Day Drinker: Lunches for a Buck, the Must-Wear-Panties Rule, and Sam Elliott at The Recovery Room

Page 2 of 2

"I couldn't live in Europe," he tells us. "I like my wide-open spaces. Narrow streets, flats that all look the same, it's not for me. A lot of my relatives would like me to move back, but I've made a nice life for myself here."

His daughter, Shannon, should be in around 11 for the day shift. We ask John what she's like.

"She's a smart one," John tells us. "Just got her Masters and is working on her Ph.D. She's traveled a lot, too. Lived in Germany for a while and worked as a bartender at a Chi-Chi's [Mexican restaurant] out there."

"They've got a Chi-Chi's in Germany?"

"Yup. Plus, she brought her car out there with her. Know what her car had that all the ones in Germany didn't?"

We couldn't guess.

"Air-conditioning. When it got real hot, which was rare, all her friends would pile in her car and run the air-conditioning. That's somethin', huh?"

After another brew and some smoke breaks, Tana and I return to our stools.

"This fellow's looking for a little conversation," John says pointing to a man in a cowboy hat and construction boots, and doing what all good bartenders do: make folks feel comfortable. Of course we'll talk to him. If we've learned anything from Roadhouse, it's that you can trust Sam Elliott.

The cowboy gets up and sticks out his hand, "I'm Andrew. Nice to meet you."

Andrew is a solid as John. His family used to own a dairy farm in Tolleson but had to close it down after the big corporations took over.

"You just can't be an independent farmer now," he tells us. "The big corporations make it too hard. Plus, a bunch of new housing developments went in and people complained about the smell, which was funny to us 'cause there was a sewage treatment plant right around the corner. I used to tell them, 'that's not the smell of cows. That's the smell of money.'"

Andrew's dad taught him how to lay concrete, so he did that for a while until the bottom fell out of the residential housing business. He lost everything, including his house, and lived on nothing for months.

"We're so sorry," we say.

Andrew passes over our comment. He doesn't want a pity-party. "It's much better know. I've picked up a few jobs. One, from someone I met here. He could tell from my boots I laid concrete."

Andrew shoes us his boots. They both have holes at the top. The signature of the concrete worker. Good people. We ask Andrew whether he comes to The Recovery Room a lot.

"I used to. Then my friends all started getting' married and havin' babies. But it's always like this in here," he sweeps his arm around the bar, "John runs a quiet, casual bar. No trouble. Plus, he makes a mean pot of chili every Sunday for his customers. I had three bowls last week. I almost had four."

John returns to behind the bar and we ask him about his chili night.

"Yeah, everyone wants to know what my secret recipe is, but there's no secret to it. I just put whatever I have available into the pot. I make it around 11 a.m. It's self-serve, right over there (he motions to a wall by the pool tables), and when it's gone, it's gone."

"That's a great deal for your customers," we say.

John tells us, like most of the bars in Phoenix, business has been tough thanks to the economy and people being out of work.

"Do you get a lot of business from the hospital across the street?" we ask him. "Used to. But then they went and did something that was bad for the bar: They put their staff on three, 12-hour shifts. You ladies heard about our lunch specials?"

John points to a sign above the bar. What? Is that a misprint? A hamburger, chicken sandwich, or two tacos for a buck? How's that for recession-ready?

"Not really," John admits. "I've been doing it for 26 years."

Order up. Made to order, with chips on the side, this dandy dollar burger with brews equals one double-delicious lunch for under a fiver.

"You ladies doin' okay?" Shannon, John's kid, arrives on the scene. She's definitely her father's daughter: tall, confident, calming. We tell her John's told us all about her, and she smiles and shakes her head.

"I've also got a Schnauzer named Goose. Did he tell you that?"

Shannon confirms the casual crowd scene at The Recovery Room.

"We run a tight ship," she says. "Our philosophy is that customers treat the staff by the way they're dressed. The girls wear T-shirts and pants. If they do wear skirts, they have to have panties on underneath."

"They don't wear panties?" we say surprised.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld