I'm having trouble figuring out the best way to lift my 32-ounce schooner of Rolling Rock, the beer so big it comes with a (plastic) boat floating on top, the beer that goes for only a dollar — a dollar! — from 4 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and all night on Sundays. Darren is gripping the narrow shaft at the base of his glass with one hand; Jessica is cupping the bulbous bowl from underneath; Maggie's sucking down an $8 Raspberry Absolut Madness, also served in a schooner, with a straw; and I'm favoring a two-handed approach but wishing I had a third that could reach around and snag an avocado pocket from my Big Ass Platter. We're not-so-subtly awash in double-entendre dick jokes. Which seems appropriate, seeing as we're at Swallows Video Lounge & Bar, a gay bar with a cute little nautical bird logo that doesn't do dick (is there a pun there?) to dispel the obvious innuendo that's touted on the menu ("If you didn't like to swallow before, you will now") and on suggestive shirts ("Spitters are quitters").
The four of us, all hetero, are bellied up to the bar in the second-level side room complete with a pool table and our own massive flat-screen blasting party-jam music videos. When four of our breeder friends arrive after drinks at Forest Room 5, we dub our space the Straight Allies Room — but not because there's anything especially gay going on in the main room. Unlike the rabble that showed up for RuPaul's Drag Race on Mondays (before the season ended) and still gather for the Gayest Night on TV (Glee and The Big Gay Sketch Show) on Tuesdays, Friday's crowd is subdued, content to spread out on the couches and loveseats, chill by the fireplace.
Launched on February 1 by the folks who own Tracks as a pre-party/happy-hour spot only open from 4 to 11 p.m., Swallows has the unpleasant distinction of occupying a Location Doomed to Fail: the address at 3090 Downing Street that was Tosh's Hacienda-turned-Kiva-turned-Blackberries Bar and Grill/Club Dynasty. As a Whittier renter-turned-Cole-homeowner of three-plus years, I've long been invested in seeing this space succeed, so much so that in a June 2008 Drunk, I — over-optimistically, as it turned out — predicted success for Kiva. Still, I've got high hopes for Swallows (which recently extended hours until midnight), and that's not just the four floating boats — 128 ounces! For $4! — talking.
The Tracks-backed ownership is a good start; even better is the fact that Swallows only occupies half of the building's available space (size — no, seriously — matters in this case), with the rest functioning as an annex to the giant EXDO Event Center less than a mile away. The rotating lineup of nightly drink specials is impressive (so cheap), and the food is way better than it has to be (and waaay better than the Southwestern inedibles on the old Kiva menu). The video-lounge shtick is reasonably novel, though the computer's shuffle function could use a bitch slap (in three hours, we see plenty of videos twice, some thrice). And the staff? Our bartendress, Laura, doles out free cream soda shots (brandy and Sprite) for everyone, even though they should only go to the girls who order apps (ladies' night).
Turns out, Swallows has so few shortcomings that we all get our fill.
Take that, cute little innuendo bird.