Thursday, January 22, 2009

Iowa Pt. III: A La Recherche du Paul's Perdu

My beloved Twinnies lost! But did that do anything to quell this man’s Playoffs Fever? Absolutely not. Still sequestered in Dubuque, Iowa I continued on my search for dive bars in which to feed my need for beer and baseball. I heard rumors of a place called “Paul’s Tavern” “Paul’s Tap” and “Paul’s Bar” where one could get a cheeseburger and a beer for two bucks. Now, either there are a lot of guys named Paul in Dubuque who are all trying to corner the cheap drunk market, or Paul’s Tavern/Tap/Bar was the same place. Sure enough, at 176 Locust St. in Dubuque Paul’s Tavern reared its ugly head. A doublewide bar if I’ve ever seen one, Paul’s Tavern has to be one of the narrowest bars I’ve ever been to. It also features the most frightening array of dead animals I have ever seen in my life which are, apparently, “Paul’s Big Game Trophies”.

Photo By Darren Snow

These “Trophies” range from deer to mountain goats to small varmints all stuffed and neatly arrayed in large, neon-backlit glass cases that line both walls. Remember when I said Paul’s was one of the narrowest bars I’ve ever seen? Well huge glass cases full of dead animals encroaching from either side doesn’t help that sense of claustrophobia.

The television in Paul’s is a tiny remnant of the Carter administration, crouching under the glassy gaze of a mountain goat in the farthest rear corner of Paul’s. As it coughed up the only game that the Sox won in their series against Tampa I ordered what was to become the first of many $1 beers from a bartendress who looked like a 90 year old shaved cat that had been smoking Virginia Slims since the Titanic sunk. The beer? Old Style. Classic Chicago-baseball-watching beer. Now, Old Style, for all of you beerficionados out there who don’t drink yard beers with us plebeians, is not, I will admit, the greatest beer in the world.* However, THIS particular keg of Old Style had, apparently been sitting in the basement of Paul’s Tap since the last time the Twins won the World Series.** AND, apparently the way that Paul’s Tap could justify selling Old Style for $1 was if they doled it out by the thimbleful. After roughly 18 Dixie cups of Old Style I was ready for a burger.

The Paul’s Tavern burger was probably the most blatantly unsanitary thing I have ever consumed in my life. This is saying a lot coming from a guy who eats off the floor to keep his immune system on its toes. Nefertiti’s Mummy pulled a pre-made hamburger patty out of a cooler which I could’ve sworn was sitting open since I walked in, tossed it in some sort of grill/oven which was so crusted over it looked like a topographical map of the Appalachians, looked annoyed/bored and said, “One dollar, sweetie.” Now I suspect that the crustitution of this particular grill/oven thingee had something to do with how delicious this particular slider was. Whatever the case might’ve been, it was absolutely delicious. And only a dollar! How magical.

Several more walnut shells full of Old Style later I engaged in conversation with a drunk, nearly deaf man who proceeded to yell at me for roughly a half hour about being in the Ironworker’s Union, how much he hated the Sox (yes, ladies and gents, this man was a dirty, dirty Cubs fan) and how he was going to try to get fellated by his across the hall neighbor. Good luck Lazy-Eye.

Towards the end of the night the Sox won, all was right with the universe and my tab ended up being somewhere around $12. Money well spent, thanks Paul’s!

I spent the rest of the night singing Italian arias down by the Mississippi river with Jack and Sabyre. I brought Sabyre a bag of oranges which she adopted as her baby. I also fell and ripped my jeans, so now I have a pair of jeans with a hole in the knee and look much cooler than I would otherwise. Great!


Paul’s Tavern
176 Locust St.
Dubuque, IA

Tap: Old Style (comes in tiny, tiny glasses)
Bottle: Didn’t get a chance to inspect the bottle selection, wouldn’t imagine it’s that great.

Delicious sliders from a Cold War grilloven.

TVs: At least one which probably displayed the Moon Landing.
Bar Games: I believe there was pinball and perhaps Ms. Pac-Man

Old drunks. Guys with lazy eyes who talk about their peckers.

Jukebox: I seem to remember them having some sort of jukebox, but baseball was more important…
Live: None

Scary, scary dead animals, everywhere!

The beers weren’t that huge but they were only a dollar and the burgers were pretty good and I walked out of there with a pretty slim tab. 8


Paul’s is, apparently, an old drunk institution in Dubuque. If you are looking for a cheap in every sense of the word time, Paul’s is the place to go in Dubuque. Also, it is a good place to watch baseball.

* Before all you Chicagoans with a chip on your shoulder start getting your noses out of joint about Old Style, understand that if you think that Old Style is the greatest beer in the world that you don’t actually MEAN that, you simply think that any attack on Old Style is an attack on the Sox or the Cubs or Chicago. Truth be told it has nothing to do with that, Old Style is just kindof a crummy beer, please act accordingly.

**1991 for all of you cretins out there.


  1. Ummm I'm guessing the Old Style thing was directed at me, but you forget that south siders drink PBR which is the BEST beer in the world.

  2. Paul's is an institution in Dubuque. It is a working man's bar and always has been. Don't know how long ago you were there, but I live in the vicinity in an historic home, and the last I checked (last night) Paul's had two plasma TVs that have been there for quite a few years. In addition, the "grill" you so disparagingly referred to happens to be one of the cleanest grills in the city, and the ONLY one left. It hails from the 1940's, and the owner of Paul's continues to purchase any of this type of grill from all over the US to have "spare parts" for the one at Paul's. It continues to enjoy a clean bill of health from the Health Dept., which it has enjoyed since the 1940's. The wild game taxidermy are enclosed in climate controlled cases, and were all shot by the original owner. It was purchased 20 years ago by the current owner, Tom Koch. He makes all the soups (in winter) and potatoe salad and macaroni salad (in summer)-- all delicious! So, from a neighbor and customer of Paul's (I am neither a drunk, or an old man with one eye, or any other of the horrid humans you described) Paul's is a great place and has been enjoyed and continues to be enjoyed by folks from all over the world as a great bar with a quaint atmosphere and prices that anyone can afford.