“You’re just a bit short,” the middle-aged woman says as the plastic ring goes “thud” on the sand, just shy of its target, a plain metal pole.
“Don’t tell my wife,” quips her male opponent.
“I am your wife,” she retorts.
The couple is playing rootball, a sport unique to the Root Bar, nestled far out east Tunnel Road (the hand-painted-sign reads simply “Pub” on one side; the bar’s name is on the other). The players get points by striking the pole with the ring, and then the ring with a plastic ball. The two patrons playing today are regulars and enthusiastic about both the bar and the sport—which, the woman says, they’re even spreading to their family reunions.
“When our son got out of the Marine Corps two years ago,” she says, pointing him out and waving to him while he sips beer nearby in the shade, “we wanted to have his homecoming party here—and they cleared the whole place out, no problem. We had beer and rootball, and it was great.”
Beer and rootball are the essence of the Root Bar, and it seems that the regulars wouldn’t have it any other way. They certainly seem comfortable and familiar with each other: At 6 p.m., the bar’s population suddenly triples as a steady stream of people make their way in, shouting greetings, slapping backs, shaking hands, asking about family, friends or the day at work.
“Still in school?” a man still in his work clothes asks the bartender.
“Always,” she says, handing him a can of PBR out of the refrigerator.
In addition to the rootball course out back, there are other amusements: a pool table, a dart board, an armadillo and steins above the bar. The jukebox is silent for the moment, and a handwritten note advises customers to “ask your bartender how you can vote for your favorite CD, in or out of the jukebox.”
As for beer, that’s the only alcoholic drink the Root Bar serves, and the bar does it very well. In addition to local standbys like Highland Brewery’s Gaelic Ale, they stock delicious rarities like the Brazilian Eisenbahn Defumada Smoked Lager. And most varieties cost between $3 and $4, so the suds are easy on the drinking budget.
The whole bar feels uniquely lived in, with small touches like the jukebox, the armadillo or the rootball course giving one the impression that here, everything—and everyone—has a story.
The Root Bar is located at 1410 Tunnel Road. For more information, call 255-7597.