It’s still palpable. I was just a teen in the mid- to late-’80s, but a cool older friend sometimes slipped me into the now-defunct nightclubs Rockitz or Flood Zone to see Gwar. I donned my plain white T-shirt in the hope that gobs of fake blood from a decapitated Ronald Reagan would turn it into a trophy.
That type of music wasn’t really my scene, but the energy before, during and after a Gwar performance was unlike anything I’d ever felt. There was so much skin and blood and sweat. It was alien and electric, and almost always positive.
“Go big or go home.” That and “thinking outside of the box” are phrases used to such exhaustion they have little to no meaning anymore. But I can’t think of a better way to begin a dialogue about anything related to Gwar or the most recent loin fruit of Slave Pit Inc., Gwarbar.
Upon crossing the threshold, your senses will be accosted. Metal blasts from the speakers at a volume two — OK, maybe three — notches too loud for comfort, and it appears that a bloody body recently has been dragged across the floor, perhaps a casualty of Oderus’ sword, Unt Lick, hanging on the wall separating the bar from the dining area.
Day or night, the room is filled, peppered with fans donning Gwar hoodies or hats, generally slumped over or hovering around the bar drinking PBR, Natty Bo or perhaps a pint of Strangeways Brewing’s amber ale, Gwar Blood.
Nuance is the last thing you expect when you think of the band, and it’s the last thing you get here when you sit down for a meal. For the most part, the dishes on the menu have much too much going on. The buffalo cauliflower ($8) is adorned with buffalo sauce, avocado, peas, ranch dressing and pickled fennel. Other than being downright flummoxed by the sight of not-exactly-green peas randomly sprinkled over my florescent-orange cauliflower, I come away with only the distinct taste of buffalo sauce.
The totchos ($7) are tater tots with cheese whiz, guacamole, salsa and smoked-tomato ranch, which are tossed into a stainless-steel mixing bowl in kind of a tater tot strata. By the time I pop the first fully loaded tot into my mouth, it has the same unctuous, squishy texture of everything else in the bowl. It could have been an appetizer course from a basket assembled with random samplings from dorm refrigerators.
Likewise, the chicken McDuckgets ($9) showcase a plethora of ingredients: duck confit, chicken thigh, truffle, smoked mozzarella and, ubiquitous throughout the menu, Gwar-B-Q sauce. I love duck confit so much it would be an item on the menu of my last meal, and the taste of truffle is about as difficult to hide as Sleazy P. Martini in a City Council meeting. But I can’t taste anything but chicken and fried. And once dunked into umami-bomb Gwar-B-Q sauce, that’s the only flavor that survives.
These scum dogs, however, have bestowed upon us other, victorious comestibles.
From the planet Cholesterol hails bassist Beefcake the Mighty and now the formidable Beefcake burger ($9). This no-joke of girthy meat mass is a half-pound of chuck and brisket freshly ground and served with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, pickle and a choice of side. This is what a burger should be. It’s cooked perfectly to specification — but how can you not go bloody? It comes out piping hot on a buttery, toasty bun that’s a flawless ratio of meat to toppings. These burgers, and the excellent, tawny, crisp french fries made from fresh potatoes, are the soul — the bass, if you will — of the menu.
In the harsh light of day at brunch, like bumping into Slymenstra Hymen or Balsac the Jaws of Death at high tea, Gwarbar feels a little harsh. But in either case, it’s nothing that a few Bloody Marys can’t remedy — and ironically, one of the few menu items without wordplay.
The brunch menu and its portions veer into the hulking, heaving, dribbling fun direction. If you’re trying to look slimmer, forget wearing black and pose next to the mammoth yard bird waffle, a tower of beer-battered fried chicken, potatoes, cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg piled high on a thick golden waffle and indulgently doused in sriracha maple syrup ($12). You’ll most certainly need a nap after this. In fact, your day is essentially over. Uncle.
When considering Gwarbar, one also must consider the band itself: absurdist, graphic, vivid, conceptual, iconoclastic, socio-political, irreverent, fantastic and visceral. My memories of both still are palpable. S
217 W. Clay St.
Mondays-Fridays 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m.-2 a.m.