2237 First Avenue, Bankers Hill
If the Cryptkeeper opened a speakeasy, he’d lurch over to Cherry Bomb first to take notes. Wedged between a laundromat and a taco shop, the Banker’s Hill drinking dungeon sees black brick and red walls embellished with skulls, candles, gargoyles, skateboards, and tattoo art. Shot glasses glow red above the bar as industrial fans spin overhead.
“We’re pretty much going for dark and dirty,” says Josh Bilben, who runs the bar with wife Sondra Feuillet.
Cherry Bomb is the kind of place you’re liable to smuggle a soda into. The cocktails ($4.75) are so strong you’ll probably puke in your mouth a little — and like it. I once ordered a Red Bull vodka and got a pint of vodka with a full can of Bull. But the house special is the 23-ounce schooner of brew. Sure, it’s Budweiser, but at $4.25 a glass, it’s just good ole American beer — and the main reason I crash my bicycle four out of five times after leaving the place.
Cherry Bomb has a definite local, under-the-radar feel, but don’t let the haunted house decor scare you away, boils and ghouls. The bartenders and clientele are as awesome as you are. Warm up your ligaments and your lexis for a shit-talk intensive game of foosball with the diehard regulars. Or kill overweight zombies in the House of the Dead arcade game, which only enhances the bar’s macabre ambiance.
If you’re lucky, you’ll meet people like Maryteal, a Virginian Southern belle (more of a crash cymbal, really) who puts salt on her black beans and ketchup on her kidney beans and is “happy as a clam” to meet someone who enjoys Brunswick stew. Get your ass kicked at billiards by a talkative blonde pool shark who rants about yoga, India, and God between shots and swills of beer.
Though live music was cut six years ago due to neighbor complaints, Cherry Bomb’s legendary punk and metal-heavy jukebox is the next best thing. Black Heart Procession next to Nomeansno, Daydream Nation next to a rockabilly mix, and the Jesus Lizard next to Johnny Cash. The local compilation includes rads such as Tanner, Drive Like Jehu, Inch, Congress of the Cow, Heavy Vegetable, Jejune, and No Knife.
Parking is readily available, but you’re better off taking a cab if you plan on finishing your drink.