It might be a soft, low snare that guides a mournful trumpet and loyal piano, coating in comfortable, cool jazz a conversation about the new J.D. Salinger documentary.
Or maybe it’s the mix of a more bluesy riff swirling in the background as the boyish-looking man who sells hot dogs next door buys a round of shots for everyone at the bar, including the new guy.
A no-nonsense bar that values conversation over diversion.
Where » 30 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-322-0318
Open » Sunday, 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Monday-Saturday, noon to 1 a.m.
Details » www.juniorstavern.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Juniors-Tavern/43462344863
But there’s something about Junior’s Tavern that stays with you, something that on a crisp fall day makes you feel a kind of warmth inside that mere alcohol can’t provide.
It’s got to be the people, the welcoming staff and regulars who refer to each other as family, or at the very least friend.
When Greg Arrata started out pulling beers at Junior’s upon its inception in 1974 on the corner of 500 South and 200 East in Salt Lake City, the business model was fairly straightforward: Provide a gathering place where nice folks can drink a beer and have a good chat.
For 30 years the model worked, and it didn’t change when in 2006 Arrata, now the owner, moved Junior’s from next door to an expanding Cannella’s Italian restaurant to 30 E. 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City.
Arrata brought over the beloved old beer can collection, including a particular colorful Olde Frothingslosh can. It’s the one with the smiling, rosy-cheeked fat lady in a one-piece swimsuit wearing slippers and the sash of Frothingslosh royalty, cradling a bouquet of yellow flowers as she pops her left hip for the photograph.
Somewhere in the display on the east wall, you’ll find your favorite can.
Some of the same familiar faces from the past 30 or so years still lean on the same wood bar from the old place.
"It was a signature at the old place," Arrata said.
It’s a unique piece of drinking history in Salt Lake City, with its vintage tile work and those nearly hidden cubbyholes where Arrata said patrons might stash a purse or, in the old days of the tavern’s beer-only incarnation, may have concealed a small bottle of whiskey.
You can ask bartender Tom Zeidler to put a pilsner or stout in your glass, or fill it with a mix from Junior’s small but adequate line of hard liquor.
"It’s just always been a comfortable bar," Zeidler said about Junior’s. He drank there from 1975 until 1992, when he started tending bar there. "Never work in a bar in which you previously didn’t drink."
Just don’t look for much to eat at Junior’s beyond chips and pickled eggs. You can, however, have a dressed-up tube steak delivered from Good Dog on one side or a sandwich from Rich’s Burgers ’N Grub on the other side of Junior’s. The Chicago Dog from Good Dog, by the way, is as good and authentic as anything you’d order in the Windy City.
Unlike a lot of bars these days that are loaded with TVs, Junior’s has only one. It has one pinball machine. And there’s only one pool table.
Not a lot of distractions, which raises the question: Why drink at Junior’s?
In the old days, it might have been to talk with a guy like Theron Read, who for 21 years was a Junior’s social staple. Read died in 2009. His memory is kept alive in a plaque and black-and-white image near his old booth.
Nowadays you might come back to Junior’s to hear Jonathan Krausert’s opinion about the downsides associated with the present beekeeping fad, or why it is he’s been coming to the same bar for three decades.
"It’s a neighborhood bar," Krausert said. "It’s about personalities."
Arrata, Zeidler, Krausert and others at the bar paint a picture of a place where it matters less what you look like, who you are, what kind of car you drive or how you earn a paycheck than whether you can engage in civil, sometimes passionate discourse over a few beers, or at the very least just chew the fat.
"Junior’s is a microcosm of society," Krausert added.Next Page >
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