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April 20, 2014

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Domo arigato, T-Bird

Early-morning transgressions in a perfect suburban dive

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Ryan Olbrysh

At T-Bird you can eat, drink, smoke and play cheap pool-all at the same time.

Let’s get one thing straight from the start: T-Bird ain’t nuthin’ to mess with.

The rubber-banded brick of forgotten credit cards behind the bar tells me I’m not alone in falling happy victim to the subtle charms of the T-Bird Lounge & Restaurant. Sandwiched between a Wendy’s and a Carl’s Jr. along Eastern in Henderson, the place isn’t much to look at, just your standard, unassuming video-poker bar in the strip-mall sprawl of suburban Las Vegas. But before you know it, it’s 4 a.m., you’re ordering another Red Bull and vodka, munching on a plate of sourdough toast and screaming the chorus of Styx’s “Mr. Roboto”—part of the $10 worth you punched into the jukebox hours ago.

Bar Guide

T-Bird Lounge & Restaurant
9465 S. Eastern Ave, 361-6639.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I stumbled upon the T-Bird a few months ago after a late-night concert. I had sworn off chains. My friend said the T-Bird was different. He was right. The place combined my favorite vices in a near-toxic mix, shattering all notions of time and logic. You could eat, drink, smoke and play cheap pool—all at the same time. This quickly led to a series of ugly mornings, late arrivals and two words ringing out in my battered brain: Goddamn T-Bird.

The place is suburban dive perfected, warmer than a PT’s and nowhere near as crusty as Atomic Liquors, where a wrong look or a wrong tune brings the promise of a knife fight. Like much of Las Vegas, the bar is the color of stucco. One wall features a painted-red Ford Thunderbird driving a road paved with real bottle caps. Just ahead is a sign that reads, “Welcome to Fabulous T-Bird, Nevada.” The license plate: “LUV2WIN.” On the menu, the T-Bird D’Lite, your choice of meat served with cottage cheese and sliced tomatoes. For the less adventurous, there’s great bar burgers and killer omelettes, all for around $6.50.

Divey, not dirty.

I’m not quite a regular; my bar receipts identify me as “corner guy” and “dude.” On Monday, I stopped in for dinner and a few drinks, and my waitress, Brandy, took my order. “I didn’t recognize you because you were drinking a beer,” she said. “You usually drink Bombay and tonic.” They might not remember your name, but they will remember your drink.

They’ll also remember your hijinks, like when you throw a pool cue at your friend after his ribbing crosses the line and you miss your shot. Elsewhere, this sort of behavior results in ejection. (Last year, a boisterous, early-morning impression of Bill “We’ll Do It Live” O’Reilly nearly got me tossed from Champagnes, of all places.) At the T-Bird, the waitress asked me if I was alright—then refreshed my drink.

I was the corner guy. Of course I was alright. So were the cougars at the pool table next to me, playing what can only be described as sexy pool and grinding to Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.” Come to think of it, the guy riding a bike around the center bar seemed to be having a good time too, ringing his bicycle bell to celebrate each lap. All of this inspired me to plunk down a Hamilton on the jukebox, dialing up a number of all-time favorites, including, apparently, “Mr. Roboto.” In turn, the selection inspired one of my friends to join Styx in screaming the name of the song’s hero, repeatedly: “KIL-ROY! KIL-ROY! KIL-ROY!”

Had I remembered that Townes Van Zandt and Guns N’ Roses penned their own tributes to Thunderbird—the bum wine, not the bar—I would have included them. (Unlike the low-end fortified wine, this T-Bird doesn’t turn your lips and tongue black after copious consumption.) As Axl Rose put it, I was “loaded like a freight train, flyin’ like an aeroplane, feelin’ like a space brain.”

When a new group of friends cycled through around dawn, I knew the ride was over. Some toast, plenty of water, then a ride home.

Goddamn T-Bird.

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