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Monk’s (used to be a) Wine Bar

By BitterD | April 2, 2007

Chico, California USA — I thought this was a Wine Bar. I’ve been here before. I’ve had Schramsburg Champagne here. I’ve shared bottles of St. Amant Tempranillo here. Didn’t I? I was confused. It looked the same, A funky collection of chairs, couches and tables tucked into various corners offering both intimate and group seating options, subdued paint scheme, a big dark wood bar, some jazz music in the background– a nice place to kick back with some friends and a bottle of wine. Well it was. Despite looking the same the vibe was decidedly different.

Walking in I suddenly felt very old, as if I had just entered some college hang out. I noticed that the place was pretty crowded, it was loud, most of the patrons were under 25 and, strangely, I found myself becoming mildly agitated almost immediately. I was with a small group of 40 something’s that had just seen an excellent performance by The Anushka Shankar Project at the university and we were looking for a little after show wine and snacks. Pretentious? Hell yes, but isn’t that what a wine bar is for? Chico is a college town, if I had wanted $2.00 pitchers in an obnoiuxiouosly loud shit-hole that smells of last year’s spilt beer and vomit there plenty of choices. If you want a decent glass of wine without a $25.00 dinner there’s Monks. Or at least there was. A further survey of the crowd that Friday night revealed that not only were many of them in the under 30 demographic they weren’t even drinking wine. They had glasses of beer! Sure it looked like some sort of higher quality selection from the famous local brewery, but it was still beer. What’s more, I was really starting to feel uppity.
I thought it was a wine bar.
We were attempting to make contact with the girl who appeared to be in charge when I realized the mysterious source of irritation. It was coming from the speakers above us. For Friday night at the wine bar some genius had selected an experimental, industrial techno noise fest. It was a collection of old synth sounds and gears grinding, blended together in way that was completely devoid of any rhythm or melody or any thing else. Apparently, the trick is to compensate for these shortcomings by playing it an earsplitting volume.
I thought it was a wine bar.
Through a combination of yelling and sign language we learned that the only table for four was out back on the patio. We decided to risk it. On the one hand it should be lot quieter, but on the other there’s a good chance that the waitress will forget you’re back there. As we strolled back I was confident that the latter was an increasingly strong probability. This place was full of young hipsters either swilling beer or buying wine because it was a chance to show off the Platinum card mommy and daddy sent them to school with. I even saw one hippy-dippy couple that looked like they belonged at the Crux Art Studio. He had a beer and she seemed to be drinking some sort of herbal tea concoction, the color of which kind of matched the dirty thrift store Aunt Jammima headscarf she had on. If you’re a young hipster waitress there is no chance to flirt and hook up with other young hipsters if you’re stuck waiting on those old married farts on the back deck.
I thought it was a wine bar.
After sitting down on some old iron chairs that had had any and all padding strategically removed, I realized that I was wrong on one count and only a little wrong on the other. Turns out they have speakers in back pumping out the same mood altering shit they had going inside. In addition the only other group on the patio consisted of 7 or 8 well-lubed collage folks who were chain smoking clove cigarettes. I wished “Pimpdaddy” had come along, as only he can survey a wine list and tell you what’s going to pair well with clouds of second hand clove smoke. I was thinking a good German Kabbinet might have enough acid to cut through the cloying haze, but I wasn’t sure. On a positive note the waitress did bring us a menu right away, but then she slipped off into the ether never to be seen again. We waited between 5 and 10 minutes, not a real long time, but certainly within the time I would expect someone, anyone, to take my order. Not to worry though, as the MDMA* inspired composition coming through the sound system blared it’s way to another mind numbing crescendo one of the young gentlemen at the other table stood up and gave an obligatory collage frat boy “whoooooohoooooo!” at a volume sufficient to drown out, if only for a moment, the noise that was being passed off as music. Perhaps he had just tasted a particularly impressive Cabernet, but somehow I doubt it. In any event it was enough to cause us to get up and head out.
I thought it was a wine bar.
Hopefully this was a one-time apparition. It was after 9:00 on a Friday and it was Caesar Chavez Day after all. That may not mean a whole lot to other people but in our town it’s the newest excuse to start parting early and get fall down throw up on the sidewalk shit faced. If I didn’t know any better I’d have thought most college kids started out as migrant farm workers. They sure like to honor Senor Chavez. Unfortunately, the other possibility is that, for the new owner like many business downtown, the specter of all those young collage people flush with money becomes too much to ignore. If I could just get a piece of it. College kids like alcohol and what’s wine but fancy expensive alcohol. As our group of old 40 something’s got up and walked out unnoticed, I wondered if the $38.00 bottle of wine, the four appetizers and the $8.00 glasses of Port that we didn’t buy is going to made up with $4.00 glasses of IPA. Maybe, and if not they can always have Monk’s $2.00 carafes of well wine and port Jell-O shooters.
As for our party we decided if you can’t beat ‘um, join ‘um. We ended up at the Mexican place down the block, which was full of multiple large 21’st birthday parties. Somebody in the back filled some large bowls with a sickly sweet syrup, waved a bottle of cheap tequila over them and had the bitchy little waitress set them down in front of us, at witch point they were referred to as “Margaritas” Viva Senior Chavez!

* 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more commonly known as X or ecstasy is the drug of choice for hipsters and ravers. Italian studies published in the journal BCM Neuroscience (2006) suggested that rats that were given MDMA maintained the electrocortal changes in their brains typical of a “high” for longer periods of time when subjected to “club level volumes of “ of white noise. This might have explained the choice of music, but I couldn’t find X on the list. Does it go before or after the Zins?

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Topics: Restaurants, Wine | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Monk’s (used to be a) Wine Bar”

  1. Lord Fancourt Says:
    February 15th, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Very nice review. Scathing, but well written. I see this was posted almost 2 years ago and was wondering if Monks was any different today. I stopped by in January and the crowd seemed relaxed and behaved. My group was asked about putting on a murder mystery at Monks and I just hope we can attract an appreciative crowd with some semblance of an attention span.


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