“The waitress isn’t wearing any pants,” my friend whispered to me in hushed tones.
“That’s ridiculous.” But I looked toward the middle of the square bar anyway. Every waitress was wearing some variation of a corset top, panty bottom and fishnets. Par for the course in fancy clubs on the Strip. But we were in a neighborhood bar, and here the lingerie seemed gratuitous. But that’s why I write about bars instead of own them. Vegas Bar Rule No. 1: Lingerie is never gratuitous.
Just in case the fishnets didn’t erase all doubt, BJ’s Cocktail Lounge (located on Tropicana and Koval) should not be confused with the comfortably safe chain BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery. Can you guess which one has the logo of an extra-sexualized mud-flap girl? And the initials? “BJ” stands for one Big John, who opened the place in 1980. What, you thought something else?
- BJ’s Cocktail Lounge
- 218 E. Tropicana Ave., 736-9439
BJ’s is the line in the sand between the magic of the Strip and the humdrum everything else that is not the Strip. Literally one half of the bar is bathed in the afterglow of neon, while the other half is in darkness. It’s the same way solar eclipses are made. All this light and darkness makes the bar look creepy from the outside. Add to that the fact that it’s also a liquor store, and you get one intriguing joint.
However, the place is super nice on the inside. Nicer than a neighborhood bar need be, with waitresses hotter than need be and food that’s better than need be. It’s like the nicest house on the block in a bad part of town. The same friend who was excited about lingerie said it reminded him of an upscale theme restaurant in New Jersey. I’ve never been to New Jersey, so we’ll have to take his word for it.
Back in 2007, Weekly food critic Max Jacobson wrote a piece extolling the virtues of BJ’s and predicting it would be the forerunner in a new trend of “gastropubs.” I went alone one Thursday evening to taste for myself. As a female, I find a rebellious joy in going to bars alone. Solo bar-going is one of the few remaining things men can do easily that women cannot. Call me a feminist, but I like to buck stereotypes.
I sat at the bar and ordered the stuffed-pepper soup from the extensive menu. I was waiting for my food, reading a magazine and texting. An independent woman, I wasn’t just busy, I was multitasking! Still, two guys installed themselves on each side of me, A Night at the Roxbury-style. Sigh.
“We noticed you’ve been sitting here alone for 30 minutes. What are you doing?”
“Waiting on my food.” I cursed the slow service.
The waitress appeared with an expression on her face as if her dog had peed on my shoes. Considering that she was wearing lingerie, and I was wearing yoga pants, I can only assume that whatever I had to deal with, she had to deal with double. “I can make these guys disappear if you want,” she offered.
What was this, the mob? I didn’t want to make anybody “disappear.” I gave her a weak smile.
“They’re harmless and very funny,” she said.
They did remind me of a drunken Tweedledee and Tweedledum, if the book characters had been construction workers. They were entertaining, up until Tweedledum picked out the one black guy in the place and yelled out that he looked like 50 Cent.
“Doesn’t he? Doesn’t he?” Tweedledum hit me on the shoulder, demanding an answer. This was the worst scenario that could befall a politically correct white chick like me. I don’t go around comparing people of color to rappers, even if they do have similar jaw lines. To my great relief, the “rapper” and his friend laughed.
My soup came, and the twins finally disappeared. Five minutes later, I heard a giant clatter. A metal candelabra was on the ground, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum were standing around the wreckage. I watched the guys reinstall the wall hanging. They skulked out of the bar, leaving the candles pointing every which way but up.
“That’s not a union candle job,” said the friend of the “rapper.”
“Do you know those guys?” I asked.
“Yeah. We work together.” Thus started a great conversation; too bad I had to leave. And the soup? It was good.