Posted On: 04/21/2000
Most people have a favorite dive bar, ranging from the classic and popular Cats Meow in Soulard to the more hidden Haven on Morganford. They may not go there often, but they do love to go. They will always speak of the bar fondly and will defend the bar like it is their sibling.
Folks always seem to have different standards for their favorite dive, but for most it is really simple recipe: cheap beer, strong personalities and no frills or pretensions.
The dive bar is nearly always a neighborhood drinking hole with a cast of characters on both sides of the bar. One of my favorite, unpopular, out of the way dives on the southside is a place on South Broadway called Bob and Patti's No Wake Zone. It is in lower Carondelet near Loughborough across the way from the infamous Slo-Toms Lounge. Next door is a comic book shop, a diner and a sno-cone stand. The area along Broadway is very industrial and edges up on the mostly blue collar Carondelet, one of the oldest areas of Saint Louis. This bar has been open only since December and their grand opening is finally planned to be this weekend.
The name "No Wake" sounds really creepy if you are not familiar with the term. It sounds kind of like a horror movie. It actually comes
from a fishing term about how a boat is not to have a wave, or wake, coming up from the motor while it is in motion. This is to not to disturb the water and it is to keep the boats going slow. Needless to say, the bar has a lot of fishing memorabilia. Bob posts fishing reports from the surrounding areas on a bulletin board.
The Carondolet area of town was devastated back in '93 during the big flood. You can see the high water mark on the wall in the bar. No Wake's current husband and wife team, Bob and Patti, rehabbed the bar from its dismal flood damaged state. The bar is actually far from the typical dirty, nasty dive that we are all used to. The well scrubbed bar is cleaner than Tony's and the entire interior is new: everything was replaced during the rehab.
Bob used to work at the pawnshop up the street on Chippewa across from Slim and Zella Mae Cox's furniture store. Bob has several
amusing stories about being a pawnbroker. He also knows about the history of South Saint Louis. He has traits similar to Bob Putnam, the Way Out Club owner. Both Bobs know about the seedy side of Saint Louis and the rep of Broadway bars. They have the ability to tell a story with that strong bartender charm and know how to treat and keep a customer. Patti, the wife half of the ownership, is always quick to please and will not hesitate to tell a customer when he is out of line. She gets the love of the patrons, sometimes a little too much, and it is a good thing that a bar separates her from the revelers.
Both Bob and Patti will talk to new customers. They both know the names of not only the regulars, but often their not-so-often regulars.
The interior of the bar is split into two large rooms with a large front room that sports a shotgun bar along the wall. A beautiful, large beer sign adorns the wall with cans of Busch set into the Rocky Mountains like the Presidents heads on Mount Rushmore. No Wake serves standard domestic-- both on draft and tap-- along with the typical booze selection on the mirror backed bar. The tap is always served in a chilled mug. Nice touch.
For eats they have a selection of pickled items, beef jerky, peanuts, the famous Saint Louis tavern "TJs" pizza and other quickie bar foods. The walls are decorated with many outlandish promotional beer toys, most of which are inflatable fish. There are some real fish too with some amazing expressions.
The clientele is nearly all blue collar and mostly white, but refreshingly not exclusively white. The ages are mostly over 30, but after that it is really varied. Some folks saunter in from the neighborhood, while others just got off shift working at the massive industries along the river. The bar does a healthy business with quite a few folks circulating through the bar over the day.
The patrons are particularly engaging. Nearly every time I have gone, someone has struck up a conversation with me. The last time I went a fella wanted to know about my motorcycle and if I was wearing any colors, before talking any further. He was asking about motorcycle gang colors. You might see some bars, even mainstream bars like the 1860s front bar, with signs banning biker colors in the bars. This is more of a raked out Harley Davidson type of neighborhood where it would not be a shock to see a bike gang. He confided to me that he owned a Japanese cycle. We began to speak of how some Harley bikers will give a seriously hard time to anyone that does not ride a Harley. The guy, with the help of the alcohol, went on to tell me how to put off a hardcore Harley biker, "not one them rich yuppie Harley riders, but a real one." He stopped and looked me directly in the eye and told me if one of the hardcore bikers gives me trouble to tell them: "The wind blows in my hair too. No, that is it. That is all you need to say. The wind blows in my hair too." I think this was implied to be some sort of codeword. I don't think he really thought about the fact that I had a full face helmet and this would render the statement false.
The bar is definitely one of the most welcoming in town. It is an easy stop for a sip, and is a great place to take someone who is "iffy" about going to a dive bar. This place is one of the cleanest bars in town, and be sure to make the acquaintance of the owners. They will make sure you feel welcome and will actually talk to you.
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