You may not find a hookah-smoking caterpillar or the Cheshire cat at Alice's Lounge, but you'll stumble upon a number of other characters at this Avondale wonderland. This bar brings in a range of folks interested in four things: cheap beer, friendly service, friendly patrons and karaoke.
Karaoke nights (Tuesdays and Saturdays) bring in the largest crowds. Good luck finding a table, as a group of women usually fills the two near the windows. The only available barstools stay so for a reason; people eventually grow tired of moving out of the way for the few guests playing pool. The dearth of seating encourages you to mingle with guests, many of whom dance to sure-shot party jams like Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." If you're planning on singing tunes by R.E.M. or Natalie Merchant, add some funk to your delivery unless you want to put the crowd to sleep. You'll know you're doing a lousy job when the DJ sings backup and throws on a pair of giant glasses and a marijuana-leaf lei just to keep the audience's attention.
The wood basing, long bar and fuzzy television sets illustrate the lounge's behind-the-times approach; the bar has changed little in its 65-plus years of business. This doesn't keep the younger crowd away, though; you'll see them giving high fives to the older Puerto Rican dude serenading his wife with Blood Sweat and Tears' "You've Made Me So Very Happy."
At night's end, you'll leave having made some new friends. Don't be surprised if Saul Valentin, a blue-collar worker who puts in almost 70 hours a week, becomes one of them. After returning your wallet you left at the bar (where beers start at $2) he reminds you that, "Money ain't nothing. It's what you got in your heart that counts."
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez