I miss the Lark Tavern. I really, really, really miss the Lark Tavern. Funny, I never thought I'd ever get so nostalgic about a bar, but then again, you don't know what you've got until it's gone and the Lark Tavern wasn't just any bar.
I can't say I'm a connoisseur of the restaurant industry, nor can I say I'm a steel-livered pub-crawler. I consider myself to be a pretty average Joe when it comes to going out for some bar food and spirits, but I have had a drink or two in enough places in this city to know without question - nothing compared to the Lark Tavern.
I don't know when I started going there, nor do I know exactly when it was I finally became aware that this was truly my favorite place to pull up a stool and spend my hard earned money for beers and spirits. It just sort of happened. Years of bouncing from one Center Square apartment to another helped a lot. So did having a diverse group of friends who can't agree on much of anything -- The Lark Tavern was something everyone could always agree on.
The Tavern never tried to be anything but a friendly, every-body-knows-your-name type of place - and that was true! Out of all the bars I've frequented, from clubs to dives, not many of the staff would ever remember me. I always felt kinda cool when I'd come in, put my hand on the bar to await a drink, and Tess, the owner of the bar, would say "hey, Martin, how the hell are ya?" That was a shock at first. How did Tess know who I was? How could she possibly know seemingly everyone in the place?! More often than not, Tess could avoid small talk and jump into continuing the conversation we had ages ago when I was last there. How the heck did she do that?!
Tess is amazing. She's a tour-de-force of customer service and friendliness. A couple of years ago, after returning from volunteering for a small post-Katrina relief effort in New Orleans, a few of us students approached Tess to propose a fundraiser. We didn't expect much, so when Tess essentially took charge and set up the whole thing, we were overjoyed. She got her staff involved, encouraged patrons to donate, and dug out some swag to dress the promotion up a bit. I think we pulled in $500 - not bad for a bunch of rag-tag introvert grad students if I say so. And I do. Little did I know Tess was always leading the charge for events like ours. As years passed we returned generosity when we could.
The Tavern had a cool atmosphere, a good drink selection, and a laid-back attitude. The staff was always great. There were often fun shows and events going on, and there was even a "secret" menu item: Fried Mac N' Cheese, mmmmm.
And then... the fire. The days following the terrible fire reminded me how special the tavern was to so many people. Thousands of dollars poured in support, and Tess and staff quickly found employ at McGeary's. There must be hundreds of people in Albany that called the Lark Tavern "my bar."
So what now? I still haven't found quite the place to call home again -- the place where everybody knows my name. That may not be a bad thing -- I've got a mortgage to pay, 11pm is "late" for me, and I just can't jump out of bed at 7am after a night on the town like I used to. Still, on the few nights I am able to go out, I find myself feeling quite sad when I pass the Tavern's burned out shell.
There are a lot of great memories between those brick walls.
Martin has a great -- and very appropriate -- username on Twitter: daleyplanit.
Photo: Flickr Sebastien Barre
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