Dive Bar Serendipity in Tucson at The Buffet Bar and Crock Pot
St. Elmo’s Bar in Bisbee was a lucky score, and our luck continued in Tucson at The Buffet Bar and Crock Pot thanks to Kelly Lewis, a free copy of Zocolo Magazine, and the Oro Valley Library. Here’s how it went down:
We’d been going to the Oro Valley Library to use its interwebs and chairs and tables, all of which are somewhat lacking in our van-home. I grabbed a Zocolo on the way out figuring it would be an interesting read (or at the very least, kindling). Lisa read the article about Miss Peggy, a bartender that’s been at “the Buff” for 30 years. She’s 80(!) — she started working at the bar when she was 50. The article mentioned cheap Coors drafts and hot dogs (cooked in a Crock Pot, natch). I was sold. Lisa … not so much. The only other beer available on draft is Blue Moon … Lisa was nearly convinced. Reading the bar’s website sold her.
Excerpts? Yes, indeed:
Pull up a bar stool and make yourself at home. What’ll be? A world famous Jumbo? (A full 16 ounces of Coors draft and it’s only $2) (Two bucks!)). How about a hot dog with that? They’re boiled in beer and come with an assortment of mustards, catsup, freshly chopped onions, sliced jalepeno peppers, relish, sauerkraut — the works. They’re also only $2! (Two bucks!)
We are the largest Coors retailer in the world. We’ve been written up in Playboy (as Tucson’s Best College Bar), Esquire magazine recenly named us one of .The Best Bars in America and we always win the distinction of being Tucson’s Best Dive Bar in the Tucson Weekly’s ‘Best of Tucson’ edition– the Conde Nast of local haute cuisine.
Hey, it wouldn’t be a buffet if we didn’t have food. Our friendly and helpful staff are trained and experienced in the fine art of boiling hot dogs. Fresh dogs are boiled in beer all day long in our formerly-almost-state-of-the-art crock pot. We can also toss a polish sausage into the pot and it will be ready in minutes. We proudly serve a fine selection of potato chips, popcorn and pork rinds. They are already bagged, ready to eat and they’re only a buck. Untouched by human hands!
Any world-class chef will tell you that presentation is everything. And we agree with them! Every hot dog and polish sausage is served on a fresh coffee filter.
So we go to the place. Tucson has this odd habit of making people back into diagonal parking spots — I don’t understand it. Yeah, I get that it’s safer when you leave because you’re not backing into traffic, but … there’s no traffic! Anyway, they have these spots out front, so we go around the corner to park normal parallel style. There’s a dude standing in front of the bar having a cigarette, smoking away in the sun. We can’t see in the windows. We’re not exactly sketched-out, but there wasn’t an overly welcoming vibe coming out of the place. It looked deserted.
It wasn’t. When we go in, we find that every bar stool is occupied. The place opens at 6AM, and some people seemed to sit and nurse beers all day. At $2 a beer, that’s pretty cheap rent.
I get a Coors (largest Coors retailer in the world!) and Lisa gets a Blue Moon. I bail on the hot dog. We’re there in the afternoon, so we don’t see Miss Peggy, the famous bartender, but we do get to read some of the graffiti on the walls — it’s everywhere. The crowd is older — we’re on the young side in the room and we’re 30ish — but it’s mixed. Yes, there’s some Mossy Oak, but there’s also a collared shirt or two and a number of smartphones on the bar. Inebriation is mixed as well — some stumble, some are just settling in. The bartender keeps a conversation / banter going with the regulars around the bar. She and Lisa make up 50% of the women in the place.
Not a bad bar, I rather like it. But it’s no St. Elmo, unfortunately, where the crowd welcomes you and doesn’t need to know your name to do so.