Picking a name for the tavern of your dreams is easy

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2001

Would you go into a place called Scatter's for a beer and a bowl of chili? How about the Salty Dog or the Birdhouse? Would you leave the highway and set foot in Action Jackson's, the Bore Tide or Halfway Inn? Alaska is full of interesting taverns, each with a unique identity. Let me back up for a second. "Chili" is a strong word for the fare at Scatter's. For years they had a perpetually simmering brew on the stove, sort of a swill, a mystery stew that did not invite question. Don't ask, don't tell, just ladle up some on a cold winter day, a bit north of Wasilla.

Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska.com.

From the Howling Dog to the Fogcutter, each tavern has a personality usually tied to one or more members of the animal kingdom or particular weather conditions. We have various forms of moose, caribou, bear and whale namesakes along with an array of air, water and road conditions. And why not? A person can name his or her bar anything they want. Memories and stories hang more comfortably on an interesting name. You can easily imagine that some of the boys were, indeed, whooping it up in the Malemute Saloon. In modern literary offerings, consider Coyote Ugly. Bad story, but great bar name.

Some of us are going to retire to a small place and open a tavern. Don't pretend you haven't considered it. What names have you thought of? Nothing good yet? Let me get you started. If you'll be near an airfield, there is Windsock, Bent Propeller or Turbulence for a place that will take major credit cards. I'd expect to pay cash in the Hammerhead Stall or the Ground Loop. For a glass of wine, I'd try the Socked Inn or the Occluded Front. You may think it won't be easy to come up with a name, but look at all the truly inspired boat names in any harbor in Alaska. And no one expects you to name your bar after your wife.

I hear phrases often that I think would make great book titles, but the very best little bits of imagery beg to be taverns. Just yesterday in the bookstore, someone told a story that ended at a growling Dumpster. Boy howdy, would I love to have a place called the Growling Dumpster. No checks, Bucko. You don't like the chili? You sure?

Big, scary animals are great, but small animal names can be inviting tavern namesakes, too. Try the Collared Pica, next to a police station in the Rockies. The house drink would of course be a Haymaker. It's possible, the tavern you buy has a historic name that you really can't change, like the Sleeping Slug in a town with a lucrative slug festival. Bummer. Hopefully you can at least go to Surly Slug. A small animal with a of bit attitude is trendy. Be careful with trends, you want timelessness. Go with your gut feeling. Gut Feeling. I like it. You know, if you had a location next to a hospital, there is no limit to the imagery available to you. Just let your imagination work on that a bit.

A friend in Whitehorse says the memorable tavern that pops into his head is a place called Mom's. He won't elaborate. My husband fondly remembers Bildo's Bar, Grill and Museum. This is evidence the name of the place is not critical to memorability, but take your time and pick a name that's fun, clever and easy to advertise. I'll wait here at the Baited Breath.

Don't worry if you don't have a name for your future tavern yet. The location may name it. Lately, walking through the road construction on Old Glacier Highway, I have been imagining a place called Soylent Black, in honor of the asphalt recycling, where happy hour is the Pavement Break. The house drink is a Traffic Cone, served in a real traffic cone. The snack special is Curb and Gutter, a mysterious swill that could be chili, but don't count on it.

Nita Nettleton can be reached at nitan@alaska.com.

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