Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Fresh Pineapple and Memories of Whore Houses - La Grange Bar - Essay


"In my neighborhood in Montrose, it’s especially easy to walk to bars and restaurants.  I could walk to Poison Girl blindfolded if I had to."


Fresh Pineapple and Memories of Whore Houses - La Grange Bar

In my neighborhood in Montrose, it’s especially easy to walk to bars and restaurants.  I could walk to Poison Girl blindfolded if I had to.

This is the path I walked last Friday night to La Grange Bar: North for five blocks on Dunlavy Street, then east on Westheimer Street.  After turning east, I slowed my pace to step over a man in a sleeping bag, and to admire the stylish people going into One Fifth Restaurant, which occupies the building which used to be the upscale, over-priced Mark’s American Cuisine.  I hosted one of Donnie’s birthday dinners at Mark’s.  We walked.  Following this, I ran across Westheimer Street to Ralph Street where I proceeded north for a few feet and entered La Grange Bar.

The first thing I saw in La Grange Bar was a portrait of the investigative journalist Marvin Zindler, although the portrayal failed to capture the freak Zindler ultimately became from heavy make-up, the white rug on his hair, and too many plastic surgeries.

Zindler's portrait however was entirely appropriate.  Years before he reported on unsanitary restaurants on his televised Action 13 News Rat and Roach Report, Zindler helped to put the Chicken Ranch whorehouse on the outskirts of La Grange Texas out of business.  With Marvin clamoring on in front of the camera about illegal activities, the law enforcement officials who protected the brothel capitulated, and in August 1973 forced it to close its doors, ending many years of commercial enterprise.  But not before ZZ Top recorded a tribute to the nice girls in the Fayette County establishment.  Gibbons' amped-up guitar kicked ass.  A-how-how-how-how.

August 1973.  Up comes a vision of my seventeen year old hippie self, at the time I was completing my first semester at the university in south Louisiana, with hair practically to my butt, dressed in a halter top and cut-off jeans and leather platform shoes we called “clogs” in those days, books carried in a green backpack.


After admiring Marvin’s portrait and the orange leather chairs in La Grange’s front bar, I passed through an adjoining room, then entered La Grange’s patio where I saw the carp pond inherited from the building’s previous occupant, the gay bar EJ’s, known for weekly amateur strip nights and drag shows and hanky-panky in the bathroom.  At the patio bar a courteous young man named Caleb made me a gin and tonic, which I carried over to some couches where I joined friends who had just been served another round of Classic Margaritas and Gringo Burgers with fries.  Fire pits placed near tables and couches made La Grange’s patio warm and cozy on a chilly January evening, and overhead strings of lights added ambience, undisturbed by abundant flat screen TVs, probably because the place is so large.


La Grange admirably preserved their 1930s building.  Equally impressive is the bar’s practice of using fresh fruit in cocktails, for example fresh pineapple.  Not sure why details such as freshly squeezed pineapple get me excited.  It might be because I was a cocktail waitress when I was in school, and witnessed meticulous twisting of lemon peels and squeezing of lime wedges.  It might be because of the finesse with which Donnie rubs orange and cherries inside my chilled cocktail glass before he pours my Old Fashioned from the cocktail shaker.  Standards.  At a very young age I learned they were important.  From my Uncle Mac I learned one should drink Bordeaux only in crystal stemware, and that a tumbler of scotch requires very few ice cubes.  From my great-aunt Jo came introduction to the Vieux Carré, an elegant mix of good rye, Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud’s and lemon twist, best served with a few raw oysters, and nobody gave a damn that I was too young to be in the Carousel Bar.  And I understand why the Gret Stet’s Huey Long hauled a Nawlins bartender to Manhattan to show those Yankees how to correctly mix his Ramos Gin Fizz.

It's imperative that hooch be properly attended to.

I wanted to know more about La Grange’s dickering with fruit, so the next day I called the bar to ask a few questions, and guess who answered the phone.  My buddy Caleb.

Tell me please Caleb, how do you squeeze the watermelon that you mix with tequila to make a Watermelon Fresca, do you use a blender or do you use a hand held tool, like a muddler?  We don’t make Watermelon Frescas right now, Caleb told me, because fresh watermelons are not in season.  Yeah, but when you do make Watermelon Frescas, how do you squeeze the fruit.  According to Caleb, La Grange smashes the watermelon with a hand held hand tool.  How bout the fresh pineapple you mix with tequila to make a Carlos Danger.  How do you squeeze the pineapple?  Same.

Another question.  How many of your customers know the considerable history behind Marvin Zindler’s portrait?  Caleb said that based on the consistency with which he hears “Sliiiiime in the ice machine” and other informed comments, he believes practically all of his customers know about Marvin’s Zindler’s unclean restaurant reports.

How many of your customers know Marvin’s connection to the whores in La Grange Texas?  Would you say most of them?  “Oh no, I don’t think their knowledge goes back THAT far.”

La Grange Bar
2517 Ralph Street, Houston Texas 77006
832 962-4745
http://lagrangehouston.com/

All Images: Posted by La Grange Bar
La Grange Bar Watermelon Fresca
La Grange Bar Craft Cocktails
La Grange Bar Patio
La Grange Bar Filet and Shrimp - Steak Night
La Grange Bar Oysters


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