“Happy hour is two for one,” the bartender, a woman in a black “Bronx Beer Hall” t-shirt told us as we settled into chairs at the bar in the relatively quiet Arthur Avenue Retail Market where the Bronx Beer Hall was located.
Despite the calm inside, Eugene was having trouble hearing. “Whats’ that?” he asked the bartender while bending over the bar, his hand cupped over his ear in a feeble attempt to hear her.
I was with the Westchester contingent; Gerry and Eugene of the Adventures in Chow City group for a pre-meal drink before one of our interim dinners at a restaurant a block up on 187th Street.
“She said it’s two-for-one,” I said to Eugene in a voice loud and clear enough so he could hear me.
“Buy one beer and you get the second free,” the bartender, who we later learned was a senior at nearby Fordham University, explained.
I was very familiar with the happy hour concept as was Gerry and, I’m sure, so was Eugene. Maybe it was the cavernous indoor market that made it hard for Eugene to hear. Or maybe it was just that he was old and nature was taking its course. I wasn’t far behind him in age, but I could hear the bartender clearly as well as the falsetto singing voice of Anthony Gourdine, also known as “Little Anthony,” as “I’m on the Outside (Looking In),” played in the background.
The beers on tap were mostly Bronx-made, which made me, even without tasting one, very happy. Some were made by the Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company while others were from the City Island Beer Company.
One of the day’s specials was the “Kingsbridge Kolsch” made by the Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company. I was given a sample and immediately after tasting the fragrant icy blonde I ordered a pint. “I’ll have one of those also,” Eugene told the bartender.
“Big Apple Cider,” Gerry said to her, also one of the blackboard specials.
“Cider?” I had never known Gerry to order cider, hard or not.
“It’s supposed to be good for gout,” he said.
I didn’t want to know more than that.
The beer was cold and delicious. We chatted with the bartender who, with the exception of only two other customers, had only our group to attend to.
“You get a lot of Fordham students in here?” I asked knowing the proximity to the Fordham campus and recalling my own now very distant college days and how loyal I was to the two-for-one institutions near my university.
She shook her head with a smile. “No, we are the only place around here that actually cards them.”
“You didn’t card us,” Eugene said, feigning outrage.
She smiled at his quip and then said, “We get people who come in here shopping. A lot of old people. Seniors…you know.”
Gerry looked at me. I looked at him. Was she going there to be funny or did she not know any better. Either way there was no need to dwell further on the Bronx Beer Hall demographic. My beer was empty. It was time for the second of the two for one.
I glanced at the t-shirts for sale in the t-shirt booth next to the bar. Most were Italian-themed with stereotypical slogans like “fuhgeddaboudit” and “Leave the gun, take the cannolis.” There was a whiff of tobacco coming from the adjacent cigar factory, La Casa Grande Tobacco Company. Our bartender wanted to know if we were interested in food from Mike’s Deli, one of the most popular spots within the market. We declined, telling her we were eating at a nearby restaurant.
Witty t-shirts for sale.
While we sipped the delicious Bronx beers, Eugene began reminiscing about the “old days,” back in White Plains and if we knew so and so who was once very pretty but, “you should see her now.” And then he started talking about his recent 40th high school reunion including listing off several names of people unable to attend due to the fact that they were no longer alive.
I drained my second pint while over the loudspeakers in the now almost deserted market, the Crests were singing “Trouble in Paradise.” Another two-for-one round of Kingsbridge Kolsch was a temptation. I hadn’t eaten; more beer on an empty stomach would be a serious mistake.
Beer among the sausages.
“Where’s the bathroom in this place,” Eugene wondered out loud.
“I was gonna ask the same question,” Gerry said.
I looked at my empty glass; only a thin foamy head remained on the bottom of it. If I have learned anything over the years, it was to know my limitations.
“Follow me” I said
And that was that.
The Bronx Beer Hall
Arthur Avenue Retail Market
2344 Arthur Avenue