Thursday, December 21, 2017

Basically Everything -- Worcester, MA

Hilton Garden Inn -- You weren't impressed.  Maybe there's some place better, maybe not.  It's apparently in the heart of "downtown" but you wouldn't know from walking around.  Also, what the heck is up with the parking lot across the street smelling like rancid grease all the time?

The White Eagle -- With a linoleum counter and keno on the big screen, this place belongs next to a trailer park, in a good way.  But it's not, so skip it next time.  (If a trailer park sprouts up, right next to it, the clientele will lend the perfect vibe, and you should try it again.)

Banner Bar & Grille -- Meh.  Kind of a typical sports bar.  I mean, it was kind of interesting that while you were there a bunch of Santas (apparently some running club) showed up and sang a song and then took off.  But how often does that happen?

Dive Bar -- Yes it's actually called that, and to their credit, they were the only bar you visited that didn't have their overhead lights turned all the way up.  The selection of beers was alright, though all the IPAs you had were those cloudy unfiltered types that you don't exactly love.  But then again, they were playing Star Wars on a big TV over the bar.  That's worth something, right?

Railers Sports Tavern -- Skip it next time.  I mean, I don't want to sound like a cheapskate, but $10.75 for an 8 oz IPA is a little steep.  That doesn't make me sound like a cheapskate does it?  It kind of does, but really, ten bucks for half a pint?  Okay I'll drop it.  Anyway, skip this place next time.

Pizzeria Uno -- Might as well mention it, since it's conveniently attached to the Hilton Garden Inn where you were staying.  This is, sadly, the safest bet.  Everything here is just short of mediocre, but at least it's predictable, and in the winter it was the only place that had their heat turned up to a sensible level.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Dickens -- London, England

Not bad at all.  Naturally, this being Paddington, it's a well-lit establishment.  But it's okay.  They have a good selection of beers, and you like the Punk IPA.  Make sure to go into the back part of the place.  At first glance it looks like a small pub, but there's more through the doorway.  On cold nights, it's almost essential that you get away from the front doors, even if they've got the space heater right there, on full blast.

Neil Gwynn -- London, England

You like this place.  It's in a tiny alley, and the bar is small, but what happens is half the customers are inside, and half the customers are outside in the alley smoking and drinking.  It's kind of like Small Bar used to be, when smokers could loiter in the side walkway, or out front at the tables.  Of course now you can't do that at Small Bar.  Thanks a lot, preachy California busybodies.  I mean, I don't even smoke anymore, but I do appreciate an establishment where smokers are welcome as long as they aren't bothering other patrons.  This bar is one of those places.  Also, the bartenders are nice and snarky, so there's that going for it.

The Victoria (Paddington) -- London, England

Wow, there are a dozen pubs called Victoria in this town.  Long live the queen.  This one's a pretty chill pub, full of locals, and Wednesday is pub quiz.  (It's impossible, if you're not up on English current events.)

Monkey Puzzle -- London, England

Not bad, but not my first choice.  Sure, all the pubs in this area are well-lit and pretty clean -- there are no dive bars -- but this one has carpet.  Nonetheless, a great place to have Guinness and write postcards.

Central Wash -- London, England

This works.  Clean, well lit, and attended full-time.  Note: no need to go with the "fast wash" as the normal one only takes twenty-five minutes.  It's not like elsewhere in Europe where they have the Miele machines that take forever.

Hotel Norfolk Towers -- London, England

Skip it.  For some reason, right after swiping your card, they notified you that they require a copy of your ID as well.  So ... identity theft, anyone? Pick a nearby chain instead.  Also, the fancied-up grass-bar has no taps.

Blind Tiger -- New York, NY

You liked this place, especially because it has lots of craft beers -- a rarity in New York where choices are usually centered around Budweiser and Brooklyn Lager.  It was a bit crowded, but two seats opened up pretty quickly.

Milano's Bar -- New York, NY

A fantastic dive.  The bartender was attentive and sassy -- skipping songs on the internet-connected jukebox, unceremoniously.  They have Fernet, and they know how to use it, so have Lyft queued up with your hotel destination, just in case.

New Absolute Laundromat -- New York, NY

With a name like that, this place should rock!  It was okay.  Plenty of machines, clean, and open late.  The attendant guy was angry, but if you imagine it's a parody, you can quietly laugh to yourself.

Hyatt Place New York Midtown South -- New York

This one was alright, but try the Hyatt Herald Square, first.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Cambria Hotel & Suites -- Plano-Frisco, TX

Get the salmon.  Is that weird to start a hotel review with a food recommendation?  The rooms are the good kind of boring, they have modern climate control, the walk-in shower is fun, the carpet is new, and there's a mini fridge.  (It made noise, so I unplugged it.)  One of the nicest things though, is that they have an actual kitchen -- with an actual "chef" rather than a "cook" -- as well as four local beers on tap.  It's a no-brainer to decide where to do those expense reports.

Colony Wash & Dry -- Plano, TX

Clean.  Open twenty-four hours.  Post office across the street!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sports Page -- Mountain View, CA

You like this place.  Inches from the Google campus, there's a conspicuous absence of entitled tech bros here.  End-of-day debrief with a colleague?  Waiting out traffic with a friend who can't split lanes?  This is the place.

SpringHill Suites, San Jose Airport -- San Jose, CA

Of all the mid-range places I've stayed in the valley, this one works better than most.

In the pro column: the hotel's grass bar is decent, and even has beers on tap.  You can get instant ramen in the lobby, and your room has a microwave.  There's a swimming pool that's not full of rug rats.  It's right by the freeway.  If you don't mind a couple blocks' stumble, there are restaurants and a dive bar a few blocks south by south-east.

In the con column: the in-room coffee makers are old (though there's coffee in the lobby).  The on-site laundry will do a number on your clothes -- like, the "warm" dryer setting is super hot.  And they charge $15 per night for parking.

I say go for it, as long as it doesn't make your commute too bad.  You can split lanes, after all.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bright & Clean Laundromat -- San Carlos, CA

Sure.  Cute table with chairs.  Maybe try the jazz next-door, after.

Pullman Hotel -- Redwood City, CA

If you're stuck around here, this is the place to stay.  They're doing a "refresh" through 2017, and the bar is relocated to a temporary location, but the refugee bar somehow works, likely because the bar staff is fantastic.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Vera's Laundromat -- Phoenix, AZ

Yep.  Clean, tidy, reasonably priced.  But why am I out here?

Hotel Valley Ho -- Scottsdale, AZ

This is definitely the place to stay if you're in the region.  It's worth a twenty-five minute commute to the work site, to be some place real.  There's a good run along the canal -- not the most exciting scenery -- but you only have to brave two crosswalks for a 10k round-trip.

Also, the hotel bar is nice, though sometimes loud.

There's a pool party thing on Saturday and Sunday that's fascinating to watch.  It's a total bro-fest though, so steel yourself.  Nice pool.

Parking costs extra, but here's a secret: park on 68th where Main street would run into it, if it continued that far.  There's an opening in the wall and presto, you're right at the front door.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Local Bar -- San Antonio, TX

Have you finally found a bar in downtown San Antonio that's not pointless?  Maybe.  Service folks seem to come here after work, so that's a point in its favor.

On the other hand, some idiot just played an hour's-worth of anthem rock on the touchtunes jukebox.  No matter how well you're paid, you can only justify so many "priority plays" of Black Keys and Rolling Stones before you realize that the tidal wave of crap music will just keep coming.  (Note to self: play Rick Astley on their jukebox once you're safely back at the hotel.)

The bartenders are cool though, and you have professional hearing protection, so what's the big deal?  Plug your ears and write some reviews.

Cowabunga -- San Antonio, TX

This bar belongs in Portland.  There are no taps, just palettes of cheap canned beer.  Tweakers swing by after being eighty-sixed elsewhere, while trannies sip umbrella drinks.  The bartender likes being a bartender -- but really doesn't give a crap.

The Texan II -- San Antonio, TX

This bar belongs in Portland.  Bike hooks in back.  Full of perky hip youngsters.  The bartender likes being a bartender -- but would rather it wasn't about people demanding beers, as opposed to pouring them when the inspiration hits.

Last Word -- San Antonio, TX

Basement craft-cocktail bar
  won't last,
 if hipsters can't get cell service.

Home2 -- San Antonio, TX

Best bet, even if it makes your commute thirty minutes.  There's stuff walking distance.  Park at Houston Street Garage.  For a run down the River Walk, avoid the crowds by going St Mary's, Villita, Jack White Way, west bank.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Drury Inn "NW Medical Center" -- San Antonio, TX

In case you've never stayed at a Drury, which you obviously hadn't when you booked it, this is basically the calibre of multi-story chain motel you'd expect to find lining the dicey, abandoned Airport Boulevard in Anytown, USA.  Checking in after ten PM, you're going to need to pass your ID and credit card through the bulletproof window tray, to register.

Due to the random car window smashing (nothing stolen necessarily, just broken) there are floodlights aimed at the parking lot.  Also, there are random piles of empty beer cans here and there in the lot.  But those lights have a broad spread, and come right through the windows of even the sixth floor.  On the bright side you can save some energy by not needing to turn on your room lights at all.  Save the earth.

And then there's the adversarial relationship with the restaurant that shares the same parking lot.  The front desk staff warn you that if you park in front of the restaurant you will be towed.  They're very clear about it, because apparently the restaurant does actually tow hotel guests if they park across the invisible line that delineates some petty dispute between restaurant and hotel managers.

Stay downtown and deal with a twenty minute commute, instead.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hyatt Place Downtown -- San Jose, CA

Have you ever stayed some place awesome, within the limits of your company's T&E policy?  Well, get used to disappointment.  It's walking distance to "downtown."  Though, it's only a block from the Guadalupe Creek Trail, so there's that.

Quickwash Laundry -- San Jose, CA

Well, the machines belong in a museum, but they work just fine.  They're the odd style that take a custom chip-card thing -- but then the vending machine is broken -- but then the attendant is happy to take cash and use the card that he's got, so it's all fine.  This place is near SJSU, so brace yourself for that, but it's got a five-spot parking lot dedicated to it, which is lucky.  Nice big folding tables, by the way.  Pizza across the street.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mugshots -- Austin, TX

Downtown?  Done with sixth street?  Go here.  No, go here first.

Hilton Garden Inn NW/Arboretum -- Austin, TX

Try Home2, first.  This place is a great fallback, though.

The highway noise is noticeable even on the *back* side of the building, so you definitely don't want the front.  The nearest place for a beer -- Bone Daddy Barbecue, across the parking lot -- closes at ten.

If the traffic/timing is good, go running down by the Colorado River (park at Deep Eddy municipal pool).  Or go back to the Walnut Creek trail.  Some days the difference in drive time is only ten minutes, and it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

SpinCycle Coin Laundry (Guadalupe) -- Austin, TX

Pinball!  Tidy, affordable, plenty of machines.  "Nasty's" for a beer after.

Home2 -- Austin, TX

Actually, if you're stuck up north of Austin, this place is pretty good!  It's nice and quiet.  The wifi works.  You're walking distance from a two-block-long Car2Go service area, so you can theoretically get to downtown and back.  Also, you can stumble down to the "Detour" bar -- though part of the stumble involves no sidewalk, so save some battery power for the flashlight app.

For a running route, you'll need to drive, but it's ten minutes to the Walnut Creek trailhead.  Take two Gatorades, because when you finish your run, you'll want to hang out for a bit and watch all the softball teams who use the fields right there by the trailhead.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Aloft -- Santa Clara, CA

Some executive gets the idea that they'll take the economics of a Motel 6, dress the place up, and sell it to millennials.  This is the half-assed result you get.  Somewhere there's an executive getting promoted for being a genius.

Do not let the proximity to the Coyote Creek Trail fool you.

Gnats everywhere.  Ventilation that won't turn off, and that makes a total racket.  Blackout curtains only.  Methane alarm in the hallway.  And there is no ramen in the "country store."

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mother Hubbard's -- Chicago, IL

If you're stuck around here, this could be your best bet.  Local service folk check-in here after their shifts, which always bodes well for a place.  They have TVs on every flat surface, including one that is basically only visible by the bartenders themselves, so bring the universal remote.  It was fine on a Wednesday, but the whole area probably becomes bro-town Thursday through Saturday.

No one bothers you.  But you got tired of the place after a couple hours, so who knows what was up with that.

Coin-Op Laundry -- Milpitas, CA

Yep.  Nice and tidy little place.  Twenty-four hours.  Dryers are four minutes per quarter, but they seem to run warm, so you might not need more than twenty minutes.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Yo-Yo Coin Laundromat -- Chicago, IL

Yeah, sure.  The machines are antique, but cheap.  A double-load washer is only $3.  You get eleven minutes of drying for a quarter.  There are tons of machines, and no contention.  Also, there is a coin-op mechanical pony ride.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Corked -- Bethlehem, PA

Works for me.  Lots of beer.  The salmon dish is enormous.

Hotel Bethlehem -- Bethlehem, PA

You like this place.  If you're stuck working anywhere within thirty minutes' driving distance, it's worth the extra commute to stay some place real.  There are plenty of bars within stumbling distance, and the hotel bar is fine ... and they have jazz on Thursdays.  They have a kitchen.  The salmon was good one day, and totally salty another. Anadromous species ... can't make up their minds ... am I right?

It's a couple blocks from the D & L trail.

Oh, they charge seven dollars a night for parking.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Joe's Tavern -- Bethlehem, PA

This place was fun!  Uhm, what you remember of it.  I'm not sure what scope of law covers it, but smoking is permitted indoors at this place.  The bartender said they're grandfathered in, somehow.  Nice locals drinking here.  There's a TouchTunes jukebox, and no clear winner in terms of most-played genre.  Now, where can I find a cleaner to get the smell out of everything I was wearing?

Yamhill Pub -- Portland, OR

Finally, a dive bar that doesn't need that in quotes.  The floor is messed up, the seats have stuffing coming out of them, the guy on your left just arranged to sleep on the couch of his friend three seats down on your right.  Some other customers are matter-of-factly discussing needing to find some coke.  Also, there's a pinball machine.  And it's two blocks from the Hotel Rose.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Westin Washington Dulles -- Herndon, VA

You can do better.  (I don't care how convenient this place looks on a map.)  For instance:

* They charge $10 a day for wifi
* There is an air vent in your room that is always running its fan, no matter what.
* The bar has a weird muzak channel that basically plays soul-less covers of pop.  Cuban Coldplay!
* There is nothing nearby.  You must drive.

This could be your fall-back.  But not your first choice.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lyman's Tavern -- Washington, DC

Well, you found the hipsters.  Hooray, you!  But you also found some fun pinball machines.  I think they rotate the beers around -- the drafts all suck -- but you can probably find a bottled beer that is okay.  Or, I guess you could give up and drink PBR.  The brand is enshrined in knick-knacks and metal signs and neon and ... well, you know this place.  It's that place.

Good for an hour or two of playing the crazy Pabst Can Crusher pinball machine.  (Which, incidentally, dates back to only 2016.  Brilliant fake retro.  In fact, don't follow that link.)

If you bring a friend, it could be a whole evening.  Lyft it.  The tasty beers are high ABV.

Vük -- Bethesda, MD

Hell yes!  They bill themselves first as a pinball arcade, and only second mention that they have pizza.  The machines are totally and dearly loved, too.  There's a spiral notebook in which you can leave comments like "release of the ball from the spaceship lock GDTM, may need rebalancing."  I think GDTM is "Goes Down the Middle"  And then they fix it, and log that too.

Any time you're stuck in Bethesda, this is a great place to get some pepperoni and play some flipper.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Hyatt Regency -- Bethesda, MD

Okay, well, what choice do you have?  I mean, basically I could just stop right there and tag this one as "under forty."  No, really.  Might as well.  The stuff near your work site isn't near any kind of restaurants or pubs or cultuire.  The other hotels in the region of real stuff, well, suck worse.

Okay, the plus side!  There's stuff like the Vük pinball arcade, and the Harp and Fiddle that are great.  So.  If you get stuck here, look those two places up.

Okay, now let's be pragmatic.  The Hyatt's ninth floor has been renovated, I know that one, so request a floor there.  Also, there are two "up" buttons for the elevator and you need to hit both -- one of them is the two elevators on the right (one of which is out of order) and the other one is the newer elevator on the left that works and is speedy.  So hit them both and hope you get the one on the left.  The coffee at the Daily Grill is awful -- but sometimes they're out, and you kind of dodge a bullet, in a really screwed up way.  Especially screwed up because if they're out, people will tell you "hey Dunkin Donuts is right downstairs."  It is, actually.  Wow.  Push the button.

So yeah that's basically it.  You have to stay here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Barking Dog -- Bethesda, MD

Nice local pub, stumbling distance form the Hyatt Regency.  They've got a bunch of stuff on tap.  Apparently Thursday is karaoke night.  (Bring hearing protection.)  They have a kitchen, too, but I have no idea about that.  You could go here again.