Which are quintessentially American sodas and bars snacks?
March 26, 2004 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Which are the truly, undeniably American sodas and bar snacks?

In June, a very good friend of mine will be taking over (just managing, no financial responsibilities) a well-known bar in Lisbon which has been fading for a few years now and desperately needs reanimation. His idea is to make it a high-octane, unsnobbish and popular American bar. He's already got a wide selection of beers and bourbons, readily available here, as well as a nice cocktail list. But he'd like to import typically American bar snacks (only German pretzels here) and soft drinks, to grab his customers and create an authentic atmosphere.

Given that it will be relatively expensive to do so, which would be the quintessentially American sodas and nibbles he should go for? All I could come up with was root beer (what brand?) and Dr. Pepper but, having no experience of these things, I have no idea whether they're typical.

What non-perishable (i.e. vacuum-packed) American snacks would be popular or enticing? Thank you beforehand for any suggestions you might have.

Also, is there anything atmosphere-wise, that you could think of? You know, magazines, TV channels, posters...
posted by MiguelCardoso to Food & Drink (66 answers total)
I'll say check out Pop Soda first. As far as sodas, try to get a variety, like from the southern RC cola and (from my hometown) Double Cola (horrible site) and Ginger Ale from Northern Neck. They're not typical, but they unique soda to the U.S.

As far as bar foods, try bloomin' onions and buffalo wings
posted by mkelley at 7:02 AM on March 26, 2004

Pretzels are good, but not the big fluffy German kind...the small crunchy Mr. Pretzel kind. Smoked almonds are also good. Avoid anything with a shell because they inevitably get on the floor and become a hazard. No pistachios or peanuts. Goldfish crackers are good too. Cheap salty snacks that are given away free are always a good way to go, they seem to magically translate into more beer sales.

I like bars that keep a stock of games around. Chess board, dominoes, scrabble, deck of cards and cribbage board, etc. Don't have the music too loud, also. People want to converse!
posted by vito90 at 7:17 AM on March 26, 2004

Here it is: Cheap peanuts (free, in bowls on the bar). Bags of pretzels and chips (crisps to you; plain, bbq, whatever) behind the bar on a rack on the wall, perpetually sold-out of the favorite flavor, priced at your equivalent of .50 or a buck. Maybe a popcorn machine in the corner (popcorn is inexpensive and customers can help themselves for free.) What oh posey said. These the are true (iconic?) staples of the American Dive Bar.
posted by Shane at 7:18 AM on March 26, 2004

You might suggest Birch Beer (like root beer). It's maybe more of a southern thing, but it's an older, unusual soda.

Peanuts and assorted nuts can also be pretty popular, since the salt works well with the drinking.

I second the blooming onion and buffalo wing suggestions. Blooming onions only came about, afaik, with the rise of a faux-australian chain of steakhouses, and they have a calorie count in the 5 digits, but they're delicious.
posted by bshort at 7:18 AM on March 26, 2004

Typical American sodas: Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Sprite. Popular root beer brands are Barq's, A&W, and Mug.

(There are a whole host of less-popular sodas that are of better quality, but cheap and unnuanced is what you're looking for in the "typical" American style, right? Heh.)

As far as bar snacks go, they're honestly a myth, at least in the vast majority of clubs, pubs, and bar/grills I've been in. Who *honestly* wants to eat out of the same trough that countless other drunkards have put their filthy, diseased hands in? No thanks.

If you're referring to "foods also served at fine drinking establishment", you have different schools of thought. Sports bars (wherein people go to watch sports) frequently offer buffalo wings, hamburgers, french fries, and the like. More upscale operations will provide a menu with things like barbecued ribs or reuben sandwiches. The key to a successful sport bar is low-quality beer, loud televisions (each playing a different sports channel, all at the same volume), pool tables, maybe a busted Pac-Man arcade machine.

There are Irish (and faux-Irish) pubs that serve the usual American interpretation of Irish food: fish and chips, corned beef (with cabbage, or corned beef hash), boxty, etc. Typical environment includes traditional Irish folk music (or modern interpretations thereof) playing,

Then you have the All-American Bar/Grill deal. The run-o'-the-mill TGI Friday's/Ruby Tuesdays/Bradwick's/Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag. These are more restaurant than bar, though they will happily serve you liquor until you black out. Usual fare are things like potato skins, fried mozzarella sticks, nachos, quesadillas, along with a menu of more dinner-like entrees. These offer the atmosphere of annoying patronization, contrived cheer, and the waitstaff singing to people on their birthdays. <shudder>
posted by Danelope at 7:20 AM on March 26, 2004

Oh, and somewhere in there is the quintessential Club Sandwich, which may include one or more of the following: Turkey, bacon, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, on toasted bread.
posted by Danelope at 7:25 AM on March 26, 2004

First, as re: the food, enticing doesn't enter into it. Let the alcohol handle the enticing.

-- Pickled eggs
-- trail mix (mixed up pretzels, peanuts, Chex)
-- lots of posters from beer companies featuring SC women
-- sign behind the bar: In God We Trust. All Others Pay Cash.
-- Framed official portrait pair: Mayor Daley (1st) and Mike Ditka (Chicago only)
-- Dice and cup on the bar (for gambling purposes)
-- Ladies entrance around the side
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:26 AM on March 26, 2004

Bar food? I've got two words for you: Pork rinds.

They're good and good for you!
posted by SteveInMaine at 7:28 AM on March 26, 2004

Pretzels are good, but not the big fluffy German kind...the small crunchy Mr. Pretzel kind. Smoked almonds are also good. Avoid anything with a shell because they inevitably get on the floor and become a hazard. No pistachios or peanuts. Goldfish crackers are good too. Cheap salty snacks that are given away free are always a good way to go, they seem to magically translate into more beer sales.

Best thing ever, take all of those and combine into one. Call it "bar trash". Best ever. Or you could always just do Chex Mix.

As far as root beer, it comes down to personal preference. IBC is touted as the best widely available brand, and it probably is, but it's harder to find and more expensive than the others.

Of the main three (Barq's, A&W, Mug) I prefer the creamier and less bite-y taste of A&W. Mug is awful.

And second vito's idea for keeping games around. Trivial Pursuit is essential.

Maybe a jukebox loaded with popular American music from the past 50 years? Run the gamut from Elvis to Sonic Youth and you'll be doing well.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:30 AM on March 26, 2004

It's not America's most favourite soda (pop really since I'm from the Detroit area) but Vernor's ginger ale is one I'd recommend. It has a very distinctive flavour and is/has been quite popular in the Detroit area. You can even buy it at Amazon.com.
posted by substrate at 7:35 AM on March 26, 2004

SteveInMaine, thank god for you, I was beginning to think the US was entirely backward.
posted by biffa at 7:35 AM on March 26, 2004

Old black and white movie posters. Cut-outs of James Dean. Fonzie's leather jacket. Oh Wait! I guess this has all been done before at Planet Hollywood.

What type of America are you trying to invoke?

Chicago Gangster, red and white checked tablecloth, chianti in straw-bottomed bottles America?

Bruce Springsteen, red-dyed pistachios, working-class, Old Pabst Blue Ribbon and Rolling Rock America?

Yuppie-scum, hanging boston fern, blueberry martini, individual artichoke pizza America?

Bourbon Street, jazz playing, pork rind, mint julep, overhead fan America?

Tiki Room, mai tai in a skull, criss-cross paddle oars, flaming anything, Don Ho-listening, parrots in a cage America?

Outdoor-eating, Coors, chips and Salsa, Beach Boys, Sun tanned waiters named Lance, California roll America?

There are lots of Americas.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:36 AM on March 26, 2004 [1 favorite]

-- Pickled eggs

Flanders, back in the day, bars (especially in steel towns) kept hard-boiled eggs on the bar so the local workers could get some protein when they drank on their lunch hours or after work. I find that somehow quaint.
Sorry; /perpetually off-topic.
posted by Shane at 7:37 AM on March 26, 2004

If your friend wants to create the classic American dive bar, here are some good guidelines:

* No windows in the building. (Obviously, this may be hard to do, if building choice is already made.)
* Peeling, painted sign outside. At least two thirds of the time, the bar's name is the posessive form of a person's name. This person is often, but need not always be, the owner.
* Very few "good" beers on tap. Again, this is a place where you will have to deviate if you want to have people actually appreciate the bar, rather than the atmosphere. The vast bulk of the flow at a local dive bar is of the common American pilsners.
* Sodas are available only in cans, and generally you will have only Coke products, or only PepsiCo products. Coke is more common everywhere, but Pepsi increases in proportion in the southeast.
* Lots of neon lights, usually beer advertisements.
* A video poker machine on the bar.
* A run-down jukebox with no song in it less than 15 years old.
* One or two pool tables with psuedo-stainedglass beer-sponsored lighting over them.
* Maybe a dartboard, but that's straying dangerously close to the English Pub variety of bar, and away from dive-bar. Doing a Portugese interpretation of an American immitation of an English pub is just way too post modern for me to posit.
* Shane nailed the snack arena above. One thing to add, is that there's usually also a big, dusty gallon jar full of pickled eggs that no one ever really eats.
* And remember, if you're going for the dive-bar look, you don't want shabby-chic. You just want plain shabby.

These points are obviously centered toward the dive end of the scale, but to many people that is the iconic American bar. The other possibility is that you could go for the working-middle-class urban Cheers bar. If you want to do that, just go watch a couple episodes of Cheers and immitate everything. ;)
posted by jammer at 7:38 AM on March 26, 2004

You want the bar to have an "American" theme -- devise some fake corporation and make it seem as if this bar is a single franchisee under the umbrella of a larger, multi-national conglomerate. Give your drinks silly, corn-ball names, then put (tm) next to every one of them on your oversized, laminated menu. Force all employees to wear brightly colored vests that are festooned with buttons and pins (see "Office Space" for more details). Give your establishment a ridiculous mascot, preferably some sort of anthropomorphized food item urging the customer to eat it. And top this off with an unsubstantiated urban legend where a secret, ultra-religious group allegedly owns a large percentage of the "company"'s stock. Viola, you've got yourself an American establishment.
posted by herc at 7:47 AM on March 26, 2004

Pepsi increases in proportion in the southeast

That's exactly wrong.

posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:48 AM on March 26, 2004

Dr Pepper
Cool Ranch Doritios
Cheddar Cheese Nachos and Salsa
*whimpers some more*

Migsy, if your friend is going from the unique angle of "non-existant-in-Lisboa junk foods that an american ex-pat would sell their own mother for", I'd ask some foreign exchange students and local ex-pats.

Dr Pepper. I am so showing up on your doorstep Migs
posted by romakimmy at 7:58 AM on March 26, 2004

Maybe a dartboard, but that's straying dangerously close to the English Pub variety of bar, and away from dive-bar.

There's a way around that, though:

Actual cork dartboard w/actual metal-tipped darts = English pub

Electronic dartboard machine w/plastic-tipped darts = American dive bar

Ultimately, though, I have to agree with Secret Life of Gravy: decide which America you're trying to invoke first. Your choices will depend on that.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:03 AM on March 26, 2004

The "american" bar in dresden was called "Jim Beams." They had several large screen TVs and showed American Football, but also showed Soccer to get the crossover british crowd which is also plentiful in Germany. The atmosphere was lots of wood and brass, a few american decor items, but not over the top like a applebys or TGIFridays.

They served a full menu of food that included beef steaks (not pork), 'Rambo Ribs' with BBQ sauce, burgers, chili, and chips and salsa. I would have killed for a Dr. Pepper. Also, if he could actually get Coke and such FROM the states instead of using the German Coke, that would rock. They taste different. I almost completely stopped my consumption of soda in Germany and instead drank beer because of the flavor difference. My advice would be to spend money on the things ex-pats really miss, and to do those well.
posted by jopreacher at 8:17 AM on March 26, 2004

Migs, this might be of interest...
posted by vito90 at 8:21 AM on March 26, 2004

Sesame sticks go a long way.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:29 AM on March 26, 2004

Flanders is right. Coke comes from Atlanta.

In other parts of the Southeast, RC Cola was once king.
posted by bshort at 8:32 AM on March 26, 2004

jopreacher's right; get American Coca-Cola. It tastes different without US water in it (hey, I wonder if they use the same water in Coke as they do in Dasani...), not to mention the whole sugar-vesus-corn-syrup thing.

An American bar's gotta have buffalo wings, curly fries, and bloomin' onions, so tell your friend to invest in a fryer. Plus, as seen on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, *everyone* likes deep-fried chicken tenders when drunk. Without any facts to back me up, I bet there's a difference between American and European trivia games, and the US version will add some extra, ahem, culture. Chex Mix. A neon sign either for a cheap US beer or with the owner's name followed by apostrophe-"s". Just to piss off the Irish, sell Guinness--but only in cans. For a cocktail menu, stick to popular American brands of alchohol, based, not necessarily on quality, but on the brand name recognition. So Jack Daniel's, Jose Cuervo, Absolut, Jim Beam, Bacardi or Captain Morgan's, etc.
posted by jbrjake at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2004

It's not soda, but any of your Frozen Fruity Drinks (margaritas, pina coladas- the frozen ones, not authentic ones) are distinctly American.
Dorito's, Frito's, and any other Frito-Lay product. Definitely in individual "Snak-Pak" sizes.
I don't know if this applies to Portugal, but I always had a really hard time finding chocolate chips and peanut butter in France, so extrapolate from there.
Mountain Dew.
Sugary cereal (Fruit Loops, etc.).
posted by mkultra at 8:52 AM on March 26, 2004

Coke my come from Atlanta, but I grew up in North Carolina. Pepsi was more popular there, and in surrounding states, than in anywhere I've been since, in my experience. Perhaps I just had oddball experiences.
posted by jammer at 8:54 AM on March 26, 2004

What, 25 comments in and nobody's mentioned cream soda? Or is it not as quintessentially American as I've always believed?
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:02 AM on March 26, 2004

Ditto the peanuts, cheap and salted in the shell. Serve them in baskets on the bar. Get a lighted plastic sign, with paint chipping off it that advertises "Pabst Blue Ribbon" beer. Under it, in black letters, add the name "Mike's Place".

Get a jukebox full of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, the Everly Brothers, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks (yes the last two are terrible, but hey this is America). Get a pool table, and always, always serve Coke products.
posted by rocketman at 9:02 AM on March 26, 2004

mmm. Cream soda. Yes! And cranberry juice. I don't know if you have it there, but it's just about invisible where I am, and lots of people in the US drink Sea Breezes, or just plain cranbery juice if they don't want to drink alcohol. Also, what romakimmy said.
posted by taz at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2004

What matters even more than the type of soda served here (my vote goes to Mountain Dew) is that you fill the glass with ice!
posted by onlyconnect at 9:12 AM on March 26, 2004

Two words: Corn Nuts.

God I love Corn Nuts.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 9:23 AM on March 26, 2004

I could go for a nice refreshing Pepsi Blu... Ow! Stop that!
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:28 AM on March 26, 2004

Anyone say: chips n' salsa or stuffed jalapenos - cheese & or chicken - fried. Do a taco bar during "happy hour". Personally enjoy fish tacos.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:51 AM on March 26, 2004

I'll focus on American media since the food's pretty well covered....

Sports Illustrated is always good for American sports news. People and Entertainment Weekly cover Hollywood and celebs. Rolling Stone or Spin cover American music pretty well. TV Guide is very American, but useless overseas. Maxim, Esquire, and GQ are guy's (non-porno) magazines. Motor Trend and Car & Driver focus on automobiles. Time and Newsweek might be too newsy... but you can't go wrong with USA Today and New York Times if you want information from the States. Don't get all of these unless you're a coffee shop, but some choices might add atmosphere.

Get American sports. ESPN networks if possible. American Football, Baseball, Basketball, and maybe even College Football and Basketball. (Are we the only country that cares about College Sports?) One of my friends told me that other countries knew about American Major League Soccer, but I don't know how true that is.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:01 AM on March 26, 2004

What would be fun would be to have a soft drink menu that lists regional favorites. From Michigan, for instance, you definitely want Vernor's.
posted by kindall at 10:08 AM on March 26, 2004

Root Beer
posted by y2karl at 10:16 AM on March 26, 2004

The absolute best Root Beer, bar none, is IBC (site resizes browser). Though, as mentioned above, it can be a bitch to find--it's worth the extra cost, however. Whichever Root Beer your friend decides on, here's the crucial thing: avoid cafffeinated brands (mug and barqs are both caffeinated). IBC, Dad's, Stuarts... all the good brands aren't.

And here's a tip for your friend: mix bourbon and IBC the way you would a rum and coke and you get an odd (but good) tasting drink. Since I couldn't find such a thing in any bar manual, I christened the mixture a Liquid Indian, with a tip of the hat to Robert Pollard.
posted by dobbs at 10:36 AM on March 26, 2004

for those special times of year: Moon Pies
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 10:45 AM on March 26, 2004

Ok I had this long thing typed out but I'll try and cut down on redundancy. Wood, brass, not well-lit and dirty is your typical "Moe's Tavern" bar. Keep everything simple. I have no business experience on operating foreign resteraunts in Lisbon but if it's anything like American you'll have to "Spanishize" it. Too much American stuff people aren't going to go for it. If no one eats Frito-Lay chips in Spain what makes you think they'll eat them at this American bar? Novelty value once but what about repeat? Use Spanish snacks with an American twist instead.

It'll probably be cheapest (I'm totally clueless on international beer distribution) to import just one brand, AB or Miller probably. A cute idea would be to import several kegs a month of different microbrews in the US. These are usually really good and would be a good way to keep people coming back (Boulevard one month, Sierra Nevada another). My guess is Spanish palates probably won't like the cheap, light American beer so the microbrew may be the only way to keep people coming back.

No one's mentioned this but pitchers of beer are also big for groups. Run specials on various things if it can be done financially, ("quarter draws, $1 imports").

I think your biggest hurdle is if you make it an American bar in Lisbon no one will go. I don't know how touristy Lisbon is but I can't imagine locals repeatedly using an American bar. Look at what makes Spanish bars popular and use those elements while giving it an American twist. It doesn't matter if it's nowhere near American, as long as the Spanish get the American feel while keeping within their cultural comfort zone.
posted by geoff. at 10:47 AM on March 26, 2004

I would recommend that your friend import the local delicacies of the major cities/regions of the US -- New York, New England, Pittsburgh/Philly, Cleveland, Chicago, the Great Lakes, The South, Texas, the Southwest, LA, San Francisco, Pacific Northwest. Things like locally-produced sodas, regional beers (Old Style, Yeunglings, Lone Star, etc.) and foods. And considering the number of microbrews in the States, he could celebrate the microbrews of one state each month and be set for gimmicks for quite awhile.

Otherwise, what's already been said is good.
posted by me3dia at 11:00 AM on March 26, 2004

(geoff. dude, it's Portugal, not Spain.)
posted by me3dia at 11:03 AM on March 26, 2004

What's with all this talk of root beer and soda, anyway? Why not just put lollipops on the bar, next to the Playmobil people?

I mean, this is supposed to be one of the Metafilter Network(tm)'s vaunted alcohol-related threads, isn't it?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:15 AM on March 26, 2004

You know, after reading the original question again, I realize my answer wasn't all that helpful.

Soft drinks, in addition to Dr. Pepper and root beer:
- RC
- Canfield's 50/50 (half lemon-lime, half grapefruit)
- I can't believe nobody said Orange Crush
- Faygo (especially "Red Pop")
- Dad's Root Beer is my favorite

- Peanuts (shells on, let'em toss the shells on the floor)
- (usually stale) popcorn
- Beernuts
- Chex Mix
- Potato chips

More substantial food:
- Buffalo wings
- Cheese fries
- Potato skins
- Breaded, fried mushrooms
- Thin-crust pepperoni pizza
posted by me3dia at 11:25 AM on March 26, 2004

Just deep fry everything.
posted by corpse at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2004

I mean, this is supposed to be one of the Metafilter Network(tm)'s vaunted alcohol-related threads, isn't it?
They have the bar already, just no "american" flare.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:37 PM on March 26, 2004

Orange Crush is the cheap way to mix any type of alcohol. You could have Orange Crush Iced Tea. Or something similar.

And if you sell root beer, I'm goddamned flying over there from the UK. There was a cafe in Leicester that sold root beer, and then it closed, and I cried tears of pain.

(You never realize how much you love it until you can't get it.)
posted by Katemonkey at 12:47 PM on March 26, 2004

In case nobody's clued you about what Chex Mix is, here's the recipe. Paddy's in Milwaukee is good to go if you're thirsty and hungry and can only afford the beer part of the equation, because they have a wide assortment of snacks in bowls: peanuts, chex mix, M&Ms, pretzels, sesame sticks. Mmm, Paddy's. Also you could sell Lays or Old Dutch. Don't forget a popcorn wagon, and sell the cheesy popcorn.
posted by mimi at 12:53 PM on March 26, 2004

posted by Guy Smiley at 1:58 PM on March 26, 2004

American sodas not yet mentioned:
Ale-8-One is from Kentucky
Squirt is grapefruit soda
Faygo is a line of flavored sodas

Drinking sweet tea (heavily sweetened iced tea) is as popular as drinking sodas across the South.

I've never heard of "vodka 'n tea" (vodka mixed with iced tea) outside of Buffalo, but it's huge there - if you're looking for regional stuff.

Oh, and I think deep-fried Snickers bars are an American snack gimmick, but I don't know for sure. I've seen those in bars a couple times.
posted by Melinika at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2004

Well, I didn't take Mig's question to mean *dive* bar. I read as successful bar, which could be dive or up-scale or middle of the road.

Round where I live, there are a few things that will make a successful bar.... besides the most obvious thing of all: a good happy hour.

First, and foremost: pouring the strongest drinks in town. The bars here that get the most repeat business are the ones that gives you triple-pours as standard pours. Beer is beer, and unless you are offering some unique beer or really good discounts, I don't see anyone distinguishing themselves by their beer. The only bars around here that make money off beers are the ones that have like 100 beers on tap or something similarly unique. So be known for your cocktails, and the rest is easy money.

Second, if the drinks are equivalent elsewhere, it is the entertainment that might make someone a regular. A good bartender goes a long way. But as far as entertainment around here, the bars that get the most customers usually have one or more of the following:
- Darts, pool, shuffleboard (my fav) and/or foosball.
- Jukebox. I don't know a successful bar that doesn't have a jukebox. Wide variety of music is a must. No Stairway to Heaven, please.
- Video games types. Some bars have these video poker machines, and some have video trivia. Around here the most played thing these days is Golden-Tee. This alone draws customers like crazy.

3. Theme nights lead to big spikes in sales for bars. Examples of theme nights might include:
- Ladies Night
- Half-price ___ Night
- Kareoke Night
- Shot Night
- Trivia Night (fun night where people play trivia in teams for their tabs. if you win, free tab; if you lose, you have to pay for your tab so run one up at your own risk---wildly successful here.)

4. The look and feel and the other menu items aren't that important, in my experience, for a bar's ultimate success. A good bar with the above can deal with a crappy location, look or food. But I can't find fault with any of the suggestions above for food or N/A bevs. I can't think what I would add except mabye Red Bull. For reasons unbeknownst to me, there appears to be a trend around here that Red Bull is very popular both with vodka as a drink and as a after-drinking pick-me-up sobriety tool.

Hope this helps. Please post a follow-up when you friend gets it all set up!
posted by Seth at 2:59 PM on March 26, 2004

As far as root beers go, my favourite is from Thomas Kemper (they brew beer and the soda thing seems to be a successful offshot). In fact, all of their sodas (Black Cherry, Ginger Ale, Vanilla Cream Soda, Orange Cream Soda and Grape Soda) are at the top of their genre.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 3:01 PM on March 26, 2004

Humpty Dumpty ketchup chips. And how about some beef jerky for good measure.
posted by initapplette at 3:33 PM on March 26, 2004

In case nobody's clued you about what Chex Mix is

Ironically, the Chex Mix they sell pre-mixed in bags doesn't seem to be made according to that recipe.
posted by kindall at 3:52 PM on March 26, 2004

I second the strong drink thing--I've never had a good-enough cocktail in Europe (and i once got vodka and orange soda when I asked for a screwdriver)--Make sure they pour freely (at least 1/3 liquor to 2/3 mixer--and no measuring out the shots for mixed drinks). Also, you need top-shelf stuff and house (cheap) stuff.

Snacks--potato chips, popcorn, a doritos-type chip, maybe a blue chip or terra chips if it's a nicer place--keep them filled all the time. Also, you can bring in pizza once in a while for the whole bar, or wings or something. You have to have a tv hanging over the bar in the corner, too, and a jukebox with some Sinatra, "Workin' in a Coalmine", "Louie, Louie", and lots of Motown. Also, happy hour on weekday nights with lower prices and specials, or a 2-for-1 night. I'd also want old, high booths with cracked plastic upholstery along one wall, and a pool table in the back by the bathrooms, but i don't know if you have those there. Chatty, funny bartenders are good too. (and the lighting should be kinda dim, but flattering) : >
posted by amberglow at 4:29 PM on March 26, 2004

Because I know you like to be exact, Miguel, I'll point out that there's no period after the "Dr" in Dr Pepper. The period was dropped in the '50s.

(romakimmy gets bonus points for not using the period up there.)

(somewhat related, there's also no period after the last "S" in "S.O.S pads")
posted by gluechunk at 5:09 PM on March 26, 2004

- Kareoke Night

And if there's a karaoke machine, it isn't an American karaoke machine unless it has "Stand by your Man" and "Space Cowboy" in it.
posted by contessa at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2004

orange soda and nachos with lots of cheese. philly cheesesteak made with (horror of horrors, but it's true) cheez whiz. rice krispy treats. jell-o molds, ha. lemon meringue pie isn't unique to the u.s. in terms of origins, but i don't think it's as popular anywhere else... pecan pie, grasshopper/oreo pie, key lime pie aren't exactly bar/beer snacks, but they are very (southern) american and tasty with drinks. clams casino.
posted by ifjuly at 5:47 PM on March 26, 2004

Response by poster: Wow. Wow. Wow!

I've just e-mailed this thread to my friend. He's going to have it properly printed and framed and it will have pride of place at the bar. Anyone from MetaFilter will get a free drink and those who contributed to the thread will get thrown out for so confusing the poor bastard a whole bottle!

Thank you so much!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:14 PM on March 26, 2004

oh, and there absolutely has to be a dollar bill taped up on the wall by the register (it's the first dollar taken as payment when the place was new, i think)
posted by amberglow at 8:15 PM on March 26, 2004

(You never realize how much you love it until you can't get it.)

Kate, I'm pretty positive that I've bought in the past root beer at EuropaFoods stores both in Hampstead and in Brompton Cross. I'm sure that there's a Europa Foods store closer to you -- maybe you could give them a call and find that out.
posted by matteo at 8:23 PM on March 26, 2004

For root beer--Stewart's & Sprecher's.
posted by y2karl at 9:35 PM on March 26, 2004

The problem with saying what is "typically" American is it's such a big country and things like soda are usually regional. Though Coca-cola and Pepsi products are nation-wide, a lot of brands aren't .
I used to work with a lot of out-of-town clients, and spoiling them with their local refreshments besides the national brands was part of my job.
If we had in someone from Detroit, we made sure to have Vernor's ginger ale on hand. Someone from Connecticut - Foxon Park. New Yorkers: Dr. Browns and Snapple. KY/TN/AR: RC and Ale 81. Texans? Dr. Pepper. Californians like to see Shasta and, for some reason, fancy European pop like Orangina.
The best root beer I've had is called Vernons and is a posh "micro-brew." It's really good, but rather expensive!
posted by sixdifferentways at 9:47 PM on March 26, 2004

The best root beer I've had is called Vernons

Schilo's Deli in San Antonio, Texas makes the best root beer I have ever tasted.

My instant reaction the first time I took a sip was "Oh. So *that's* what root beer tastes like." It's just.... yummy.

The sandwiches and fixins were good too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:36 PM on March 26, 2004

oh, Miguel, sasparilla's great too (it's like cream soda), if you can find it--it's sort-of western (as in cowboys). If you get Dr.Brown's, get the black cherry or root beer, not the cel-ray (ugh!).
posted by amberglow at 8:16 AM on March 27, 2004

Spain, Portugal... what's the difference. Ok well I just feel really stupid.
posted by geoff. at 10:27 AM on March 27, 2004

Boiled peanuts, fried clams, mini-frankfurters wrapped in bacon if it's not too much of a dive. Ketchup and mustard on the tables, even if there's nothing to put them on. Also those horribly inefficient black boxy spring-loaded napkin dispensers. And if there's room, a wall or half of assorted empty beer cans is very impressive.
posted by casarkos at 10:31 PM on March 27, 2004

woops, none of those are nonperishable. May I suggest Bugles or Combos then?
Plastic sword toothpicks!
posted by casarkos at 10:39 PM on March 27, 2004

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