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Mar 6, 2002 08:50 AM

Favorite Fictional Bars and Restaurants ?

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So what are your favorite fictional Bars and Restaurants?

From Books, TV, Movies, etc. Or maybe it’s a fictional dinner you read about once, saw on the tube, one that caught your eye and imagination?

Where are they, what are they like, and who invented them?

J. Forester

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    Vital Information

    I'm rather like a broken record here, but my favorite remains a very real place, used frequently in the fiction of James Ellroy: the pacific dining car.

    I am also partial to a scene in the James Bond BOOK Moonraker, where Bond joins M at his club and they eat dinner. I especially like the part where Bond juices up his fancy champagne with speed so he'll be sharp for his spying later that night.


    1. Mac's place - a cozy old fashioned steakhouse in D.C. with dark walnut paneling, featuring reliable,discreet European waiters who have been on staff about 35 years. Created by Ross Thomas/Oliver Bleek. Featured in several books, most notably "Twilight at Mac's place". Brain fade denies me the ability to provide the names of the two owners, but they are retired NSI types who get involved with nefarious characters and plots that are far from simple. Great reading.

      1. Well, obviously there is the great "Big Night" stuff, by Stanley Tucci--a deathless classic. And the original food movie, "Someone is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe" still wears well if you can get anyone to show it.

        For fiction, though, I'd go with Rex Stout who, as the World knows, invented the sizeable gourmand Nero Wolff. Stout was no mean trencherman himself and Wolff was something of an alter-ego. Stout forced himself to write one NW book per year to support his appetite for food and travel. He always wrote it in February b/c it was the shortest month. Tossed it over the editor's transom and set sail for Europe.

        If you do not care for whodunits or have outgrown them, get "The Nero Wolff Coookbook" which give story snippets and then recipes for the goodies that were mentioned. Also has a nice section trumpeting American Food long before the recent crop of champions was even thought of ,, let alone born.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Hazelhurst

          I'll second Nero Wolfe's dinner table. Fritz had to be some cook if he was able to tame Wolfe's palate and temper. Another reason would be to share the company of Archie Goodwin, of whom I had an intense crush on.

          1. re: Can

            I'll 3rd Nero Wolfe's table. But as for bars I'd prefer any of the ones in Raymond Chandler. For the dialogue and the highballs if nothing else.

            1. re: Lisa Lou

              Re: the bars --yes indeed! And cold and dark and not-too-loud. Lots of shadows. "Double Indemnity" sort of stuff

              1. re: Hazelhurst

                Definitely agree with the Nero Wolf books. My husband and I have decided we want the brownstone and the wonderful meals!

                Also, has anyone read the Monsieur Pamplemousse detective stories by Michael Bond? The character is a retired police officer who works for a food guide in France. Wonderful food descriptions combined with very funny story lines.


            2. re: Hazelhurst

              I'm with you on Nero Wolfe--just to spend a day in his dining room! Probably the best eats in NYC in the 30's.

            3. I'll go with the diner in "Diner"...the great Barry Levenson film about growing up in Baltimore. It's a little bright in there, but still a wonderful place.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tom Whalen

                I'll second the "Diner" diner. In fact I went to Fell's Point once and tried to find it but alas I failed - I was in a hurry to get to an Orioles game. What made those scenes was the mindless chatter of both the main characters and the waitresses/owner at the diner. Great movie!

              2. As a kid sometimes my best meals were the ones I read about. My mother is a LOUSY cook. For some of my friends with the same problem theirs were ones they saw on TV or the silver screen. So here’s where I would love to be hanging out right now. A classic pub with a sci-fi bent. Maybe it's because I am a sci-fi fan or maybe that I am a psycho-therapist, but it's the combo that makes it fun. I think I’ll have to pull out one of my old dog eared copies and chill out with an imaginary frosty one right now.

                One of my favorite bars is Callahan’s Saloon from Spider Robinsons tales about this favorite place to hang your hat for those down on their luck, ex addicts, telepaths, aliens, talking dogs, murderers, and other interesting folks. It’s named after the proprietor, Mike Callahan and located out in the wilds of Syosset, Long Island on Route 25A. Not to far from my alma mater, Stony Brook. Or anyway it used to be before it got nuked when the patrons were busy saving the world from aliens or cockroaches or alien cockroaches or some such thing. But that’s not one of my stories but Spider’s. Anyway, drinks are all a half a buck, Yup just four bits. You pass a single to the bartender and get your own change from a cigar box full of quarters at the end of the bar, unless you exercise your option. It's based on an honor system and there are very few violators. The option is that if you choose you can deep six your glass into the fireplace while making a toast. The theory being that in declaring your pain it becomes less. "Shared pain is lessened, shared joy increased" It’s one of those places where if you have a problem they will help. Not that they’re nosy. As a matter of fact if you seem down in the dumps no one will butt in and ask you why, they will leave you in peace. Or else get 86’ed with a skull ache by the bouncer / piano player with a face like an old shoe. But if you decide to spill the beans about your woes this group of folks will listen and help as they can. Sometimes with magical results.

                The drink of choice besides good beer such as Anchor Steam or Rekhards Red, is Irish Coffee. Brewed with the highest class beans of your choice and an appropriate Irish whiskey to suit. Have you ever had an Irish Coffee drunk? Caffeine and alcohol, what a mixture. It’s psychedelic in nature. A wide awake buzz like sipping rocket fuel. Of course we have all heard TANSTAAFL There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Well at Callahan's there is. So you can moderate your alcohol intake with a bite to eat every now and then.

                There are events most nights such as pun contests, live folk music, tall tales nights, riddle or smoke blowing contests and such. We've all seen people blow smoke rings but have you ever seen a smoke knight fighting a smoke dragon? These folks like to keep entertained and occasionally exercise the gray matter between the ears. Or if you’re in the mood you can throw some darts or six. It's my kind of place where a little rumgallalah or ballyhoo isn't out of place and you never know who might drop by. It could be an apologetic Hitler, two men with one brain, your mirror self, or a nageneen (an leprechaun related type who has a massive thirst and can put most bars out of business. they have a magical attraction for booze.)

                Well however you look at it... it's all fun.
                so let's go and toss back a few, make some toasts, and tell a few tall tales...


                12 Replies
                1. re: The Rogue

                  I agree with you! Callahan's Cross-Time Saloon sounds like the place to be!! Great tales surrounding this place.

                  BTW...Spider is supposed to be releasing a new book soon.

                  1. re: The Rogue

                    I have always found the Callahan's stories--both the concept and execution--to be hopelessly mawkish and overly sentimental. It's a 14 year old boy's dream of a bar.

                    1. re: CliffA

                      Cliff A- I think you missed the whole point of this post. It is to discuss YOUR own personal, favorite, fictional bar or restaurant. Out of well over 30 posts so far, yours is the only one that condemns and attacks anothers personal choice in a FICTIONAL bar.

                      I find that there are a few different types of posters on this site.
                      There are those who request information and in turn those who gladly respond with an abundance of well thought out and researched material, and sadly those who make a short and useless comment that helps no one.
                      The folks who wish to joyfully share their thoughts and opinions on something or somewhere they have tried. And in response those who come back with questions or comments that are useful in nature to explore the issues, or woefully those who must bash others, instead of making constructive remarks.

                      Just like food, books are personal things. I find some of the other posters thoughts and feelings to be quite different from my own. That is the fun of this discussion board, to see a glimpse into how others think, and more importantly, feel. What grabs some folks and transports them to a different place? One that for THEM is a better place. For me it is an opportunity to look at one of the reasons us chowhounds got this way. It's not just the food for many of us, the technical information. It's the adventure, romance, excitement, the chase. The thought of trying something new. The quest for experiences. Because when one looks at it, what are we? Just a bundle of experiences tied together. In life, we do not always get the chance to do all we wish. So part of the fun is the possibility of being a armchair eater or traveler. To develop and use ones imagination. To not necessarily have to travel to L.A. or Seoul to try some new restaurant or dish, but instead to just read a critique. To hear others comments and descriptions. To put yourself in the place of that food writer and imagine the meal they had, the restaurant they visited, the ambiance or lack thereof.

                      The fictional theme takes that one step further. To have a place, that for even one person, is where they would like to go... to escape reality for awhile... to relax and enjoy some writers fantasy. To become a part of something different.

                      Why not instead, just post what your favorite may be? Let us see who and what you are. So far all you have shown us is that you can be negative and condemning. Is that the sum of your essence? Or is there more to you?

                      Jonathan Forester

                      Ps. As for your comments on Spider Robinson’s books.

                      "I have always found the Callahan's stories--both the concept and execution--to be hopelessly mawkish and overly sentimental. It's a 14 year old boy's dream of a bar."- CliffA.

                      Well Cliff A. that’s your opinion. You have a right to it.
                      I will challenge it since you threw out the glove.

                      In my opinion, I find that his stories challenge me mentally. Not many writers do, I have read over 20k books so far and feel that I know of what I speak. Robinson’s inventive puns and complex riddles both amuse me, as well as force me to think. His references to books, music, and places are written so expressively that I have to track them down and see if I agree. Or don’t, as is my option. Both have happened.

                      His themes of people caring for each other, helping one another, having love for each other strike a chord with me. Maybe, as I said in my original post, it is because among other things, I am a therapist. I have done extensive work with troubled youth, young adults, and adults. I have also worked with police psychologists and forensic specialists. I have seen the good and the bad in life. More so than many others, I know how messed up our society is.

                      I relish the thought of a bar where people don’t go to get drunk and run away. A place instead to go for companionship, conversation, and fun. To help each other over the tough times and to be better people and grow. Emotionally, mentally, as a human being. A place that if you go there often enough you find that you don’t have to drink to dull your problems and make you forget. It’s a place that isn’t for escape but for growth. For love. Yes, that is sentimental, and I am proud of it. I am humbled to be allowed, for the short while I am reading, to gain entrance to a place as special as Callahan’s. Whenever possible I try to help make places like Callahan’s come to life.

                      As for Spider’s writing, no matter what he writes about you are challenged and intrigued. You want to take part in it and experience the events, people, places, things for yourself. Take coffee for instance. I personally only drink it on rare occasions. I am sensitive to flavors and think most coffee tastes like used food. I very much enjoy and appreciate a good cup of coffee, but loath a mediocre one. When I read something so engagingly descriptive about the joys of coffee, I want to run out and have some, gallons if possible. Cups and cups of GREAT coffee that will cure my ills, make me smarter, better. Leave me feeling all is well with the world. That takes skill.

                      Skill to have won awards all over the world.
                      To have stories used successfully with troubled, adjucated, and high risk young adults to teach them social skills and a different way to look at life.
                      To have books keep getting reprinted over and over again in dozens of languages.

                      1. re: The Rogue

                        You've read 20 THOUSAND books? No wonder you're wound so tight. You need to get out more. Anyway, my favorite fictional tavern is Smade's Tavern from the "Demon Princes" series by Jack Vance.

                        1. re: CliffA

                          I think you owe more of an apology. And, grabbing onto a tiny typo is pathetic and supercilious.

                          1. re: PicayunePrunes

                            Actually it is the one thing that Cliff A got right... weird huh... maybe he is just able to nit pick and picayune 'cause he just don't get it... 20k not a typo... under exag more like it.

                            1. re: The Rogue

                              Are you now saying that (a) you have indeed read some twenty thousand books and that (b) this qualifies your opinion in some way? IF you've been reading for 40 years this would still mean more than a book a day, every single day. I either hate to know what kinds of books these are, or what kind of cursory (speed) read you are giving them.

                              Just trying to follow what you're saying ...

                    2. re: The Rogue

                      Dang! You beat me to it!

                      Though it might be considered a bit of a rip off, I always thought that Larry Niven's Draco Tavern would be a fun place to get intoxicated.


                      1. re: z

                        Z whoever you be... ya'll are a critter after my own heart... Draco's is a fine place to sip a few...

                      2. re: The Rogue

                        Another Callahan's Cross-Time Saloon fan here.

                        Though I vastly prefer Spider's short stories to his novels. The shorts are very nicely tightly plotted while his novels tend to go off on overly rambling info-dumps.

                        Other great SF places I'd like to go: Cowboy Feng's Space Bar anf Grill (Stephen Burst) and I'd spring for one dinner at Douglas Adam's Restaurant at the End of the Universe just for the dinner show, even though the idea of the talking dish of the day squicks me out.

                        1. re: The Rogue

                          Another vote here for Callahan's! Fine pub culture.

                          1. re: The Rogue

                            I thought of Callahan's right away. I'd make sure I had singles because well, you know Mike won't make change for a five, ten or twenty.

                            Also I'd like to have a cocktail at the OJ and listen to the nonsense from the regulars. Is there furniture in heaven? What do the angels sit on? Will exercise kill you?

                            I'd quietly enjoy my beer while waiting to see if a couple guys show up and ask for a bottle of bourbon or maybe a fellow who orders a beer with salt. Then I'd wonder what sort of criminal activity was going on and I'd skedaddle because something always goes wrong around those guys.