This is a curious place. There's a restaurant up front serving all manner of Chinese-American dishes and a well-stocked smoke shop just to the left of the front doors, catering to the special needs of tobacco aficionados with a fine selection of standard smokes, cigars, clove cigarettes and roll-yer-own supplies. Then there's the lounge. To get there, go in the front, take an immediate left, hang a right at the smoke shop and sail straight on till morning. There it is -- a big, dark, smoky throwback to simpler times in this country, when the booze flowed free and drunk jokes were all over American TV.
Chan's lounge is huge, with three pool tables in the back, tables and booths in the middle and a small vinyl-tile dance floor up front with party lights and a mirror ball that really livens up the place. Chocolate brown paneling, cured by the nicotine of a hundred thousand cigarettes, covers the walls. Chinese lanterns radiate a dim overhead light. The bar, on the other hand, shines like a beacon -- all the better to view the myriad of pretty-colored liquids for your intoxication as well as the galaxy of pull-tab games for your amusement. On top of the back bar, a row of creepy fiber-optic angels beckon, beating their luminous wings in unison. The drinks -- including the Jell-O shots -- are strong and inexpensive. The two women running the bar do so with an amazing level of control over the patrons, many of whom seem a tad sketchy. Yet even though the threat of drunken fisticuffs -- or worse yet, a big slobbery hug and kiss -- perpetually hangs in the smoky air, order is maintained. Clearly it has less to do with the posted rules -- no "drug sales or purchases," "gang affiliations," "lewd or obscene conduct," etc. -- than it does with the fact that everyone here is here for the same reason: the cheap booze and the festive atmosphere.
There's something new in Chan's lounge these days (on Friday and Saturday nights) that's designed to shake things up a little from the usual drink-smoke-drink-stagger-drink routine to something a little more interactive. It's called "Kegger Nite" and it involves $1 red plastic keg cups overflowing with your favorite Budweiser product along with pounding heavy metal tracks spun by a live DJ. For as loud as it is in there (regulars often resort to plugging their ears with wads of toilet paper to drown out din), the selection is pretty hot. We're talkin' the good stuff -- Iron Maiden, Dio, G & amp;R, Judas Priest, Ozzy, AC/DC and Motorhead -- all played at a decibel levels that make conversation nearly impossible.
Casey's Bar & amp; Grille
2126 N. Monroe St. * 326-4111
The lounge in Casey's Bar & amp; Grille is definitely a lounge with character -- or rather, a lounge full of characters. Old timers and young-uns alike burrow in on a nightly basis to numb the pain of living with a wide assortment of ethanol concoctions. It's dark as hell in here and in desperate need of updating. But when the karaoke machine cranks up, the place lurches to life. Occasional shouting matches in the parking lot only add to the charm.
Second Ave. at Washington St. * 624-4206
Once a hangout for Spokane's punk rock contingent and Big Dipper patrons looking to get a stiff one (or three) under their belts before a night of strictly beer-soaked r 'n' r, the Mayfair has, in recent years, returned to its roots as a wild and wooly (mostly the latter) stopover on the road to alcohol oblivion. Worthwhile -- especially if you're feeling like a challenge.
The Iron Horse
407 Sherman Ave., CdA * (208) 667-7314
With a full restaurant menu, a Western/railroad theme, live cover bands on the weekends and a giant tub of a drink called the "Derailer," what more do you need to know?
5908 E. Broadway Ave. * 534-3040
"Mama loves you" at the Thaiway Lounge, and to prove it, she serves up some hellaciously strong cocktails and icy brews. Once known as a formidable live music club, the Thaiway seems to have reverted in recent months back to its former self as a sprawling industrial-park watering hole, with Thai food served right next-door at the Sri Prasert Thai Bar & amp; Grill.
Others Worth Checking Out
Maxwell House; the Suki Yaki Inn; the Park Inn; Hedge House; the Flame; Sunset Junction; the Comet; Lamp Post Tavern;