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Pub draw

Macho grub at Fuzzy's Place, Rusty Nail and Woofs

When I was a kid living outside Philadelphia, my father would sometimes take me to his "club." I'd climb onto a bar stool next to him and order a ginger ale into which I'd dip pretzels. Occasionally, I'd play darts, or I'd run downstairs where there was a market. The owner enjoyed scaring the hell out of me by displaying his false tooth on the end of his tongue.

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I don't go to pubs much now, since, having imbibed way too much in my 20s, I quit drinking soon after I turned 30. But when I do go to a pub, I invariably become nostalgic for my father's club. I like the clean design and flat-screen TVs of contemporary watering holes, but the woody, kitsch-laden and beer-soaked walls of retro clubs are more comfortable to me. The televisions must be old-style and they must be tuned constantly to a game of some sort. There should now and then be live music by bands you've never heard of. The urinal ideally should be surrounded by graffiti detailing what the writer plans to do if he ever finds Britney Spears in his bed.

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I hit three such pubs last week. My first and favorite was Fuzzy's Place (2015 N. Druid Hills Road, 404-321-6166). I was actually directed here by my nephew, a former garage-band-star-turned-chef-turned-teacher of handicapped children.

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Fuzzy's is mainly patronized by folks beyond 50, though its nearly nightly performances by blues and rock bands does attract college-age customers, too. But here's the best part: Joe Dale, the city's original Cajun chef, designed the menu here. Although the food is not A-plus, it's way better than the average bar food in this town.

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During our visit, Wayne and I both ordered from the evening's specials. A sign on the wall near the restroom announces that crab cakes are extra-special here and I have to agree that the one we sampled, with a spicy tartar sauce, was far better than the usual gooey mess of crab slivers and breading served around town. The grilled patty is full of lump crab meat and, for the quality, is bargain-priced at $6.95. The cakes are available as a pair for an entree.

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My own starter, shrimp bisque, was less satisfying. The soup itself was smooth and peppery and full of shrimp. But the shrimp had been too long in the broth and were mainly overcooked.

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Wayne ordered an entree of funky-sounding grouper in a Parmesan crust. It was actually very good, served with rice and some green beans, overcooked Southern-style. My own entree, an 8-Ounce filet with a red-wine mushroom sauce was a shock. It was an excellent piece of beef for only $13.95. It also came with the green beans and a scoop of mashed potatoes. OK, the mushroom sauce needs work, but otherwise it was as good as I've paid twice the amount for.

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My favorite of the evening was the huge serving of bourbon-soaked bread pudding. That's as close as I got to having a drink.

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Service in the place is terrific and Abigail is herewith declared Co-Waitron of the Week, along with Nick, mentioned below.

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Our next visit was the nearby Rusty Nail (2900 Buford Highway, 404-634-6306). They don't do live music here, but they have a gigantic black barbecue smoker out front that's shaped like a gun. A wisp of smoke constantly emerges, as if it's just been fired at the hideous view across the street.

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Inside, you find a circular bar with walls of wooden spindles and suspended clunker televisions. Here, the threats to Britney Spears are by the toilet instead of the urinal, but this sign over the sink made me instantly love the place: "Never underestimate the stupidity of an asshole with a cell phone."

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Yes!

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Wayne is enough of a regular here that Nick asked him if he was having his usual burger. I assured him that he was not, since I wanted to try other menu items. (The burgers are great.)

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Wayne got the day's special of spaghetti with meat sauce, a tossed salad and bread. It tasted just like the spaghetti you make when you arise from your bed at 2 a.m. with desperate munchies and there's nothing but some pasta, frozen hamburger and a bottle of Paul Newman's sauce in the house. In other words: It was good, sort of.

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My own special, the beef brisket plate, was better. It was served with a decent barbecue sauce but, honestly, there was too much fat in the brisket for my taste. I like it super-lean. Here, it's sliced thin and chopped, so it's hard to cut the fat out. A side of mashed potatoes was topped with an unpleasant, bottled-tasting gravy. A second side of navy bean and ham soup was yummy.

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Dessert of homemade hummingbird cake would have been much better had it not been served nearly ice-cold.

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Finally, I visited Woofs (2425 Piedmont Road, 404-869-9422). Woofs bears the distinction of being the city's first gay sports bar. It's got pool tables, plenty of televisions, wood walls, a cozy bar and — you'll be shocked — absolutely no allusions to Britney Spears in the bathroom.

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I went alone to Woofs for lunch and I have to say that it was no easy matter to get served here. The place was nearly empty, but the bartender — otherwise pleasant and funny as hell — just couldn't seem to get it together to take my order. I finally pled to order and he whipped out his pen and pad.

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Unfortunately, my Reuben sandwich was a mess. It was made with cheap, processed-tasting corned beef and was absolutely soaked in grease. Fries were limp and also greasy. I ate a burger here some months ago that was pretty good, so I'm inclined to suggest you stick to that.

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cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com



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