From the thirteenth through the sixteenth century, the monarchs of England and Scotland held sway over their respective lands -- but in the hill country between, the Border Reivers ruled. These tribal landlords shifted allegiances among a whirlwind of blackmail, robbery, kidnapping and murder. Perhaps cooler heads would have prevailed if after a long day of raping and pillaging, they were able to retire to a local watering hole where they could solve all the region's problems over some good brew. Certainly the rigors of modern-day conflicts -- whether conducted on the playing field or in the privacy of your own home -- are easily soothed over a pint or two at Reiver's Restaurant (1085 South Gaylord Street), a neighborhood standby for close to three decades.
A grueling day pitting man and mountain bike against local terrain had prompted the Head of Sleeper Drunks to state, amid searing chest pain, "I've never been so alive but so near death at the same time." To celebrate his survival, he and other members of the Institute had put away the better part of a fifth of tequila before I met up with the Head of Drinking Regrets in the old South Gaylord area, one of our favorite haunts. This time we skipped some of the wilder bars that have made us feel so subhuman the next morning and headed across the street to Reiver's.
The place was almost full but didn't feel crowded, because the larger groups in back had left prime bar-front property open. And the good jukebox was playing at the perfect volume to let us make unseemly comments about the women next to us without having to yell -- but also without them overhearing our comments.
1085 South Gaylord Street
After having a "few" Guinnesses, we asked bartender Karen for our check, then promptly accused her of making a mistake. The tab was just too low. But then Karen informed us that from nine o'clock to closing, Reiver's offers Guinness at only $2.50 a pint. Assuming we'd died and gone to heaven, we figured it wouldn't matter if we stayed for a "few" more. To pass the time, we asked Karen what her story was. She asked if we wanted the long or short story. For $2.50 Guinness, we'd listen to any story she had.
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A word of caution for you novices: Never mix Guinness with more carbonated beverages, like pop or American "beer." As the Head of Drinking Regrets can attest, that combo results in hiccups that register a ten on the Richter scale, which will cause your fillings to rattle loose and may even progress to projectile vomiting. In this case, they also elicited unwanted motherly advice from Karen. While kind enough to provide lime and bitters in a futile attempt to abort the cycle, she felt compelled to inform us that the hiccups might also be a sign that we'd had "too much" to drink. Her negativity apparently lessened the potency of her hiccups cure.
Finally, the Head of Drinking Regrets took matters into his own hands and held his breath for upwards of two minutes. Amazingly, he did not fall off his chair -- but this did put the final nail in his coffin. After finally drawing breath, he noted, "I can't sober up!" Regretfully, we decided to call it a night -- and on our way out, he promptly tried to kill himself on a pesky crack in the sidewalk.
Despite Karen's wet-blanket commentary, the Institute highly recommends Reiver's. If you arrive early in the evening, you can try the Buffalo Guinness Stew. If you crash in the gutter after Saturday night revelry, you can be first in line for the restaurant's legendary Sunday brunch. But for us, the real draw here will always be the serious, economical Guinness drinking. Save your parking change and laundry money for those cheap beers; a handful of quarters will let you drink "too much," too. That is, if there were such a thing as "too much."
For Border Reivers and serious researchers alike, those are fighting words.