Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ricky J's

Sometimes I don't know where to start. I've mentioned before that things happen to me that don't typically happen to other people, which is the reason this blog was born. A couple of weeks ago, we had another one of those "this is your life" moments, and it begs to be told.

We met some friends at the U.S. National Whitewater Center for a beer and music festival. Technically, the location of the Whitewater Center is in Charlotte, however, that is not exactly accurate. I would classify it more as Out In the Sticks, North Carolina. Despite the remote location, the place is beautiful and we had a great time. That said, it was roughly 123 degrees in the shade that Saturday afternoon and after a couple of hours, we decided to seek refuge in some air conditioning while we waited for the evening concert to begin.

The fine vehicle for sale outside.
The Whitewater Center has a relatively nice restaurant, and I have heard that the food is great. But that would have been too easy. Why walk 30 feet for a meal when you can have a food-seeking adventure instead? One of the guys in our group promised he knew a great little place, a hidden gem a few minutes down the road. And so we ventured to the dive bar known as Ricky J's.

The sign out front promised new look, new menu, and new fun. How can you say no to that? Once we crossed the gravel parking lot and passed the sky blue Crown Victoria for sale parked by the front door, we came to the mandatory sign-in sheet. I guess Ricky doesn't just let anyone in his establishment; he needs to verify that you can, at the least, spell your name on command.

Have you ever watched the scene in the Blues Brothers movie, where they walk into a bar, the music stops, and everyone turns to stare? That's kind of the scenario when we finished our sign-in at Ricky J's. It could be that we were ever so slightly out of place in our Tory Burch (girls) and khakis (guys). Or the fact that we were already viciously elbowing each other and muttering, "Oh. My. Gawd." I think some of the regulars seated at the bar did the same thing when they saw us come strolling in, in all our yuppie glory. It was hard to tell exactly what the reactions were, because all the windows were covered with black fabric, making it as dark as a cave even though it was a bright and sunny afternoon. Apparently, regulars at Ricky J's are the type who enjoy a little privacy--and don't we all? Being able to make out the facial features of the person sitting next to you is so overrated. I thought the black out curtains really gave the whole place a VIP lounge feel.

And it treats glaucoma, too.
Sadly, I think Ricky's air-conditioning was on the fritz. Those well-placed black window covers did block out the heat of the sun, but it was still a little, well, sweltering inside the bar. Our group made ourselves at home by procuring one of those industrial floor dryers you see on construction job sites, which was sitting on the side of the stage (live music every weekend!) and turned it toward our table. Ah, the luxury of ventilation. I never said we weren't high-maintenance.

We grabbed some (reportedly new) menus and decided to try some of the more upscale house specialties like nachos, fried pickles, cheeseburgers, and tater tots. I didn't see any vegan or gluten-free options, but I am sure they are always available (for the discriminating palettes of the Ricky J's diners). My friend Amy and I ventured to the ladies room together--safety in numbers--when she spotted the specials written on a chalkboard. In this case, neither of us felt entirely confident that "Pot." in Pot. salad was short for potato. Like my astute friend pointed out, it looks like we overlooked a good chance to try some pot salad. Opportunity missed. Clint also read that Wednesdays are $1 hot dog days. All day, all-you-can-eat. That way, when your pot salad inevitably gives you the munchies, you can indulge in all the hot dogs a 10-spot will buy.

Our food was actually not bad. Not one of us got sick from eating it, which frankly is better than I had dared hope. I could not help but letting loose my hyena laugh when Richard, one of the guys in our yuppie dive bar caravan, enthusiastically ate a fried mushroom and declared, "The food here is better than Dean and Deluca!" Somewhere at that very moment, Dean and his partner Deluca (whoever they are) felt a deep sense of shame and failure without knowing the exact cause. That's what it feels like to be bested by Ricky J.

After a charming gentleman in a mesh trucker hat with "MIKE" on the front walked by our table and informed us, "I ain't your waitress," we came to the conclusion that Ricky J's is a self-serve establishment. Tracy hopped up to get us another round of drinks and returned with an arm full of beverages for the group. She attempted to twist off the cap on her beer, then realized it was not, in fact, a twist-off bottle. She looked across the table at us, a little helpless and a little befuddled that a bartender would just hand that off to a lady, when I explained to her, "If you can't bite the top off that with your teeth, you do not fit in here." I still think that to be an accurate statement. We took the highfalutin way out and asked for a bottle opener. I think I saw an eye roll from the bartender, but with the degree of darkness, I can't be certain.

We went through a couple of winding roads and in and out of some neighborhoods on our way to this best kept secret, so I wasn't completely sure of the street address, until I went to the ladies room and saw this:

So maybe plug that into your GPS and see where it takes you. Clint has already told us that once Ricky J's gets the free wi-fi up and and running, he's thinking of working remotely from there as often as possible. Amy and I are hoping we can get them to cater our next get-together, since we know that Richard prefers fried mushrooms and "Pot. salad" to Dean and Deluca. And we've already told Tracy we aren't letting her go back until she learns how to open that beer bottle with her teeth.

See y'all there, right?

UPDATE: A gentleman who lives near Ricky J's informed my friend Tracy that there is a place across the street that is "even cooler." We've decided to maybe save that for a special occasion.

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