For nearly 35 years, Arap's Old Gun Shop (3866 South Broadway in Englewood) — better known to passersby as Eatin' Drinkin' Darts, thanks to its signature red-and-yellow sign — has been an old-timey saloon for billiards and dart enthusiasts. For many decades (some say a century or more), it was an actual gun shop. And to this day, the phone rings five or more times every day with calls from ammo enthusiasts searching for bullets of this or that size.
Though Bill and a brother originally inherited the cavernous establishment from their father, today Bill is the sole owner. During the afternoons, he keeps an eye on things while running back and forth between the bar and the laundromat, staying only long enough to slam a beer between cycles of bar rags and unmentionables. Weeknight business has been slow, but "Spaceman" — an Arap's longtimer — is kickin' up interest in an open-mike night, and beer pong draws a crowd on Friday evenings. Last New Year's Eve, the Gun Shop provided a free designated driver for trips of five miles or less. "The place was doggone packed, man," Spaceman tells me over a smoke on the spacious back patio. "You know I took a ride."
Filled with log-cabin-y wood and moose heads and vintage gun signs and framed photos of regulars and dust-encrusted trophies dating to the late '70s, Arap's serves a humble menu of microwaveable mainstays and "Arap-atizers" — tacos, taquitos, jalapeño poppers, hot wings and Rocky Mountain (frozen) pizzas. A handful of side rooms offers more seating, more dartboards, more ways to escape from the bustle of Broadway out front. For a buck a shift, patrons can play Shake a Day — roll the right combination of five dice on the first try and win the pot (the combo on my last visit: 33442; the pot: $120).
Arap's Old Gun Shop
The daytime regulars are friendly, if not a bit down on their luck:
"How's it going, Mr. Don?"
"Taking care of my awful fucking life."
"How awful is it?"
"We haven't got the time, and I don't want to go into it."
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"Santa brought me a DUI."
The nighttime drunks don't feel much better, as evidenced by a chalk-scribbled rant over one of the urinals (typos intact): "I've been West Coast to East Coast. America a big country. Lets keep it our country NOT overrun by foreign cancer's...I spend years doing what best for me & country. Airborne '69."
Even the bartendress — chatty, efficient, obviously a pro — can't help but spill guts about her multiple DUIs, pot charges and the never-ending struggle to make ends meet for her kid. Sometimes it's nice to spend time with folks who aren't always pretending to be okay.
Sometimes it's good enough to know you're not alone.