It started with a guy named Flint.
And a shot.
In a bar basement.
That trilogy either screams disaster…or an Iowa Roadie adventure as crazy as any we’ve experienced.
I’m going with option #2.
You must know that sometimes our Iowa Roadie adventures do not align to a well-thought out plan. (Big shocker here if you’ve read even ONE other Iowa Roadie blog!) We sometimes begin with a starting or end goal in mind, but the journey itself rarely follows a pre-determined protocol.
This is mainly due to things like shots…and guys named Flint…and bar basements.
I often get recommendations of places to visit, and a recent referral was to the Riverside Tavern in Lehigh. THAT was our end goal. The problem with reaching our destination is that the Iowa Roadie is easily distracted by Google. Specifically the “dive bars near me” Google search that I always put in as I travel. Because NOW, instead of ONE pub, I have located several others along the route.
This included the Puttz Lounge by Williams, Iowa.
The Puttz Lounge is located in the basement of a sad-looking Super 8 at the intersection of I-35 North and Highway 20. And despite the hotel exterior’s lack of charm, I have to admit that the location of the bar is BRILLIANT. Seriously. Who hasn’t ever had one too many and wished they could just sleep it off at the bar? Such is the case with the Puttz Lounge (operated independently of the Super 8 in which it is housed). In fact, after contemplation, I now believe that EVERY bar should have attached lodging to encourage responsible drinking (and a head start on the next morning’s Bloody Mary bar).
In the basement of the Puttz Lounge, we met Flint. Flint and his friend Shawn were getting ready to lift weights in a buddy’s barn. Before they went, they were enjoying a cold beverage served by bartender Michelle, who also happened to be Shawn’s girlfriend. I questioned Flint whether beer enhanced one’s performance at the gym. He replied by telling my husband, “If you left and came back with someone else, no one would blame you.”
In another bar, I might have been offended. But I was in a basement bar…before 5 pm…drinking a shot with butterscotch alcohol in it. This numbed what could have been a very hurtful and traumatizing comment in a situation not otherwise involving schnapps. (I want to emphasize that Flint is a good guy who was not being mean or spiteful. We were just kidding around. I was, however, a bit offended by my HUSBAND who laughed at Flint’s joke.)
The Puttz Lounge offers a 10-second beer challenge. Anyone that can drink a beer through a straw in 10 seconds gets their picture on the wall. Everyone who attempts this challenge gets their beer for free. This game truly has no losers. (Except my husband who sipped his beer in 10.6 seconds.)
I would also like to commend the Puttz Lounge for finishing in the Final 8 of last year’s Dive Bar Road Trip’s “#1 Dive Bar Search.” They are truly a jewel, and worthy of their own Iowa Roadie write up…after I someday forgive Flint for insulting me.
Prior to leaving, bartender Michelle recommended we stop in Duncombe at Stumpy’s Bar & Grill. Michelle’s recommendation was the personal version of my Google maps search, and so OF COURSE we diverted to Stumpy’s. However we arrived at Stumpy’s in the midst of the dinner crowd. And although the menu looked delicious (they had LOBSTER!), we were not yet ready to eat. So while, my husband drank a quick PBR, I read the scrolling digital sign advertising community events…like a local church ham ball dinner in Boxholm.
Boxholm!! Home of the Lucky Donkey Bar & Grill, and one of the Iowa Roadie’s favorite adventures! Were we really that close?! Sure enough…Google maps said we were only 27 miles away! An episode of “The Office” is longer than that! Hee Haw! Time for some donkey punch!
We arrived at the Lucky Donkey more than one year after we had last visited. Yet when we walked in, owner Heather instantly recognized us and came over to give me a big hug. (I would like to say THIS is why we love small town dive bars! I have never been hugged at Applebees… even after I ordered one too many $1 strawberry vodka lemonades.)
We found our customary seats at the bar, and ordered not only a drink (thank you for carrying Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey), but a Bloody Mary burger. Pickled asparagus and Bloody Mary sauce on a hamburger are always the right answer! Thank you Lucky Donkey for another fun stop.
(PS…The Lucky Donkey is currently sponsoring a trip to Las Vegas. All you have to do is enter one of their karaoke contests from now until fall. One lucky winner will be drawn from all participants. No singing talent required! There is HOPE for the Iowa Roadie!)
Finally it was time…The Riverside Tavern in Lehigh. We arrived around 8 pm and again found seats at the bar. Next to my husband was seated a couple who insisted we try the broasted chicken. They informed us that they “could have gone to Applebees” but came to Lehigh instead because of the broasted chicken here. (They probably have never been hugged at Applebees either!)
This couple had first met years ago when the woman and her former husband sold an old car to her now gentleman partner for $75 and a chainsaw. He went on to transform it into a race car and win several local championship races. (I confess that the Iowa Roadie and husband do not share a history nearly as interesting. On our first date, my now-husband cooked me crab fettuccine. I do not like seafood, so I went hungry.)
Fortunately I do like chicken, and the River Tavern’s broasted chicken is not only incredible…but CHEAP! A three-piece order with cole slaw and massive potato wedges was only $5.50. PLUS they have free caramel corn! I cannot explain the taste explosion. Thank you Lehigh for making me a popcorn snob.
Besides the broasted chicken couple, we met two new friends…Tad and Rick. Rick explained how everyone in Lehigh was basically inbred. (Those were HIS words, not mine!) I chose to think of Lehigh’s population as “inter-connected.” At any rate, Rick was a super nice guy (meaning he did not insult me like Flint), and gave me some of the best advice ever….
Try a PBR hard coffee.
At first, I scoffed. Pabst Blue Ribbon. Hard coffee. Yeah right.
No, Rick said. It tastes like chocolate milk.
Rick’s buddy Tad agreed, and even suggested the idea of putting it in a frappuccino machine. (If only Starbucks would agree!) In fact, Tad was so confident that I would like it, he bought me my first PBR hard coffee.
Let me say…I am forever in debt to Tad and Rick. PBR hard coffee is amazing! It truly WAS like drinking chocolate milk with my cheap–yet delicious–broasted chicken and free caramel popcorn. Thank you again gentlemen for this drink suggestion. The Iowa Roadie is forever grateful for your wisdom.
Also in the Riverside Tavern… some younger boys with airsoft guns who were comparing welts with one another. They struck up a conversation with the Iowa Roadie’s husband who put them all to shame. (When he was in junior high, he made a bomb in the backyard. He needed stitches. His parents did not allow the doctor to use novocaine. End of story.)
Lehigh’s Riverside Tavern is definitely worth a stop. If not for the food, then for the atmosphere and great people. They have an old wooden shuffleboard table, pool tables, a vinyl U-shaped booth AND a vintage sidecar. The Iowa Roadie’s husband thought it would be funny to take pictures of me getting in and out of the sidecar. (The Iowa Roadie’s husband and Flint are BOTH very evil.)
Yet another reason for a bar to have an attached hotel…spouses can reserve SEPARATE rooms!