Olive my love

Bartender Gin Collyer plucks an olive from a martini glass.

Bartender Gin Collyer plucks an olive from a martini glass.

Photo/Eric Marks

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/FoxyOlive21.

I don’t love olives. I tolerate them when they’re an ingredient in something else, but the thought of popping one into my mouth or adding the juice to a martini is revolting to me. As a result, I’ve never developed a taste for martinis, mainly because of the strong association with olives. I think this martini-olive link has lurked in the back of mind whenever I’ve given any thought to the Foxy Olive bar on Mill Street.

I really have no basis for this. The name has no connection to the kinds of drinks served there, I can now confirm. I remember, when I first heard about the bar, wondering what chance of success it had on the ground floor of the Lake Mill Lodge, a residential hotel of questionable character, where, at that time, at least, police calls seemed to outnumber tenants any given month.

Clearly the Foxy Olive has made a successful run, still going strong 10 years later. I paid them a visit for an after-work beer late on a Sunday afternoon and found a decent crowd for this typically slow day. Good punk rock played overhead, matching the assorted band stickers plastered on several walls.

I know they have live music and DJs sometimes, but the place is small, and I wonder where even a solo artist might perform in the narrow space. Customers trended toward young, not derelict barflies, the opposite of what I imagine used to haunt this space during its time as the Lamplighter Lounge in years past.

Despite the cool factor, the drink selection does not offer a vast row of microbrew taps or artisanal craft cocktails. PBR, Hamm’s and Miller High Life set the tone for beer, the retro, blue-collar brews adopted by the urban hip generation. One of the three taps offered a hoppy Fresh Squeezed IPA, and I was glad to find it crisp and tasty. The shelves behind the bar could be described as average and were filled with a decent selection of brands you know, enough variety to make most cocktails. A vintage pinball machine offers affordable amusement, should you prefer not to sit at the bar or few tables.

Small works of art for sale decorated the wall behind me, and as I let my mind wander, I could easily see this bar in a bigger city—San Francisco, in particular. The juxtaposition of old and run-down with expensive and new reminds me of The City, where I once saw someone defecating on the sidewalk on my way into a bar serving $18 beers.

Here I sat with a young, hip assortment of people who probably wouldn’t be caught dead in the Lake Mill Lodge upstairs, but certainly could fit in at the recently renovated Renaissance Hotel and Bundox Bocce across the street. A hundred yards in any direction from the nearby Patagonia store you could find a homeless person bedding down for the night. It’s funny how gentrification creeps in, one small pocket of city at a time, and the curious bedfellows that result.

The more I thought about it, my spurious association of olives and martinis—a drink associated with James Bond and the chi-chi set—with this, figuratively, grungy dive bar was ironic but appropriate: the young crowd that can afford to go out appropriating the cheap beer and a bar nestled next to low-income weekly housing, while yards away the corner liquor store peddles rotgut to regulars. At least my beer was a very reasonable $4.