A visit to the new Chez Nous leaves Booze Pig longing for the old sty

I had so many memories of drinking in the afternoons with transvestites and guys doing lines in the bathrooms at the cool, old haunt that used to occupy the corner of Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road. I wasn't sure I wanted to tarnish any of those "good times."

But, like all growing towns and lost loves, things change. Joints are torn down and hearts get broken. Then new ones go up. Such is the case with Chez Nous, whose doors finally closed to make room for an upscale English supermarket. I commend the owner for not giving up, not giving in, and giving it a second go in a new location. She picked an equally shady part of town on Ninth Avenue and Grand, where yet another great dive called Fat Cats lost its ninth life.

So, Chez Nous comes in and replaces the old downtrodden dive and transforms it into the twin sister of the old place on Seventh Avenue. And when I stroll into the place at 9 on a Thursday eve, the tiny place is half-full of pretty thirtysomethings, the Soul Brothers Band's warming up for a set, and I get smacked with déjà vu!

Chez Nous: Grainy as it ever was.
Tom Carlson
Chez Nous: Grainy as it ever was.

Details

Pig Points: Darkness, no windows, cash only, great patio/smoking area; kool bands, wallpaper and booths like those at the old haunt; broken water feature; big parking lot (either to get a blowjob or for ease of getting out without accidentally hitting another car); photo booth, so you remember where you were last night.
Pig Shit: Zero martini-making knowledge (either change the sign or the bartender); no condom machine, no soul — not yet.
602-266-7372, »web link
Hours: Daily, noon to 2 a.m.

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Chez Nous, 915 Grand Avenue

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It's exactly the same as the old place, except it's the other side of the mirror; instead of the bar's being on the right-hand side, it's on the left. At first glance, the only addition is an old-style photo booth where you can get four photos in three minutes for $2 (obviously playing to the hipster retro crowd).

I continue down the hall toward the bar, where I find a wall plastered with old New Times Best of Phoenix awards and Rolling Stone covers and just about everything ever published on the place to remind patrons that yes, this is the same old place — just in a different location. It strikes me as odd; I wish they could let the place stand on its own. I mean, I really hate pretentious crap, especially in a joint that's supposed to be the antithesis of pretension. But I chuckle when I notice across from the "wall of fame" is the same old faux stone fountain that never worked at the old place. And I'm glad to discover that it's still broken. I guess some things just don't change, and some hearts will never mend.

The thing that strikes me most as I saunter up to the bar is the darkness. The old place was certainly dark (and I'm not just talking about the clientele), but Chez Nous now is as black as night. I imagine that this place has to be a gem at midday in the middle of the summer; you could get lost for hours/days. But now I can hardly make out the folks at the tables, and the two brightest signs in the place are the new beer sign over the bar and the exit sign. I should probably take that as an omen and get the hell out now, maybe save my memories before they become tarnished.

Too late. Tarnish away. Maybe I'm stubborn, too detailed-oriented, or just an asshole, but some things get the better of me, such as the bar. It's nice, from what I can see of it in the pitch dark. I have to sit in front of the moving beer sign because it's the only spot in this black hole that has enough light to see the napkin on which I'm jotting notes. Although I guess this is a perfect place to meet a blind date, because you might as well be blind. Seriously, if I were to meet a girl in here and then try to find her in the parking lot later for that promised blowjob (let a pig have his fantasy), I probably wouldn't be able to recognize her (this could be a plus), for fuck's sake. It's lighter outside than it is in the bar.

So, I'm at the bar and it's some sort of shiny faux wood-laminate shit and it dawns on me that it's right out of an IKEA catalog. I'm drinking at fucking IKEA. The one thing they did get right, though, is the very wide, comfy cushion at the bar; it's ideal for leaning in and sucking down a good drink.

Speaking of, I finally get around to my third Jack-and-ginger, which is strong but small. I like short cocktail glasses, and these are short, but they're also narrow. WTF! If there's a place where girth counts (besides the cock), it's the cocktail glass. Needless to say, I'm bummed at the lack of girth and the fact that it's $5 (no dive prices here). I am pleased to discover that it's real ginger ale squirting out of the gun — a plus in my book.

My partner for the evening, an accomplished writer, shows up, and because she's been published in the New York Times, I decide to step it up and order a martini. If there is one reason I went to the old Chez Nous, it was for a strong, affordable, perfectly made martini; there's even a martini glass on the big sign outside! So I'm giddy with anticipation while my friend chews my ear about how amazing the place is, how identical it is, right down to the fuzzy cream-and-black wallpaper, which, by the way, mimics the clientele in this hip joint. It's apparent that Chez Nous has carried the same reputation for mixed-race couples and great music.

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2 comments
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Love the Dark
Love the Dark

The previous commentor is waaay off. For one you can be a dive and be cool but Chez Nous is not a dive and it is very cool. The Booze pig may be correct about a bad Martini but Chez Nous is not Ikea-ized. If the pig had been in the original location then he would know that the new location is a mirror of the old, and not a ikea version. Chez Nous is a landmark and it is great fun. Big deal, you got a bad Martini, who cares?? Hell, you could have been a man and politely instructed the bartender on how you like it. If you like it one way then just like at Subway you have to tell the person making it or you won't get it the way you want!Chez Nous is great for a date or just to relax. That is why it has won all the awards that it has! Hell, why wouldn't you put your awards and adulations up on the wall? This is probably coming from someone that hasn't won an award yet and doesn't know how it feels!Keep being a great bar Chez Nous!

Murray
Murray

Well, once again Booze Pig has enlightened my world through his words. I never knew that Phoenix could be so appealing, but this wordsmith crafts such a picture I am tempted to leave the frozen tundra of the Midwest and move to the SouthWest. I do, however, question this place and not sure I would go there based on the write-up. How difficult is it to make a martini: chill glass, pour gin (not vodka) in a chilled shaker, shake, pour into empty chilled glass and consume. If you want to get fancy sure put an olive or garnish in, but why bother? And just wave the cap of the vermouth bottle over the drink. All vermouth does is get in the way of the gin. Done.

I digress, I just pause when I think of the pro bartender flubbing a 'tini. Also, this place with it bad mix of IKEA, big stuffed pillows, yet, it has the moving beer sign, is confused on its identity. Be one or the other, but you can't be hip and a dump. If you strive for both one becomes tragically hip and then just laughed at and mocked. Here's a suggestion: Martini: $5 Ginger Ale and whiskey: $3.50. The glasses should be 5 oz and the width of a standard juice glass. And yes, the booze pig's cock is bigger than that.

Why am I so unhappy? Because, the Booze Pig is unhappy. I don't like this place at all. Who's the NY Times writer? Hottie?

cheers,

Murray

 
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