Crawling along……the world’s slowest pub crawl. Ever.

Hitting the bars…with what sounds like a gloriously sunny and warm final weekend of summer upon us, you may be planning an outing to some local bars.  Plenty to choose from on the Red Mile!

True confession: I’ve never actually been on a pub crawl.

When I was younger, I grew up in the country, in a resort town, and we had parties at the bay and ocean beaches or at someone’s house when their parents were out.  There was so little traffic in the off season we could stagger home in the middle of the streets and not see anyone for miles (yes, it was miles; this was the States—told you I’d flip around). This rarely involved actual bars, because a) there weren’t very many and b) we probably weren’t old enough to drink in them, and c) it was cheaper, and d) it’s generally more fun to drink around a fire with friends.

Then I moved to New York City and while I was a bartender and the party came to me most nights, there were those nights off when it was my turn to pay return visits to fellow barkeeps…or simply to hit the neighbourhood watering holes with the gang.

In that case, we stumbled around the avenues and side streets, and if we had too much to drink or it got too late (it rarely got too late; in New York, the regular bars close at 4, then there are after hours “clubs” and then the little neighbourhood holes-in-the-wall open at 7 am, so you really don’t need to stop if you choose not to), we’d just grab a cab to head home or to the next location, whichever came first.

Somehow, I missed the phenomenon of the Pub Crawl. I’ve never ridden around with screaming, drunk people (correction, make that dozens of screaming, drunk people), never felt the claustrophobia of the darkened windows and lack of air on a modified school bus, never experienced the smells of countless perfumes and colognes as well as every possible type of alcohol coming off the breaths of the increasingly drunk crawlers, never heard the sound of (someone else’s) drunken sex, or better/worse yet, someone barfing right behind me…


Nope, I’ve never been on a pub crawl, although no doubt a few of the places on 17th have been stops on the routes of the party buses.

So I got it into my head to create my own pub crawl.

Easier said than done. 

First, I decided to set it up for an afternoon, and I set out to cover six spots. I really thought, just like some of the spots that offer quick bites, you can’t talk about 17th Avenue, SW without touching on the bars—some of them are known around the city.

Well, it didn’t exactly work.  Lissa and Lindsay and I got to two, before we had to go home for a nap.

Then I went to a third for lunch on my own a few days later.

Finally, a few days ago, I met up with sisters Karen and Pat for a dinner at one and a drink at the last two.

So here’s my rundown of the bars on 17th—if we missed you, it may be because you are part of a large chain (and remember, this quest was about independent spaces), or I may have mentioned you in a previous post. Or, you are very new…and/or I ran out of time (and in that case, sorry!). 

So here’s a rundown on the bars we hit:

The Ship's patio is a must for any respectable pub crawl
Ship and Anchor, 534 17th Avenue, SW: truly the anchor of the bars and pubs on the Red Mile, the Ship and Anchor is a rite of passage for anyone who calls themselves a Calgarian.  The patio is always busy during the nice weather, and once fall (and worse) hits and it gets cold and dark outside, the party moves in to the spacious rooms inside.  Very friendly waitstaff and great prices on a wide range of beers (I could not resist trying a Jerkface 9000, if only for the name—it was pretty good).  We were also encouraged to try the chicken wings (salt and pepper and honey and garlic as I recall—or maybe teriyaki--and they were definitely as good as everyone said they were.  Live music began shortly after we arrived and being outside made it not too loud and it was pleasant.  A “must” on any stroll across 17th.

(Note: check the Ship’s website for the live music activities, which can range from showcasing some really great local bands to punk rock karaoke).
One minute they were there, I swear....

Local 510, 510 17th Avenue, SW:  The is the brother/sister pub to Local 522 (which you guessed it—is at that address up on 6th Avenue, SW).  A little quieter than the Ship (granted it was mid-afternoon on a beautifully warm sunny day, and perhaps people had better things to do, or maybe they were gearing up for the evening.  Anyway, this pub has great outdoor space and some comfortable tables inside, so we ducked out of the sun for a pint.  Looks like a good place to go with a gang of friends.

(Note: even though beer is offered in pints, most often you can ask for a half pint for half the price…or you can choose to not finish your glass, which might allow you to have a little more, or to not have to go  home and take an afternoon nap, which is what we did.  So much for doing this is one afternoon).

Roosevelt Food and Drinks, 933 17th Avenue, SW: I stopped at the Roosevelt by myself on Sunday afternoon for brunch as I was cleaning up the apartment, just before my lease expired; despite the fact that it was an “in-between” time for food and drink, there were still quite a few people in this very big, open room; in fact, this was the first place where I could sense what it would be like with the crowds on the night of a Flames Game or CFL/NFL games or a big fight. I opted for some pub food here and enjoyed a really unique take on chicken and waffles (the waffle had rosemary and cheese in it, and the chicken—which was delicious—was topped with bacon relish and gravy—there was definitely a little maple flavour in there.  If you’re looking for the traditional dish, this is not it—but try it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised).

Watchman’s Pub and Eatery, 1109 17th Avenue, SW: I’d seen Watchman’s on the first day of my summer on 17th.  It’s kind of hard to miss, especially on the nights when the bikers turn out (when I say bikers, I mean the gamut—men and women; young, old, and older; bikers and businesspeople; amateurs and pros).  They line their bikes up on the avenue and, for a few hours, it’s a real sidewalk party and the pub is packed.  I even managed to catch a “scooter night” one evening, where in place of the big machines, there were scooters and Vespas and minibikes (and people in some very interesting outfits—I should have snapped some pix).  Anyway, it seems there’s always something happening at Watchman’s, a little less so on a Monday evening when Pat and Karen and I stopped for our first beer to finish off the quest. It was good, and it was cheap.

(Note: pretty much every place has happy hours and other crazy drink specials at various times and on various days, so make sure to do a little price comparison shopping and you won’t break your bank)

Next stop: Home and Away, 1331 17th Avenue, SW:  LOVED this place.  Indoors, nice open space with lots of seating for sporting events, some games in the corner (basketball and the game where you throw the wooden balls up an alley and try to get them into the concentrically smaller rings—I know it has a name, but it’s not in my head--is it skeeball?  And some pinball, of course). Outside, there's an open patio that we found to be positioned just right to avoid the setting sun in our faces.  The food was incredible—fried chicken, mac and cheese, and fried cauliflower—very homey, and very very good.  Great waitress with a beautiful Irish accent and a very pleasant manager who came over to check on us.  

Three words for the food at Home and Away: Yum, yum, yum.

Recommend this for a solo bite (maybe not on a game/event night), or a night out with friends—again, with specials, very affordable and fun.

The Last Stand: The Pint, 1428 17th Avenue, SW: this three story pub is on the very western fringe of my 17x17x17 area. And what a view from the rooftop of this pub.  Again, a Monday night, drink specials and relatively quiet (all the better for us to capture a stunning sunset from the top floor).  For those of you who know this part of the city, The Pint occupies that space that was a corner drug store forever, until it burned to the ground 15, 20 years ago. The rebuild is great and the staff is super friendly.  A little lime slush and a little vodka capped off the night and put an end to the world’s longest pub crawl.

It only took three weeks. Would I try to do it this way again?  Probably not, but it was a great way to spend some time with friends and to learn a little more about the street I called home for a couple of months this summer.