It was the right kind of dark when I came into Pickles Pub. The bar area wasn’t sun-lit, but there was no question that the ambient light was directly related to the time of day. It was barely noon, and the people at the bar sat with their backs to the window to minimize the light interference. Still, it had what I call a good day drinking vibe. Day drinking sometimes gets a bad rap because it conjures pictures of smoky rooms and drunk old man falling off bars, but there’s another way to day drink and that’s the kind I prefer on my Happy Hour Adventures.
See, summer in Ocean City means many if not most people are on vacation. While the day to day rules for living don’t evaporate while you’re on vacation they are really malleable. When I go into bars in Ocean City during the winter at one o’clock or so there aren’t a lot of people at the bar. Patrons usually are having lunch sitting around tables drinking soda. Beers at the bar at noon or earlier are a particularly summertime event.
The thing I tend to prefer about Pickles Pub is that the bartenders always are friendly. They catch your eye even when it’s busy, which is always a sign of a good bartender if you didn’t know. Lots of places especially in Ocean City and especially in the summertime get insanely busy. It’s unwise to go to a bar and not expect to sit for a bit before you get served, but a good bartender will catch your eye and let you know that they know that you’re there. Oftentimes they don’t say anything because “I’ll be right with you” can sound dismissive, especially when it’s busy. In this case, the people who were there before me had ordered at the same time and Jonnie McGrath was busy pouring beers and taking orders. While most of us had just a beer, a couple people were having lunch at the bar.
That’s another particular pleasure but not enough people remember. Maybe it’s an old guy thing but if I’m going to a bar at lunchtime I’m having lunch at the bar. A beer, and something that comes with a side of fries is the perfect way to really enjoy your lunch.
Jonnie squared up with everyone at the bar as she was in the middle of doing and came to take my order. I ordered the Fin City. It came in a 3rd Wave glass. Later on I would have the 3rd Wave in a Fin City glass, which just amused me. Glasses are kind of interchangeable at a bar, but when you’re a beer writer it’s always kind of weird, like you don’t want to take a picture of a Fin City beer and tweet a picture of it in a 3rd Wave glass. That’s why I had two, no one can tell the difference, then. I’m the kind of journalist who is willing to take one for the team. Especially if that one is a second beer.
She left me to my own devices and I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. They were Irish and if you haven’t struck up a conversation with some of the international students in Ocean City especially at a bar it’s always a pleasure. These guys have the right idea and it’s something that really a lot more people should consider. If you don’t know many if not most of the international students are actually on vacation. They have a kind of pay-as-you-go policy where they come and they work for their keep over the course of the summer tending bar or waiting tables or delivering pizzas, and on top of their 40 hour week they have a vacation. It made me a little jealous not only because they were traveling internationally but because they were young enough to accommodate a full on beach vacation on top of 40 hour work week.
The guys were planning day trips and working out how to get to DC or New York or Baltimore during their stay. They were having just two pints themselves, while their laundry was doing next-door. Sean Mohan, got up a couple times to check the laundry. His friends gave him a hard time because of his apparent paranoia, but when I told him that sometimes people do mess with clothes (it happened to me) they got really indignant. They were personally offended at the lowness of that kind of laundry violation,that anyone would mess with anyone else’s clothes. Of course they were right, but having known them over only a few minutes I felt as if I had to reassure them a bit. My laundry violation was committed in Delmar. I explained that, to be fair, that’s kind of what I get for using a laundromat in Delmar.
The other good thing about day drinking is, if you have the calories available, you can treat yourself to something fried in the afternoon. At some level you want to have what Pickles Pub is famous for and named after. The fried pickles are always a pleasure they never turn out to be anything but awesome, but there’s lots of other great bar food. It’s really a kind of central part of what they do.
Although I can recommend everything fried, it’s important to know that Pickles has lunches and proper food as well. As I mentioned, there was a gentleman there who was enjoying his lunch with a beer at the bar, but it looked as if the guy across the way might have been having dinner. He spoke with an accent that I couldn’t place and had a steak or some sort of large knife-and-fork meal out there at 11:45 on a Tuesday morning. He was my hero. You get the impression that he’d finished up his overnight shift, worked a little morning overtime and was ready to enjoy a meal before heading home and catching a nap. Alternatively maybe he’s just the kind of guy who has two beers and a massive steak for lunch and goes back and does whatever the very manly do for a living after lunch.
The outside of Pickles, though, is something that’s often underrated. They have a few tables outside and it’s mostly in the shade. As evening comes on has kind of a best of both worlds vibe. On the one hand you get the sun setting over the bay you don’t see hit at the water but you do see it going down and watch the sky go from blue to pink to red to black. You can distract yourself by the by watching the parade of cars go by. Watching downtown Ocean City life happen on the streets, as people scamper across on their way to the beach, young people in cars preen and couples make their way up and down Philadelphia Ave. on the way to whatever they’re going to do that evening makes it feel as if the show is being put on just for you.