Airport Bars of the World: FLL

FT. LAUDERDALE, Florida, USA –  Ft Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport
Boat House Bar
Terminal 4

Well, it was bound to happen one day: I have finally come across the worst airport bar so far in my quest to visit them all.  Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you the One Star Rating for the Boat House Bar in Terminal 4 of the Ft. Lauderdale airport.  Actually, the whole Ft Lauderdale airport is one big snooze.  I should have known something was up when we stopped in the bar before security (also called the Boat House – they don’t even try to hide that all the restaurants and bars are run by some lame ConglomoCorp.) and noticed that the only place to eat was a crappy Sbarros.  Well, unless you count the cold plastic container sandwiches that they heat up on a George Foreman grill in the bar.  I don’t.

So we decide to go for it and cross over to security and see what’s beyond the safety of the Boat House.  Turns out it’s not much.  It’s another Boat House!  Except this one has no seats and is the size of a postage stamp.  And it’s attached to a Nathan’s where the tables are also all standing room only.  And it was kind of like the most depressing place on the planet.  About 25 people are trying to get drinks from a haggled man behind the bar that is literally the size of a large refrigerator.  Let’s just say it didn’t go down well with my shoving a crappy Nathan’s down my gullet while standing at a table that hadn’t been cleaned since Clinton was in office.  It was so bad, in fact, that we actually left the bar and went and sat at the gate.  For me to actually leave a bar on my own accord should explain how truly awful this place was.

It was also so bad that I didn’t get a picture of it and I hope never to see it again to get one.

Plusses: I gave it one star as it did serve alcohol
Minuses: Too small, too cramped, too busy, too dirty, to annoying, too depressing, too awful

A T-Rating® of 1 out of 5

Airport Bars of the World: BZE

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BELIZE CITY, Belize – Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport
Jet’s Bar
Located at end of Terminal

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you my first and only (so far) five out of five Airport Bar of the World:  Jet’s Bar in the Belize City airport.  Never mind that it is the only bar in the Belize Interntional Airport or the only place that serves food.  It’s the proprietor Mr. Jet himself that makes his bar the best.

Jet is probably about 4′ 8″ and he doesn’t rest on his laurels.  He is busy cruising the airport for customers with his strange munchkin-like voice proclaiming “Who wants the best rum punch in Belize?”  “Who wants the best hot dog in Belize?” while taking photos and signing autographs.  His grandson works the bar, and goes into the back to make the only thing on the menu and the only hot food to be found in the whole airport:  hot dogs with ketchup.  Oh, and mayonnaise.

We were there early one day, about 10am waiting for our flight out, and the airport was pretty slow.  We got to watch Jet in all his glory, as he wasn’t too busy and there was no one to cajole outside the bar into coming in.  We had a rum punch.  Is it the best rum punch in Belize?  I don’t know as it is the only place I had a rum punch while there.  Is it the best rum punch I’ve ever had?  Hardly – but what does it matter?  They’re strong and that’s all that counts, really.

About halfway through our second rum punch a typical idiot American with a big, stupid cowboy hat comes into the bar and asks Jet if he can change a hundred-dollar bill.  (Apparently Jet also is in charge of all the money in the airport as we saw numerous employees of the airport changing and borrowing money with him.)  Jet asked, “What about a rum punch with that?”  The man looks horrified.  “It’s not even 11am!”  Jet doesn’t miss a beat.  “How about a hot dog then?”  The man looks equally horrified.  “Pringles?” Finally the man gets the fact that Jet is not a bank (to him, anyway) and perhaps the polite thing to do is to buy something to get the change.  So, he finally settles on a Gatorade.  The Gatorade is like $2.00, so Jet gives him his $98 in American Dollar change and the man says thanks and walks off and gives Jet no tip.  “Cheap-O!”  He yells, and then smiles.  Just another gringo idiot.  Not the first one, and certainly not the last.

We’re now almost done with our second rum punch and I am worried about boarding the plane as it is at the other end of the airport where I can’t see.  “Another rum punch?” He asks.  We explain we should probably go as we need to board our flight soon, besides the fact I am pretty pie-eyed for 11am.  “No problem! What flight?  To Dallas?”  He picks up the phone and talks to someone for a minute and then hangs up.  “Now, how about that rum punch?”

He had called our gate agents directly and had asked them call back when our flight began to board – which is exactly what they did.  Now, that’s service!  And, this is why I give Jet’s Bar five out of five stars.

Plusses: Best Rum Punch and Hot Dogs in Belize, Only Bar in Airport, Great Service, Good People Watching, Lots of Pringles, Jet
Minuses: Not-a-One

A T-Rating® of 5 out of 5

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The Case of Monkey Boy

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If you’ve ever flown United Airlines, then you’ve seen him.  Monkey Boy!

I first met Monkey Boy many years ago when I was still working in the corporate world and had to fly to Albany, NY on a business trip for the day.  It turned out another coworker of mine was on the same flight and we happened to discover Monkey Boy together as we studied the Safety Card while downing a bloody mary at 6am.  We were fascinated with Monkey Boy.  Who was he?  A child with an adult head?  An adult with tiny, non-proportional legs? Was that lady his mom?  His date?  He looks confused.  And his arms are way too long.  Who drew this?  Who okayed it?  WTF????

On the return flight that night which my coworker was also on, Monkey Boy became more than just a curiosity as we were delayed for three hours and then ultimately diverted to Grand Rapids, MI for a five hour layover where not only would they not let us off the plane, they would not serve us drinks.  Needless to say, it was not a fun day.  If it wasn’t for Monkey Boy I don’t know what we would have done. At one point my coworker and I fantasized that the Flight Attendant Call Button actually was a way to order beers:  (insert ding ding of call button here while saying “beer, beer.”)

Well, maybe you had to be there.   But, I owe Monkey Boy my sanity that winter night.  And it’s good to know that Monkey Boy is still with us, strong and true.  I check every time I get on a United flight.

Live long, Monkey Boy – whatever you are!

Airport Bars of the World: OTC

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CHICAGO, Illinois, USA – Ogilvie Transportation Center (OTC)
The Chicago News Room 
Located on the 2nd floor

Okay, okay – this isn’t an airport.  But, it is a transportation center, so I thought it could kind of count.  Besides, it’s one of my favorite bars.  Welcome to the Chicago News Room inside the Ogilvie Transportation Center, otherwise known as the “end of the line” when going downtown on the Metra NW train line.  This is the best place to wait for your train and hang for awhile.  Why?  It’s nothing special to look at, right?  No, but they give you a very strong drink at a fair price (for Chicago, anyway) and have also figured a way to give you a roader that will give you no problems on the train – in a large styrofoam coffee cup with a lid.  

Not that you are not allowed to drink on the train – you still can.  (Hell, they used to still have bar cars on the commuter trains until just a few years ago.) But, the coffee cup ruse gives you the added bonus of people thinking that you’re drinking coffee, and perhaps not on your fourth rum & diet.  This way, you don’t get the annoying looks and stares from the other boring commuters and conductors like the beer drinkers do.

It’s not just the Chicago News Room that facilitates the time-honored tradition of the commuter train buzz – a friend of mine who used to commute daily had a “deal” with the little newspaper stand just a few stores over from this place where each weekday the guy working the stand would place two 40 oz Miller Lites in a brown paper bag at 4:30pm next to the cash register.  My friend would whiz by and grab the Miller Lites on the way to his 4:45 train.    He would pay the guy at the end of each week for that week’s worth of beer.  No muss, no fuss. Now that’s customer service!

Plusses: Strong Drinks & Coffee Cup Roaders – need I say more?
Minuses:
No Food, Kind of Depressing 

A T-RATING® of 4 out of 5

Airport Bars of the World: CUN

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CANCÚN, Qunitana Roo, Mexico  – Cancún International Airport
Air Margaritaville
Located in Terminal 3

It’s fairly obvious when you enter Terminal 3 in the Cancun Airport that it is fairly new and completely skewed toward the American tourist.  I was hoping to get some good Mexican food as a last stop before returning home, but alas – there was only one Mexican-themed  outlet in the “food court” area, and it looked more like Taco Bell than actual Mexican food.  I chose to pass.  There’s also a Panda Chinese food-type company which, for some odd reason, people were lined up ten deep for.  Really?  Panda crap Chinese in the Mexico airport?  I found the whole thing a very sad exercise in the study of what Americans want.  In fact, I noticed there were no magazine or book stands.  What, we don’t read?

Anyway – of course we needed a drink – and in the middle of the terminal is a huge Margaritaville restaurant, courtesy of Mr. Jimmy Buffett.  Okay, I know some people will be angry with me – but Jimmy Buffett is such a marketing whore who seems he will put his name on anything that comes with a paycheck.  He reminds me of Krusty the Clown who “Heartily Endorses this Event or Product!”  How much money can this guy amass?

It seems everyplace I go has a fucking Margaritaville.  (For the record, there are Margaritavilles in Las Vegas, Key West, Orlando, Panama City Beach, New Orleans, Glendale, AZ, Myrtle Beach, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, Grand Turk, Cayman Islands, Cancun, Cozumel and Mohegan Sun, CT.  Yes, Connecticut.) Also, this doesn’t count the Cheeseburger in Paradise chain, which has another 37 locations in the US.  Sheesh.

Anyway, we went to the Air Margaritaville and sat at the bar.  I had a cheeseburger, which admittedly, wasn’t bad.  I was more in awe of the sheer size and business of the location.  It was jam-packed from the time we got there until we left.  Every table was filled, and there was a line out the door.  It was crazy – I can’t even imagine how much liquor that place goes through on any given day considering their margaritas are 30 oz. each and people were consuming a couple at a time.  The place isn’t cheap – especially after I had been used to 40 cent beers and $35 three-course meals from the week before.  But overall, it’s nothing special. If you want a nice, quiet, secret bar – there is a tiny three-seater across from Gate 22.  I found this out when it was too late.

Plusses: Giant drinks, good food
Minuses: Crowded, expensive, it’s a fucking Margaritaville

A T-RATING® of 3 out of 5

The Old 29E Airline Complaint Letter

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I know this is an oldie, but I often bring this up to my friends in conversation as one of the funniest things I have ever read on the interwebs and never can remember to find it to send it to them.  Now that I found it again I had to post it –  so next time it comes up, I can just say to look it up on “the ‘pants” as I call this blog.  (No, I don’t, actually.)

This is the famous 29E Continental Airlines Complaint Letter.  Some poor soul took the time to write out this letter  while sitting in seat 29E – right next to the stinking lavatory.  I feel for this man – the sounds, the smells, the “stink sheild.”  I hate the airlines.

Tomorrow I will explain what happened to us on our way to the Dominican Republic a couple of weeks ago.  It includes an 18 hour trip that should have taken 4 hours, a plane that they “can’t start”, and turning around and coming back to Chicago when we are already all the way to Orlando.

In the mean time, please enjoy the comedy stylings of Mr. 29E:

Airport Bars of the World: STT

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ST. THOMAS, US Virgin Islands  – Cyril E. King Airport
Hibiscus Bar
Located in the Jet Terminal next to the Cafeteria

Well, it was only a matter of time until I report on the newly-remodeled Hibiscus Bar since I spend much time there when going back and forth between Chicago and St. John.  Sadly, this is not one of my favorite bars – in fact it’s one of my least favorite.  It’s crowded, the bartenders are agonizingly slow and surly, the food at the cafeteria borders on inedible and the drinks are expensive.

The last time I was there, a gentleman standing next to me waited more than 20 minutes for a single beer – no lie.  Luckily, because of my dedicated thorough research I have done for you I can give you the three easy tricks to getting your proper load-on before you board the plane:

  1. Stay Left. Sit on the left side of the bar as the cash register is there and the bartender seems to never get to the other side of the bar to help people.  Instead, he takes an order, gets the drink, takes the money, gives the change and then helps the next person behind the first person.  As now the first person has his drink and leaves, this repeats itself over and over and the people on the right side of the bar never get served.
  2. Double Up. Need one drink?  Order two.  Need two?  Order four.  Even if you are sitting at the bar itself, this is a wise strategy as although you may be sitting on the left side – service can still be slow due to all the walk-ups who are sitting in the cafeteria.  By the time you get your orders and finish them, you’ll be right at the same time you would be at a regular airport bar with normal service.
  3. Get There Early. I mean hours early.  You just never know what is going to happen during the process of getting to your plane in the Caribbean.  There are so many things to go wrong and usually will that we literally leave our house in St John five hours ahead of time.  Granted, we have to take a ferry and a taxi to get to the airport, but once we get there you just never know what can happen.  This is also a good reason to stake out your seat at the bar on the left side and never leave until they call final boarding for your flight.

All in all I can’t complain too much about the Hibiscus Bar as there is no alternative since it is the only bar in the Jet Terminal.  There are no carding statutes, no rules about how many you can order at once, no limit on how much you drink and no regulations to keep you from taking them to go.  So, I guess that makes up for slow service and surly bartenders.

Plusses: No rules, they have alcohol
Minuses: Slow, crowded, bad food

A T-RATING® of 2 out of 5

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