by Jeremy Berg

That’s right, it’s a whole new year and all that, and what do we have here for you at The Barhopper? Another column full of hazy recollections about what some guy wrote on the bathroom wall. Yeah, we wouldn’t have it any other way either. The Uptowner 1032 E. Center Street Ambiance: Some of the best I’ve ever seen. There’s not an overhead light to be found in the main room, so the dim is perfect. The decor mostly kicks it old school, with a long bar, old “telephone” sign over the pay phone, and vintage molding, pressed tin ceiling, and pin-ups. There’s also some nifty modern artwork for balance by Riverwest artists. Crowd: The ultimate neighborhood experience. A group of five or six people watched the Bucks and talked about everything from why men get tattoos to whether or not Russell Crowe has ever been in a good movie. On Tap: Heineken, Spaten, Louie’s Demise, Leinie’s, and Blatz. Top Shelf: Long thought a myth, this is a bar that actually doesn’t have Johnnie Walker Black. Skyy, J.D., and Cuervo fill the void. Jukebox: House sound rules the land, and live bands have been sighted occasionally. Men’s Room: Small but comfortable. Someone with a red marker had a lot to say about W., which a couple of people, ahem, annotated. On the fashion horizon, the mirror sports a pre-emptive “nice mullet” tag. Women’s Room: Lovely Assistant reports that “it was very clean, but there was no hot water and it was badly lit by this compact fluorescent.” Have I mentioned that Lovely Assistant has very strong opinions about lighting? Additional Comments: A great place to catch up on all the latest news, both national (“Hitler Dead!” proclaims a framed front page) and local (“Max sucks balls,” men’s room wall. C’mon Max, you don’t have to take that. Kick his ass!) Hop Back Inn 718 E. Burleigh Street Ambiance: Laid back and casual, bright in a comfortable living room way. Lots of beer and cigarette logos, plus a framed poster of Trane. Pool is the national sport of the bar, leading to much good natured trash talk. Crowd: Super friendly and incredibly diverse. Race, age, and gender are all well mixed. On Tap: Lakefront White and Riverwest Stein, and Bud. Top Shelf: Lots of whiskeys, including Johnnie Walker Black, Bushmills, and Jamison. Skyy and Absolut represent for vodka. Jukebox: Though bar box diehards like the Allman and Doobie Brothers are present, and there’s even a stray Garth Brooks disc, the Hop Back Inn’s jukebox lives for jazz and soul. Stevie Wonder, Lou Rawls, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Joshua Redmond, and Art Blakey comprise just a sample of the artists present. Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” even puts in an appearance. Men’s Room: Bright and white, with no graffiti and that ice in the urinal thing I’ve never completely understood. Women’s Room: Lovely Assistant reports excellent cleanliness. Nothing fancy, but a firm thumbs up. Additional Comments: Did I mention the people are super friendly? A crowd of regulars asked us two new kids if we were leaving already, and wished us a good evening. Well, that’s January for you. No great words of wisdom this time around (so no change). Stay healthy, keep warm, have a happy new year, and ‘ll see ya next month.