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Maggie and I arrive at Pat's Philly Steaks and Subs (1624 Market Street) just in time for fifty-cent beers. Except according to the bartender, there's no such thing. "Fifty-cent beers?" Charlie growls at us. "You think you're going to find fifty-cent beers anywhere in this town? Shit, man. I get off in a couple hours, so if you know of somewhere with fifty-cent beers, you need to tell me right now."
7419 E. Iliff Ave.
Denver, CO 80231
Region: Southeast Denver
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"But..." I stammer sheepishly as every head at the bar turns toward me, "someone told me that starting at 4 p.m., Bud, Bud Light drafts and well drinks are fifty cents and go up by fifty cents every hour." But since that someone had been a reader, I wasn't sure. "That's not true?"
"You've got the wrong bar, buddy," a guy three stools down offers. "Wherever that place is, it's not here," adds the guy next to him.
"I guess I got bad information," I say, red and befuddled. Then I see Charlie grinning, and I realize I've been had.
"Psych!" he hollers to mad claps and guffaws. "It's true. Now, what are you two having?" Considering the time — my phone says 4:29 p.m. — we order two beers each. "Two dollars," Charlie says, "and unless you're fuckin' Clint Eastwood, you'd better start a tab, 'cause I'm not dealing with quarters all night."
For the duration of our stay, Charlie is a one-man show. He flips pint glasses in the air and fills them without looking. He loudly and self-deprecatingly jokes about his love life while simultaneously giving customers a hard time about their own. And when I pull my this-bar-might-suck-but-there's-no-way-we're-leaving-with-beer-at-these-prices deck of cards out of my back pocket because it's hurting my ass (not because I need it), Charlie is immediately on me, offering us a free round if we can figure out his card trick. Miraculously, we do, but he gets distracted with another order, and the free round never comes.
But we don't care. At this point, drinks are only a buck apiece, so I order two more Buds while Maggie switches to vodka and lemonade. The joint — a large, flat-screen-filled underground spot that's more LoDo sports bar than Philly sub shop — is almost empty save for the ten or twelve happy-hour drinkers occupying every stool in front of the Charlie show. The couple next to us, who developed a seemingly unscratchable gambling itch while working the tables in Central City all summer, play no-stakes blackjack with their own deck of cards between dollar well shots and hitters of weed outside. They're considerably more fucked up than we are, but they're friendly, talkative and willing to deal us in for a few rounds until the lack of an incentive gets old.
Beers five and six cost $1.50 each because it's now 5:30, but when Charlie gives me the bad news, I still feel like a kid on a candy spree. In the interests of longevity, a full day of work tomorrow and my all-consuming passion for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, we grab menus, and I tell Maggie what I want before heading out for a smoke. When my Pat's Phatty w/Cheese arrives as four reasonably sized sandwiches and two bags of potato chips, I give her a look that says, "You ordered the Biggie?" but I don't complain. Instead, I eat two sandwiches on the spot. (I'll eat another at around 10:30 to fight off a hangover and the fourth for breakfast the next morning.)
Just before 6 p.m., as Charlie closes out his tabs and prepares to leave for the night, we order our last drinks for $2. As we're trudging through the final few ounces, a scrawny white guy with nervous eyes and bad, straight-from-the-book arm tattoos plops down next to us and asks if he can show us a trick. His name is Rabbit, or so he says, and he's a lifetime card player as well as a regular on the Denver Poker Tour circuit. "Okay, man, show us your trick," we say, and he does. And it's cool or whatever, but we need to leave.
"Lemme show you one more," he says as we're putting on our coats. "I guarantee you'll be impressed."
Dude. I just paid $12 for nine beers and two pint-sized cocktails: I couldn't possibly be more impressed.
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