I like to think that everyone has that one bar he holds in far higher esteem than it deserves. It’s the kind of place you take out-of-town friends for beers, and the whole time they’re wondering if this is the kind of place you go on a nightly basis, and if they should be worried about an impending downward spiral.
But they don’t know. Even if you were to explain to them all the stories and memories you’ve accumulated, it wouldn’t help your cause. They weren’t there, so they can’t possibly get it.
Or maybe your out-of-town friends know how to have a good time and they embrace going to Time Out Tavern as much as I do.
I hold the Tot dear the way one thinks about his first love, because Time Out Tavern was my first real bar.
Let’s get it out of the way: The Tot is nothing special. It’s a small, windowless bar on Lovers Lane just west of Inwood Road. You can get Miller Lite, PBR, Budweiser and liquor, and that’s about it.
But I hold the Tot dear the way one thinks about his first love, because Time Out Tavern was my first real bar. Sure, I’d been to other watering holes, but it was the first place where I really understood the potential of a bar beyond just putting alcohol in my belly.
It was where I spent my college breaks with my friends, sneaking in with our fake IDs, splitting pitchers, playing pool and talking. It was less about the experience of “going out” and more about being in a place with the people that you wanted to be with. It didn’t hurt that they let us bring in Campisi’s.
Each trip to the Tot was always different. Some nights it was packed with college students killing time between semesters; sometimes it was a bachelorette party getting their night started or a group of 50-year-olds setting the pace for the rest of us.
And sometimes it was just two guys sitting at the bar by themselves, drinking for who knows what. Or as it went on one Wednesday night, between a fortysomething patron and the bartender: Guy: “Long time, no see.” Bartender looks up: “Yeah, Sunday right?” And then deliciously awkward silence as my group pretended not to hear.
My buddy tried to buy a pitcher with quarters that night, and that was the closest I’ve ever gotten to being kicked out — though probably not the most deserving.
The Tot has shuffleboard and a pool table. And, if you’re lucky, a guy will come by selling brisket tacos, which you should buy — all of them, if you can. There’s a jukebox in the corner, and although theoretically you could play anything you want, the Tot really demands a steady diet of Outlaw Country.
Of course, it was also the place where a friend was introduced to the greatest wedding song nobody has ever played at a wedding: Marvin Sease’s 10-minute masterpiece “Candy Licker.” (That song is super NSFW without headphones.)
Unofficial traditions like watching the BCS National Championship and hustling cougars in pool make going back feel as comfortable as going home.
I don’t go as often as I used to, but if I were gone from Dallas for a year, the Time Out Tavern would be the first bar I hit when I got back. It's not too much to say that the Tot formed my opinion about what a bar should be, and it's why I prefer places that foster a relaxed, time-wasting kind of vibe as opposed to cramped, too-loud spots devoted to emptying your wallet.
The Tot might not be your flavor, but you’ve probably got a bar that holds the soft spot in your drinking heart. She might not be the prettiest or the richest, but man, does she know what you like.