Best Low-Rent Bar - 1999
El Toro Bar Liquors and Lounge
In 1937, about ten years before Hickey joined the other misfit dreamers in the saloon of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, El Toro Bar opened. Old-timers testify that the gin mill was a swell place in those early days, full of sunshine and happy anglers who hoisted brews and spewed fish tales after a day on the bay. In the years that ensued, though, the El Toro devolved along with the neighborhood, becoming a shabby (but still embracing) cave where ol' Hickey would've felt at home. The oak bar is pockmarked. The white acoustic-tile ceiling has been smoke stained to a cheap-cigar brown. Oddly placed mirrors hang slightly askew on the simulated-walnut walls, making the lines of the room appear tilted even to sober observers. The video slot machines wear grimy faces, the crimson tablecloths on the tiny tables emphasize the redness of the nose of the clown gazing from the faded circus poster over by the pool table. The bar's current owners promise change, including a new name (the Office). They promise live music, a menu of fresh bar chow, and dart tournaments with cash prizes. But for now El Toro retains a gloomy atmosphere appropriate for nursing some schnapps and a grudge, or for lounging comfortably with fellow negativists, all properly lubricated and hunkered down together, bemoaning whatever harsh stroke of fate sent them here and together beginning a long night's journey into day. You can park safely in the rear just past the sign that reads "ParkingVegetables" and beneath the commanding billboard that warns, "Winners Don't Drink and Drive."