There’s a definition of a dive bar Jeremy Norton likes: “A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows — bums and poets, thieves and celebrities. It’s a place that wears its history proudly.”
He found the definition in Playboy Magazine and believes it fits Roadie Joe’s, his adult establishment on the Downtown Plaza.
“It’s a place where high society and low society fit together. It doesn’t really matter who you are. Everybody is welcome. When you walk into the bar it’s like the opening scene of Star Wars. That’s how it’s been described to me,” Norton said.
“Sometimes we have hip hop playing in one room and country in another place at the same time. There are pool tables. We have a fire pit out back. We have a good time here,” Norton said.
His restaurant was named for his nickname, Roadie, a moniker he somehow acquired in high school, although the reason isn’t clear.
What is certain is that Roadie Joe’s is a place to join friends for a burger or wrap, play ping pong or corn hole, and, twice each week, take part in poker games. Winners receive gift cards.
On the menu are burgers, cheesesteaks, crab dip and the specialty, an open-faced quesadilla with various toppings like Thai chili sauce, peppers, onions, mushrooms, six cheeses and chicken.
“There are three or four different kinds of those flats,” Norton said, adding burgers are hand-packed and weigh half a pound.
On Wednesday nights, a burger and fries cost $5.
For vegetarians, there’s a wrap and hummus platter.
One of the specialty drinks is the Sexy Bitch, made from strawberry vodka, vanilla liqueur and pineapple juice.
The house drink is the Aqua Bomb, a secret recipe Norton would only describe as “a sweet shot.”
Customers love that the kitchen is open until 2 a.m. and bands or a disc jockey play six nights every week.
“There’s free poker on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You have to be 21. Well, it’s a 21-plus facility anyhow,” Norton said, explaining poker enthusiasts, usually about 20, settle at tables and for free games.
A former bartender, Norton said he “realized the awesomeness of downtown and the opportunity at this particular place because it had been a restaurant before.”
“It has failed so many times. I wanted to switch it. People at previous times had put emphasis on fancy food and the fine dining experience. It never really worked for them, except for Legends. But I wanted to flip it,” Norton said.
Customers like Roadie Joe’s because, Norton said, “because of the unique environment.”
“We’re always having a good time. There are a lot of people here on a typical night playing corn hole and ping pong. The fire pit is going. We have a lounge with couches and there are TVs everywhere,” he said.
Hours are Mondays to Fridays from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sundays from noon to midnight.
Norton’s friend, Joey Gilkerson, was his partner but is no longer involved because he’s developing Headquarters Live downtown.
“I’m excited about that. Everybody should be. It really is going to change the landscape of downtown,” Norton said.
“People are going to go there for a show, then go out for food after. We’re going to feed off that. Everybody downtown is going to feed off that.”
Reach Susan Canfora at firstname.lastname@example.org.