June 6, 2006

No tricks: Shenanigans vs. More Shenanigans (Two local bars separated at birth?)

Studies have shown that when twins are separated at birth, placed in different environments, they remarkably still display similar characteristics and traits as they move separately through life. That’s exactly the case of our two similar-named bars — Shenanigans and More Shenanigans. Their differences are like night and day — one sits on a sleepy neighborhood corner in the Highlands, while the other holds forth off the busy Bardstown Road in Fern Creek. But their similarities (besides the shared name “shenanigans”) are uncanny — both act as a friendly neighborhood watering hole, a place where friends and strangers alike can feel at home and brush off their day with a cold pint or two.For the record, Shenanigans and More Shenanigans are in fact true siblings, birthed from the same proprietor — Tim Cain (who also owned a third sibling, the now-deceased Shenanigans on the River in New Albany). Shenanigans is a bit older than More Shenanigans — having evolved and expanded from the now-defunct Hobicks Tavern and Leo’s Grocery in the mid-’80s. More Shenanigans has also evolved from previous establishments in its location — it was once located next door to where it is now, which was once a grocery store and then a laundromat. Cain is no longer the owner of either bar — Eddie Cooper now owns Shenanigans, and Mike Fridman is owner of More Shenanigans. But enough of the past …The definition of “shenanigans” is a playful or mischievous act; a prank. Spending enough time at both places, you can easily watch this kind of tomfoolery stir throughout the evening.A common yet unwarranted stereotype may be to say Shenanigans is just another yuppie Highlands bar, while More Shenanigans is more of a redneck South End hole-in-the-wall. Sure, Shenanigans caters to a large clientele of Bellarmine students and Eastern Parkway neighbors, while More Shenanigans has a high number of blue-collar regulars. But pigeon-holing them into extreme categories is unfair.I found Shenanigans to be just as cozy and sleepy as I had expected. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun — its location, however, lends itself to more of a quiet evening/meet-up kind of place rather than an all-out party-till-you-puke frat house vibe. With one pool table near the back of the two-room, shotgun style area, the main attraction for Shenanigans, besides reasonable prices and an extensive menu, is all of the television sets. There must have been at least 20 of them of all different sizes positioned around the spacious dining area and above the bar from end to end. I’m guessing the place would be ideal to watch a Cards or Cats game.And More Shenanigans, to me, was just as homey and inviting, with perhaps a little more party on tap. The warehouse-style, large-open-room layout felt a little sterile at first, until I settled in at the alluring, rectangular bar. There are three pool tables and a bumper pool table, as well as a fairly large stage for weekly karaoke and live music. It was definitely personality that won me over here. Bartender Sara Waggoner, or “Man Food” as the regulars affectionately called her, was quick to take my order and serve up cold beer with warm compliments. Wide-eyed and smiling, she pointed right to my New Kids on the Block button that I had fastened on my ’80-style jean purse and shrieked with nostalgia. Jordan was always her favorite, she shared.On the opposite side of the bar was a group of regulars who were gathering for their after-work ritual. Between sips of domestic bottled beer they would sling shots of Patron, Jack and Jager. Owner Mike Fridman was a member of this group, and after noticing I was asking a lot of questions of Sara, offered me a shot of his newest favorite liquor — Agavero Tequila, which was dark in color but amazingly quite smooth. As the men joked with each other and Sara and me, they took turns dropping money into the jukebox (Norah Jones was their pick of the day) and asking strangers to dance.For two brothers who were separated at birth and raised in nearly opposite environments, Shenanigans and More Shenanigans remarkably retain the same intensions. While one may have his collar buttoned up, trousers neatly pressed, and the other donning a broken-in pair of jeans and a faded Budweiser T-shirt, you’ll want both of them around anytime there’s a party. Contact the writer at shavens@leoweekly.com