Big Bad John's
Tales from other places, part four
From the anachronistic exterior log facade, to the self-deprecating sign that reads "Sorry, we're open," one can anticipate the excellence of Big Bad John's before even entering. Inside, this impression is confirmed a ga-zillion-fold. The dark wood backdrop is sheathed with untold pieces of ephemera, and decorated with objects like rope, license plates, meat hooks and scores of autographed brassieres. Peanut shells litter the ground around log-stump tables. Classic country--Waylon, most likely--fills the air. This 50-year-old, intentionally debauched "hillbilly bar" could be the best dive in Canada.
During a recent 10-day stint in Victoria, British Columbia, I visited the downtown bar five times. Its clientel is comprised of an unpretentious mix of young folks, leather-clad would-be ruffians and weathered men (that's me). The overall-cloaked staff is friendly with a bumpkin-like manner, while the bartender has a few tricks up his plaid sleeve--rubber spiders and snakes hang above unsuspecting patrons, rigged up with fishing wire, the creepy-crawlies ominously wait to be lowered onto the usually frightened, then amused drinkers from behind the bar. And in a land where drinks can be relatively expensive, here the prices are fair enough to tie on more than one. All drinks come with free salty peanuts (making beer the ideal beverage), the shells of which are tossed to the floor. It sounds gimmicky, but Big Bad John's may be the most authentic bar in which I've stepped foot. Anyhow, it's certainly the crunchiest.