By: Raul Parra
Email: rp@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: ParraPalliative

Out of my side vision (for you Kat Williams fans) I spy him,  barb wire tat, mesh trucker hat with some ironic slogan on it (“I’m with stupid… and it’s your mom).  He proudly slides another dollar into the internet juke box.  I can’t see what he’s typing.  I can only imagine the auditory onslaught I am about to feel.  The over produced voice of Ke$ha… the weak one syllable rhyme schemes of Mr. West (Best, Rest, Crest…. Chest.), or Nickelback.  Just Nickelback, that’s its own insult.  In the future we will be saying things like, “Loser? Dudes a Nickelback…”

The Bro waddles back to his own babbling tribe.  I over hear the word ‘Bomb’ with a idiotic mumbled prefix in front of it.  I just realized I am at a Bro Bar.  There are Heineken signs on the wall.  Another brightly colored advertisement informs me that if I bring my own fishbowl on Thursday nights… they’ll fill it with any color alcohol I choose for only $10.50.   I bury my face in my drink and try to sip the last of my $12 ‘craft beer’…. “bro… they’re leinenkugel fireside nut brown ales…. killer.”.

I glance up.  The Bro Bunch is singing now and when I see the dude with the wallet chain and Affliction t-shirt reach for his Skol Dip, I make a run for it.  I jut passed something that looks like a Snooki and narrowly avoid the skinny jean-skateboarder-rapper-graphic designer-t shirt maker-blogger-DJ-I listened to Dub Step first- dude.  Through the door now I see street lights and hear traffic.

I’m walking across a frozen tundra of urban desolation. There are buildings and structures and there seem to be shapes moving in them.  Bumbling potato sack people grasping at brightly colored shapes.  Strip malls abound.  They’re exactly that, STRIP malls,  they have stripped my glorious town of personality and integrity.  Were does a modern man seek adventure?  Where can he boast of his tales?  Is there no mead hall fit for his songs of victory and iniquity?  These thoughts swirled around in my head, colored smoke that seemed obscure my vision.  Here I was on the famed Route 66… and I was bored and disgusted with my surroundings.

Just then, without warning or notice, the smell hits me.  The sweet and sappy smell of hardwood burning in the distant ink black night…. chicken flesh being charred to absurd level deliciousness.  A smile creeps across my face.  I just realized what I have been missing.  It was calling to me… beckoning me.  I will obey.

The front of Cigars and Stripes (6715 Ogden Ave, Berwyn, Il, 60402) is unassuming enough, unless of course you walk passed on one of the nights were the 8ft Frankenstein’s Monster is hanging out in front… smoking his stogie.  If that’s enough to scare you off, you will miss all of the smoked BBQ glory that awaits you inside.  If Dracula had a frat house… this is it.  Colored lights pour their saccharine slime on beer bottles and the slithering rapscallions that occupy every inch of the halo shaped bar.  Neon lights extend their icy grip across the haggard floor, itching to grab a boot or perhaps a leather high heel.  As your eyes drift to and fro… up ward and on ward… you will spy many a curious object.  Skulls, half naked women, a velvet Elvis painting and a myriad of other strange relics.  You have some how peeled back the fabric of space/time and peered into the very soul of a tricked out hot-rod.

THIS is a bar.

The heart of that bar? A collection of craft beers at your drinking disposable and the most succulent BBQ you have every dreamed of, you get the impression this was put together for just for  you.  Carefully selected with the utmost care to ensure maximum beer orgasm.  It’s hard to imagine that just a decade ago Cigars and Stripes was a place to just pick up your stogies and hot sauce.  If you were lucky enough to own a low rider or hot rod,  you could take care of all your custom paint jobs as well.  Ronnie Lottz (the ring leader of The Cigars and Stripes circus, AKA Bar Owner), might very well be Berwyn’s only Renaissance Man.  His bio reads like a man walking the line of artisan and mad man.  Custom Car illustrator, BBQ specialist, one time Professional Wrestling manager and now illustrious bar owner.  I know what you are thinking, what do these past occupations have in common and how could they lead to creating the ideal night spot?

According to Mr. Lottz, each one of those past lives played an indispensable role in the creation of C&S.  When you hear him reminisce about hanging with his wrestlers on the west side of Chicago and traveling across the country getting a first hand education on BBQ, you can literally see the spark in his eye.  That spark indicates a deep love for what he is doing… and no one does it better.

“Good food is culture… not technique…” he says.

That’s exactly what Ronnie and his staff are doing, creating their own culture to share with the world and in this world of five dollar foot longs, cardboard pizza, ice cold chicken wings from B-Scrubs and stale seven dollar Miller Lites.. we need you more than ever Mr. Lottz.

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