A couple of Saturdays ago, I was driving downtown with a couple of friends, and we decided to stop in for lunch at the three-month-old McFadden's Sports Saloon across from the Sprint Center. "It's going to be noisy as hell in there," warned my friend Ned, but I was game, and we found a parking place fairly quickly.
It was noisy as hell, but I was pleased to see that the venue — which is the size of a warehouse — was packed on a cold weekend afternoon. At 1 p.m., there was a waiting list for the lunch crowd. My friend Bob wouldn't sit on the high, backless stools in the south corner of the dining room, so we waited a few minutes for a comfy booth across from the long bar, where every stool was occupied by a veritable rogue's gallery — old, young, fat, thin, straight and straighter. We amused ourselves watching a middle-aged bleach-blonde in a pink pullover unabashedly pawing her younger boyfriend, who looked like Jughead P. Jones from the old Archie comics. They were swilling Guinnesses.
I thought about ordering a milkshake but changed my mind after we decided to share a starter called the Bucket o' Chips: a mound of seasoned fries smothered in chili, pepper jack cheese, bacon crumbles and green onions. (I drank iced tea instead.) The food was good, solid saloon fare: excellent burgers (the $10 basket of three sliders is a deal), spicy buffalo wings, and a Philly cheesesteak — I'm fairly certain it was made with the traditional melted Cheez Whiz — that was one of the best I'd tasted outside the City of Brotherly Love.
Good food wasn't surprising, but the ratty condition of our booth was. Its leatherette upholstery was ripped in a couple of places, and a hardened blob of pink bubble gum was stuck to the back.
"This place isn't that old. What's with the upholstery?" I asked our waitress, who looked like actress Laura Dern.
"They're all like that. We have to replace it, like, every week," she confided. "At night, girls like to climb up on the booths in their high heels so they can dance on the tables. Their heels rip the upholstery to shreds."
And, really, what bodes better for downtown's revitalization than upholstery ripped up by high heels?