Famous Turds Barcrawl

Brutal Horse Staff
November 1, 2013

ilmington, Delaware’s famous tavern bar franchise is a model of efficiency. With five locations spread over New Castle County (Famous Pats, Famous Joe’s, Famous Tim’s, Famous Tom’s, and Famous Jack’s), the five Famous Tavern locations have an easy business plan of every drink costing $3 and approximately fifteen HD televisions playing at all times. In exchange for an inexpensive path toward blacking out alone, there is no food at the bar, and the atmosphere is like a college dorm room, in that there is tacky crap on the walls and all the seats are uncomfortable.

Due to his cheap disposition and comically small ass, Neal Gee loves going to Famous Tim’s. In an effort to prove to Neal how unpleasant of a bar Famous Tim’s is, the Brutal Horse Staff went on a bar crawl to every Famous Tavern in Delaware to discover which Famous Taverns were the best and the worst, or if all were exactly the same. We went to every Famous Tavern and ranked them according to seven distinct categories. The plan was to have (at least) one drink, and play Taylor Swift’s “22” on the jukebox at every bar. Each bar was governed by the following criteria.

  1. Ambiance
  2. Seats – Famous Tim’s has comically uncomfortable seating. It is my theory that the seats are purposefully uncomfortable so that the customers don’t stay there long, much like how McDonald’s color palate is intended to have you leave sooner. I confronted the owner of Famous Taverns about this a few months ago when a member of the 1990 Philadelphia Eagles bought me and Neal too many shots of Fireball whiskey, but he denied that it was purposeful and then bought us more shots of Fireball. At present time, his true motivations are still unknown.
  3. Crowd/Vibe
  4. Cleanliness – Ray complains that Famous Tim’s smells like paint all the time, which leads you to believe they sandblast the place in disinfectant.
  5. Bartender
  6. Jukebox – It may sound like a joke when I say that Famous Tim’s is the only bar in America where Drake is not on the jukebox, but Figure 1 sadly exists to the contrary.
  7. Drink Selection

No Drake?!
Figure 1: No Drake?!

We included a section for general comments, which will be referenced in each review. (See Figure 2 for an example.) Otherwise, please enjoy the first and only FAMOUS TURDS POWER POLL. The bars are ranked first to worst.

Brett's nonsensical score-sheet
Figure 2: Brett’s nonsensical score-sheet

Famous Pat’s – Kirkwood Highway, Wilmington, DE: by Jessica W

Famous Pat’s was the 4th stop on our famous bar crawl. At this point, I was starting to feel pretty low, but Famous Pat’s really turned up the heat. When we first walked up to the door, we were greeted by a bearded bouncer and a sign saying “No Club Colors.” When we inquired as to what this meant, the bouncer merely said “No biker gang gear.” I took that to assume that there’s been a history of biker gang fights in this bar. WHAT. That would definitely NOT happen in Famous Tom’s.

Once we got in the door, we were met with a famous surprise – this bar was actual full of people, and not just any old people, but normal looking, young people. A couple girls cheered and started dancing when “22” came on, I got chatted up in the bathroom by 2 barely coherent women, and someone mistook Brett for her friend and punched him in the ribs before realizing her mistake. All of that gave Pat’s high ratings on both the Ambiance and Crowd/Vibe categories. However, I would also argue that this is Pat’s Achilles’ heel. The bar was so busy and loud that it was hard for us to be annoying and draw attention to ourselves. It also seemed like the kind of crowd that would punish ceiling tile punchers.

I was also extremely disappointed to get charged $1 for seltzer water. In my opinion, this is a huge black mark on Famous Pat’s record. You don’t have to pay for water, or bubbles, so why would you have to pay for bubbly water? That aside, the bartender received moderately high marks and the drinks score was varied. All these elements (and the horribleness of the other Famous Taverns) combined to give Famous’ Pats the highest rating of all 5 Famous establishments (see Figure 3). That should make me want to hang here, but I still don’t want to hang here.

Final tally
Figure 3: The final tally

Famous Joes’ – Branmar Plaza, Wilmington, DE: by Joanna Ess

This is my first brutal horse article so I feel that I should introduce myself . . . even though Neal Gee has been raggin’ on me for so long that you all probably feel like you know me. The most important thing you need to know about me is that I don’t like leaving my house. Not in a hermit-afraid-of-society way, but in a why-would-I-leave way. My house (ok, apartment), is freaking awesome. It has most of my favorite things: a couch long enough for me to fully stretch out on, my cat and my TV. Additionally, I don’t have to wear makeup and the alcohol is cheap. I love being home so much that one of my friends made me a sign that says “I’d rather be at home” to wear during my bachelorette party. It currently decorates my office. But, for some reason, on October 12, 2013 I decided to leave home . . . and embark on the Famous Turd Crawl with four of my very favorite people.

Turd Crawl Saturday started out like most other Saturdays, and ended like most other Saturdays . . . with me regretting leaving the house and wanting to go to bed. However, the in-between was damn awesome. First, allow me to set the stage. Before the crawl began, Neal Gee and I decided to get dinner out (something we only do once every other week). We walked up to avenue spirits and got some six packs then ordered dinner at Southeast Kitchen. And guess who was at Southeast Kitchen?! Senator Chris Coons! I had a major nerd freak-out but did that cool thing where I just smiled and pretended like I didn’t want to interrupt his dinner with his daughter. You’re welcome, Senator Coons. On our way home I ran into my two favorite teachers of all time, who were having a fro-yo girls’ night. How awesome is Delaware?!

Needless to say, I was in a Delaware-lovin, political mindset. Which brings us to our second Famous bar of the night: Famous Joe’s. I was excited about Famous Joe’s. Mostly because it was the first new-to-me Famous bar. Famous Joe’s is located in Branmar Plaza at the corner of Marsh and Silverside Roads, quintessential North Wilmington, next to a Chinese restaurant (much like every Famous bar). It looks the same as every other turd bar . . . neon beer signs for beer not on tap (tease), long dark bar, crappy vinyl seats and dim lighting.

Brett and Ray got their Moosehead, Neal got his Michelob Ultra, Jess got her seltzer water and I got a vodka tonic. The tonic was not flat, the vodka did not taste like nail polish remover and I didn’t even have to request a lime so it got a ten in my book for drink preparation. Immediately, we began to examine the Famous Joes on the wall. There was Joe Flacco, Joe Biden and the ultimate crowd-pleaser: Joe Lieberman! Who doesn’t love a bar with a party-hopping Jewish politician on the walls?! This girl certainly does.

Joe Lieberman wasn’t the only reason Famous Joe’s was awesome. The crowd was much more attractive than at the other Turds. Not that this really matters, but if I’m sitting at a bar I need something pretty to look at. The bartender got top scores because he did something no other bartender did . . . gave us a free shot, and gave a shit about the crawl. Ok, well he didn’t really care but he did deign to look at the score sheet. But, more importantly, the free shot! Second, Famous Joe’s got my top jukebox score of the night. We felt like we were 22 with TSwift then came the moment that sealed the night for me. Neal got up to put some songs on then came back and gave me a smile and said “I requested something for you.” The way you look tonight? Smack my bitch up? What could it be?!

If you guessed “metal cover of Call me Maybe” . . . you’re clairvoyant. Always adorable Nealio meant to request Carly Rae Jepsen’s iconic summer 2012 hit, “Call Me Maybe.” I love this song. Mostly because it reminds me of graduating law school and because Neal hates it. So I felt the love when he paid money to play it for me. And I felt my pancreas explode from laughing when I heard it was a metal version. My main man had pressed the wrong button and we were greeted with one of history’s best song lyrics “so fuckin’ call me maybe.” Not with that attitude, sir.

In conclusion, good drinks, same shitty seats, bizarre famous Joes and metal “Call Me Maybe.” I would hang here . . . if I ever left my house.

Famous Jack’s – Naaman’s Rd., Wilmington, DE: by Brett Whitehead

Famous Jack’s is not a place you want to go, but a place you’re OK with being at if you don’t have a choice in the matter. Famous Jack’s is located on Naaman’s Rd., which is Wilmington’s sad counterpart to Concord Pike and home to many sad bars located in shopping centers. Famous Jack’s was the first bar on the crawl, which did an adept job of preparing us for the stunning mediocrity we would soon come to expect on Famous Turds Barcrawl.

Famous Jack’s is a quintessential dive bar. It is flanked by a Chinese food place on the right and a Wawa to the left and it’s conveniently located in walking distance to a large apartment complex. Upon entering Famous Jack’s, I asked Ray to get me an IPA and he came back with Moosehead, which was allegedly the best beer they had on tap. There were a handful of people there, but no one was interacting and no one seemed friendly. One guy had an Eagles jersey and two different women were wearing sweatpants. It was Saturday night at 8 o’clock, but I would envision that Famous Jack’s looks exactly the same regardless of what time you’re there.

Being a dive bar, however, isn’t all bad. Despite losing points for crowd, drink selection, and seats, the rest of Famous Jack’s was pretty comforting. Nothing makes a crappy bar feel like home like having free reign over the jukebox, and the three songs we heard during our stay were Taylor Swift, Taking Back Sunday, and Slayer. All three songs were welcomed by the patrons, who seemed like a Taylor Swift, Taking Back Sunday, and Slayer crowd if ever was one. The bar was clean, although you couldn’t tell from the lighting, which was the perfect shade of alcoholic dim. The wall of televisions also weren’t just playing sports, as you could hypothetically watch Big Bang Theory while taking down drafts of cheap Canadian lager. So in other words, a banner score for ambiance.

Ultimately, a proper review of Famous Jack’s has to be gauged by the question you’re asking. If you want to know good bars to visit in Delaware or pick up attractive members of the opposite sex, this is not that bar. If you’re looking for a place to get drunk in the dark with little to no distractions, you could do a lot worse. As for comparisons to other Famous Taverns, Jessie D summed up her time at Famous Jack’s as “the best Famous Experience I’ve ever had”, even though she only spent 15 minutes there. So no, I will never hang out at Famous Jack’s again. But in another place, or another lifetime, I could definitely hang at this bar.

Famous Tom’s – Yorklyn Rd., Hockessin, DE: by Ray O’Connor

Famous Tom’s Tavern is a true turd among turds, marked as such with skid marks in the toilet in the men’s bathroom. The trip to Famous Tom’s was the longest between Famous Turd stops, and it was more or less not even worth the drive. We got a little lost getting there, and ended up in a strange corporate park with (not joking) busloads full of kids and flares marking the entrance. When we finally made it inside Famous Tom’s, we were ready to turn around and leave.

Famous Tom’s is a long, narrow bar, decorated exactly as all of the other Famous Turd Taverns: Pictures of famous Toms, black, faux-leather, uncomfortable bar stools, paint smell, dim lighting, and a jukebox shining brighter than a supernova (which I immediately loaded up with Taylor Swift’s 22 on my way to the skid-marked bathroom). As I made my way back to the bar, I found that one redeeming quality of Famous Tom’s is it has the best beer selection of any of the Famous Taverns. A quick glance at the beer case revealed a few gems such as Harpoon UFO, though I of course ordered a couple of Blimes. Otherwise, it does a lot to earn its abysmal combined score of 83, easily the lowest of the Taverns. Even the Toms were somewhat lame, Tommy Lee? Seriously?

Of all of the rating categories, Famous Tom’s suffers most in “Crowd/vibe.” Maybe Famous Tom’s was having an off night, but the place was dead save a few Hockessin townies, median age 49. On our way in, proudly displayed in the window was a dude in a Chris Pronger Flyers jersey. In the same vein, Famous Tom’s also falters in the “Ambiance” category. There was the aforementioned Pronger jersey, the lame Tom’s on the wall, hockey (!) on the flat screens lining the bar; Brett’s general comment of “I would not [double underlined] hang here,” sums it up nicely. The skid-marked toilet loses Tom’s points for “Cleanliness” and a grumpy bartender didn’t do anything to improve Tom’s score in “Bartender.” I don’t expect a red carpet to be rolled out when we walk in, but the bartender seemed a little too peeved to be fishing out Blimes for a bunch of idiots screaming Taylor Swift songs. “Seats” turned out to be a somewhat unneeded category as all Famous Taverns use one of two styles of seats: Uncomfortable barstools with backs and uncomfortable barstools without backs. Other than that, the jukebox seemed fine, and no one was using it so at least it played our songs promptly. If there were a category aside from beer selection that Tom’s could win, it’d be “Annoyed at our presence.”

I didn’t have a stopwatch, but I’m fairly sure Famous Tom’s was our shortest stop on the Turd Crawl. Tom’s felt the most unwelcoming, and it had a strange vibe, probably due to the fact that it’s in
Hockessin. Throw in the stern bartender, gross bathroom, lame Tom posters, and indeed, I would not hang here.

Famous Tim’s – Augustyn Cut-off, Wilmington, DE: by Neal Gee

I feel like I have the hardest review to write. Not because everyone but me detests Famous Turds (they do). Or because it often smells of paint or cleaning products in there (it does). But because of all the Famous taverns we went to that night, Turds was the only one that we knew well; we had/have the highest expectations out of this place. And it’s ironic that it is so loathed because some of the best and funniest stories in Trolley Square have come out of that former parking lot/fur liquidator/fitness studio. Let me now relive those stories through you, the loyal reader of Brutal Horse.

My favorite story has to be Uncle George. I forget the circumstances and the date this all went down but it essentially goes like this: I convinced Brett Whitehead to go to Famous Tim’s with me for a night of celebrating being alive. Now Brett already had a chip on his shoulder due to uncomfortable seating. A claim that I must refute. It is a dive bar. What do you expect, love seats? We had started drinking Greenville Pale Ales, a bargain at $3 a can and in no time were feeling quite jovial. (At this point, I feel like the claim of the Famous Taverns having Greenville Pale Ale is apocryphal; I’ve never seen it, and never heard of it outside of Brett & Neal, -ed.) Brett recognized some dude across the bar and in no time had struck up a conversation with the gentleman who told us to call him Uncle George. Seriously. He was a big guy and had the appearance of someone that could have played pro football. Well, funny you should mention that cause he DID play pro football for the Eagles in the 80s. As he began to spin many yarns that evening, the best one BY FAR was that one time Whitney Houston (who was dating Randall Cunningham) pulled up to practice in a gold Mercedes. As Brett always says “I don’t even care if that story ISN’T true!” It is too damn funny. Uncle George asked us if we drank Fireball. Fireball you say? Never heard of it. Well, barkeep, a round of Fireballs. Absolutely delicious. I like to think of it as a zero karat Goldschlager. Cinnamony schnapps goodness minus the gold metal flake that for some reason, appeals to college aged fraternity brothers. Ah, what the hell, one more round. Okay, now bear with me for a minute, because at some point between when Uncle George was telling us that he “owns this town [Trolley Square]” (which I have no doubt that he does) and him introducing us to the owner, Paul, Brett promptly precedes to tell the owner how uncomfortable the seats are. Paul’s response? “Have a round of fireball on me!” Now I may have glossed over a few drinks at this point, but I’m pretty sure me, Brett, and Uncle George were partly in the bag. We transition the party to Scooter McGooters, where again Uncle George owned the place, I smoked an entire pack of Camel Crushes from some girl at the bar who was distracted, and we had fireball and more beers. As you know at Brutal Horse, we can hold our liquor pretty well. And one would expect Uncle George at about 250 to be no different. But he was DESTROYED at this point and (I seem to recall) went home with some random chick. Fast forward a few weeks and Brett and I were again at the Turds. We spot Uncle George across the bar and merely tip our hat to him, for Uncle George knew we would drink him under the table again with Fireballs should he cross the bar. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

One more quick story before the review. Big Game James once called this place Turd Toms. I don’t know why, but it stuck. Probably cause “turd” is a funny word. But the misnomer is this place is actually not Toms, it is Tims. So imagine how discombobulated we all were when we found at that there is actually a Famous Toms! This makes the Turd Toms moniker even weirder (and funnier). On to the review.

Since I’m guessing these reviews have been placed in chronological order (they’re not, -ed.), you the reader know what’s going on at this point. Plus, seeing how I’ve had a Michelob Ultra and a shot of Fireball at each place (which equates to 8 drinks at this point in about 3 hours plus the beers I had before we went out) I was beginning to soil myself as a Polar Bear and don’t have the best recollection of what happened. Some of us got Grotto’s beforehand so we were able to satiate our appetites at the Turds while enjoying the last drinks of the night. Brett put about $20 in the jukebox which never actually played our songs (at least while I was there) and some random weirdo tried to sidle his way into control the selection while Brett was standing there. The music there usually alternates between country and classic rock, two genres I can do without. That night was no expectation. As the bartender explained to us once before, the owner controls which music channels can be played, and that dude really likes his Tobey Kieth and Eagles. So on music alone, I would agree that place stinks. In fact, it was the worst music I have ever heard at a bar. And when you’re in that singing mood to belt out “Since you’ve been gone” listening to Hotel California ain’t gonna cut it. But that’s the only concession I’ll make. Everything else was a delight, as usual. The lovely smell of Windex permeated the air while we downed skanked beers. How could you not like this place?!

In terms of recognizability of the Tim’s, I will only say that a random drunk girl tore a poster the off the wall of Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption. She may have been pro liberty (as I am) so I could agree with her general sentiment that Tim Robbins is a socialist ass, but I’ll be damned if someone will diss that movie. That is the greatest movie of all time. It has humor (Tim Robbins going to prison), action (Tim Robbins getting butt-raped), sodomy (see action), drama (Tim Robbins getting dressed down by the warden for using the fancy word obtuse), love (Tim Robbins having sex with Morgan Freeman – c’mon that had to happen, they were as warden Norton put it “thick as thieves”) and life lessons (Tim Robbins teaching us how to create an alias, launder money, and retire to Mexico).

And that’s about it. I clearly waited too long to write this review. Nothing absurd happened at Turd Toms that I can remember. And I still love the bar after that night as it appeals to my Jewish nature of not wanting to pay a lot of money. As an afterthought, I consulted the score sheets. What did everyone else think of Turd’s? Well . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZHwxIL9oYo. I would definitely hang at this bar, but I always get outvoted.

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