A Weird Night on the West Shore


I haven’t woken up smelling like an ashtray in sometime, and that’s not a complaint.

Last night I did a bar tour of Central PA’s west shore and it was epic.  For those of you unfamiliar with Central PA’s geographics and lingo the area around Harrisburg is often referred to as being on the east shore or west shore depending on what side of the Susquehanna you’re on.  Harrisburg, Middletown, and Colonial Park are all “east shore” communities while Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, and New Cumberland are all west shore towns.

I feel like I’m pretty immune to PA weirdness having been born and bred in NEPA, but Central PA continually leaves me speechless, which is a pretty strong feat.

I started my night with dinner at Dockside Willies, a riverside bar in the small town of Wormleysburg, which is directly across the Susquehanna from Harrisburg.  Wormleysburg has a strip of riverside bars I was introduced to a few years ago from my buddy who lives in Enola has that cool beachy/lakeside feel that I covet.  I never realized how big boating is on the Susquehanna and all of the bars in Wormleysburg have docks so you could boat and barhop if you so choose.  There’s a deck right on the river I was looking forward to chilling out on but it started pouring when we arrived so we settled on eating inside.

Our plan for the night was to finish dinner, head back to meet back up with his girlfriend and then go to what they referred to as the “hillbilly winery”, a countryside winery in Perry County that has bands on Saturdays.  While we finished dinner she still wasn’t ready so we stopped at the James Bar, which I’d previously eyed up on previous trips to his place.  It sits right on a main road and essentially looks like a house with a bar in the living room.  Before I even got in I knew I was in love.

James Bar
Behold the greatness that is James bar.

We entered into a haze of cigarettes, a little bit of chatter from what I assume is a very loyal patronage, and a large assortment of old video games and pin ball machines.  The bartender was friendly when we ordered two Coors LIghts (for 1.25 a piece!) but we were insightful enough to ask whether or not they take credit cards and were told no, so had to move on to greener pastures.  We’d be back though.

Stop number two was another small town bar, Grotto Pub.  I have to say I wasn’t expecting much and was pleasantly surprised.  They obviously take their Irish heritage seriously, which I respect and the decor sort of went above and beyond the usual “American knick knacks on the wall that so many restaurant’s and bars employ.  Need I say more?

Billy Dee Williams for Colt 45?  This is a treasure.
Billy Dee Williams for Colt 45? This is a treasure.

Grotto’s had a really good beer selection, especially if you’re into craft brews and we’ve already decided it’s where we’re going to grab dinner next time I visit.  You know how you could just tell after being in some places that the food would be great?  Grotto’s had that vibe.  Plus the prices were unreal.  Pulled pork quesadillas for 6 and a NY Strip Steak and 2 sides for 10.95?  You can’t go wrong with that.

The “hill billy winery” turned out to actually be  Buddy Boy Winery and was not nearly as hillbilly as I was anticipating.  Besides for it’s rural locale, it actually wasn’t hillbilly at all.  The winery, which just opened in 2011 hosts a dinner and band every Saturday night.  For $20.00 you could get all you could eat at 6, but we opted for the $5.00 cover charge to simply watch the band and get our drink on.  My friends bought and sampled some of their wine but since I’m super classy I stuck to Coors Light (you were allowed to BYOB so I wasn’t being super trashy).  It was a decidedly older crowd but fun and a nice excuse to spend the night drinking outdoors.  The winery (which the owners live above I believe) has an awesome covered deck full of picnic tables to relax on.  It reminded me a lot of being home.

Our post winery tour was when stuff started getting weird.  It was decided that we were going to go to Tubby’s Nightclub in nearby Duncannon and I was warned that I probably would be in shock.  Nothing, and I’m being completely genuine here, could have adequately prepared me for what Tubby’s entailed.

First of all the place is enormous.  I thought it was just one of those bars that slaps the “nightclub” sticker on in order to boost its reputation but it’s really huge with a large stage and probably 20 foot high ceilings.  I mean, the ceiling were high enough that there were bats flying around inside, which must have been somewhat the norm as no one really made a big deal about it.  I could think of more than one bar where if a bat were inside, hell would break loose.

The 1980’s never left Tubby’s, specifically that part of the 80’s that worships hairbands.  It was evident in the parking lot what a treat we’d be in for as the guy behind us  in line had long feathery Bon Jovis hair and wore a vest with nothing underneath and he was not part of the band.  I repeat, he was not part of the band.

Speaking of the band, I’m not sure who they were but they played the kind of hair band music I was expecting and dressed like they were in a hair band and not in a wink and a nudge kind of way.  These guys still lived and breathed this music and the crowd, of which most of the females were dressed suitably for writing on the hood of Whitesnake’s car, ate them up.   The thing is, for as bizarre as it was when the crowd doesn’t genuinely doesn’t give a shit and is having a good time, it’s infectious and we found ourselves up jamming with the band for the most part.  I give them credit for that.  They were good natured, they had 2.00 beers, and I thought I might have someone try and give me shit for wearing pastel colored shorts, this didn’t look like the type of place that really accepted Connecticut casual, but no one did.  They were too busy reliving the 80’s.  I can’t fault them for that.

Rocking and rolling at Tubby's Nightclub.
Rocking and rolling at Tubby’s Nightclub.
Bon Jovi?
Bon Jovi?

We ended up leaving because one guy was a little too friendly with us.  He was also super wasted and also had a knife the size of my forearm in his back pocket.  We were humoring his incoherent ramblings but my buddy wisely pulled the plug and said he felt like it was a situation that could go downhill quick so we regrettably left Tubby’s behind, but I sort of have a strong need to go back and see if we were there on a fluke night or if it’s always that gloriously bizarre.

We went back to Enola and basically ended up repeating the first part of our night with a stop at The Grotto for a quick drink and then, cash in hand, ended our night at James, and as I predicted earlier, it really might be my new favorite bar, not just because of the 1.25 beers, or the nice bartender who told us there was no rush to finish when he called last call we just needed to be out by 230 for this guy:

Music to me, is an essential part of the night and I’m a huge fan of the touch tunes juke box (I also spend disgusting amounts of money in them) but there’s something to be said about a legitimate old school juke box that takes quarters and and garners 10 plays for 2 bucks.  It forces you to listen to stuff you might not and gets you alittle bit away from the top 40 stuff you hear everywhere.

Nothing like a good old school juke box.
Nothing like a good old school juke box.

If  you end your night  drinking a $1.25 pint of Coors Light drunkenly swaying to “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” for the fourth time because its one of only 5 songs you recognize on the jukebox, then I’d say that’s a win.

You know you're in good hands when a bar offers "microwaved" meals.
You know you’re in good hands when a bar offers “microwaved” meals.

3 comments on “A Weird Night on the West Shore”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s