Special/Signature Issues » 2012 Bar Guide

Drinking Away

Three well-known faces in Richmond's barlife share their favorite traveler's tales.


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Paul Thompson

Co-owner and managing partner, Lady N'awlins Cajun Café

Hometown: Manchester, England

Travel Chronicle: "So I'm on an island off the southern coast of Thailand called Ko Chang. It's my two younger brothers and my best mate. We had hired some motorbikes to traverse the island. End up at a bar — an hour away from civilization — called the Treehouse. It was literally a bar built in a tree with winding steps around the trunk leading up to the bar. We had way too many drinks and I'm feeling pretty good about myself. We were drinking ice buckets, which is basically a huge bowl with a fifth of Thai whiskey poured in, a bunch of illegal Red Bull-like energy drinks — the stuff they used to feed GIs in Vietnam — and some juices. All poured over ice with four straws. Shared more than a few of these. ... Walked out to the bathroom, which was literally just a ledge where you pissed into the jungle down below. I looked up from the top of this canopy of jungle, and all I saw were stars and a full moon. I remember thinking how amazing the moment was. Looking back now, it really was amazing. Eventually we got back on our dirt bikes to head the hour back to the real world. Somewhere along the way, I got cocky — gunned the motorbike and tried to pull a wheelie. Ended up in a Thai swamp in the pitch dark. Ice buckets were to blame, I assume."


Sunny Zhao

Former owner, the Fanhouse, and founder and president of the Dreams Factory, a full-service production company.

Hometown: Shenyang, China

Travel Chronicle: "I'm on vacation in the Dominican Republic at this all-inclusive resort, outside at one of the pools. It's so interesting because there is no cost due to the inclusivity, so people drink so much, because, I mean, it's free. So I notice everyone going to this one walk-up pool bar. I head over there to see what's going on. I immediately get offered this shot that everyone else is drinking called a Mama Juana. According to the bartender, this is what everyone here drinks. It's made of rum, red wine, honey and some sort of magical local root that's supposed to be like alcoholic Viagra. So all of these Americans are downing endless shots of it — everyone at the resort is downing them, everywhere, every bar, all over this huge resort. Even in the casino. It didn't even taste that good, but they had everyone fooled into drinking this shot because of the supposed effects. It became a joke between us. I drank a few of the Mama Juanas — but I'm thinking, "Uh-oh, wait, I'm in nothing but a bathing suit and it's the middle of the day." It's funny what people will believe."


Randy O'Dell

Co-owner, Bellytimber Tavern and En Su Boca (the soon-to-be-opened taqueria on Boulevard)

Hometown: Martinsville

Travel Chronicle: "A Costa Rican beach — beautiful spot. We would meet for two to three hours in the morning to surf and then spend two or three hours surfing in the late afternoon before the sun went down. Walking in from the surf, we would all lay our boards against trees and walk up to a beachside bar that was literally yards off of the beach. Everyone would grab a six-pack of beer — usually Imperial or Tona, which is Nicaraguan. We would all head back to the beach with the beer and watch the sunset, making plans for the night, where to go, where to cook out. Sometimes we would just stay on the beach and drink the night away without a plan or care in the world, only to get up and redo it all the next day. There were no cell phones and no distractions. I would hit Costa Rica three to four months out of the year when I was bartending. My first introduction to the island was via Patrick Stamper [who co-owns Bellytimber and En Su Boca]. They were times that can't be replicated."


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