the group ahead of me. Cooper Street and Hunter Bar had a little of that, but you went to those places if you wanted to get destroyed. Little Annie’s also was a favorite aggressive drinking outlet due to its pitcher and shot specials. Square Grouper wasn’t clean, but when do you ever have fun in a clean bar?
The next “spot” for the local imbiber is unclear. Hooch has potential, but that place has had a funk to it since it was the Double Dog (and probably before then). Zane’s is the obvious choice, what with their loyal clientele and fried delicacies, but it’s more apres drinks and happy hour than a place you frequent when you’re going out out. (As evidenced by the two overdressed people who stayed for a drink and a piss before the woman “This place is gross”-ed her way out of there Saturday.)
Public House probably holds the belt. It’s got requisite tasty cheeseburgers, fries and, of course, beer and shot specials, and a vibe that doesn’t make your girlfriend feel like she got dressed up to go to Buffalo Wild Wings.
I thought maybe the restaurant group that took over Little Annie’s would keep a little something sentimental for the locals, but you can’t get a casual drink there. The floors used to be covered in popcorn and the serving trays always had a layer of whiskey and beer from orders of seven shots and pitcher. There’s no way that group — with its 20 minute happy hour and martini(?) drink specials — keeps the Oaxacan Standoff at whatever becomes of Jimmy’s.
(For the sake of objectivity, I ate at Clark’s for my birthday this year. It was really good but, as you might expect, special occasion expensive.)
Aspen’s food scene doesn’t have an identity other than its price point, and that’s not a flavor profile.
This past week’s poll for The Aspen Times asked, “How would you describe Aspen’s food scene?” The responses went in descending order from poor to great, with poor and average getting 504 total votes and good and great getting 198 total votes. Yes, I wrote the poll. Yes, I was being facetious with the “Great! I can’t get enough bistros and elevated alpine cuisine” option. But ball don’t like.
On Saturday, my girlfriend and I went to Home Team for the 67th time because we couldn’t get a table at a bistro a friend recommended to us. But before we drove to Buttermilk, we thought, “Hey, (redacted) didn’t look too busy when we walked by last night, let’s check that out.”
Go to (redacted)’s website, find the menu and the first thing on the list is caviar. “Oh, great, I know what this is,” I thought to myself. I kept scrolling, searching for maybe a bar menu or a burger that wouldn’t force me to be hypercritical because I’m taking out a mortgage to eat a tomahawk pork chop. Needless to say, we didn’t book one of the 5 or 8 p.m. reservations they had available.
I didn’t name the restaurant because they don’t deserve to be singled out for putting together a menu that justifies their overhead; that seems to be the norm for restaurants in this city. But it’s scenarios like last weekend’s that lead to an overwhelmingly negative opinion of/experience with Aspen’s dining scene.
I know I’ve done a double take at my bill a couple of times after getting aggressive with the Pacifico purchases, but I’ve received just as many *wink, wink* let’s forget those fifth beers at Jimmy’s. It at least felt local; upscale, yes, but local, too.
The list of disappearing bars and haunts in Aspen is getting every bit as depressing as saying goodbye to Squints and “Ham” Porter when they faded away never to be seen again — unless as a poorly executed sequel/money grab.
Cheers, to my sandlot.
*—This is my version of Loki’s “Love is an invisible dagger” metaphor.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Email him at email@example.com.
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I find myself ruefully conceding that I may well have joined this country’s 66,000-plus new daily COVID-19 victims last weekend.