Monday, February 13, 2006

The Red Lion

The short press conference last week about the progress of the Biograph Theater redevelopment wasn’t held in the shell of the Biograph, since that’s still a husk of a building without heat. Instead, we met at the Red Lion Pub across the street.

No streamlined blonde woods, black leather chairs, track lighting or enormous mirrors for this place. The Red Lion was one long bar, a nondescript floor, a ceiling with a lot of water stains, and two long walls crammed with whatever might make you think of Britain. Along with the usual large collection of alcohol behind the bar, a top shelf held more toby mugs than I remember ever seeing in one place: Shakespeare, Robin Hood, a bobby, a British judge complete with wig, Sherlock Holmes, one that looked like Field Marshal Montgomery, and others.

Elsewhere, there were fox hunting prints, ads for an assortment of real British pubs (including a Red Lion) and beers, a large map of the Underground, a print of an etching of London in the 1600s, souvenir plates with various British faces—and the Three Stooges, too—a Welch flag, an old Illinois vanity license plate with the letters HRRUMPF, and a pith helmet displayed in a glass box. Back toward the back was a red-and-black British phone booth that looked like the real thing. Off in one corner was a set of the condensed Oxford English Dictionary, an item I’ve never seen in a bar before.

The menu had things you’d expect, such as beans on toast, fish and chips and ploughman’s lunch, along with “American pub snacks.” I didn’t get to try anything, but if I go again, maybe I’ll have the bangers and mash with a pint of something or other. I didn’t get close enough to the draught handles to see what they had, except for Guinness.

The place has a web site, of course. If you click on the page’s History button, the "Beer Prayer" pops up. Not original to the Red Lion, naturally, but it fits in with the mood of the place:

Our lager,
Which art in barrels,
Hallowed be thy drink.
Thy will be drunk,
(I will be drunk),
At home as in the tavern.
Give us this day our foamy head,
And forgive us our spillages,
As we forgive those who spill against us.
And lead us not to incarceration,
But deliver us from hangovers.
For thine is the beer, The bitter and The lager.
Forever and ever,


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