There is a sad little bar in Raleigh that I’ve picked on for a countless number of years that I had never actually been to until a week ago. It is a small 40-year-old establishment called Sadlack’s Heroes, located on Hillsborough Street across from North Carolina State University.
I’ve maintained a long running joke about Sadlack’s. For some reason, it seemed that every time I’d get caught at the stoplight across from the building, I’d look over and see only one or two men sitting at the bar, heads hanging low, staring into their beer, looking depressed as all get out. I took it to be a very depressing place. I saw it as a sad, unkempt, run down place that old men would stumble to when their wives left them or they lost their job.
Last week I had some time to kill before meeting some friends in the downtown area. I decided to stop in for a beer so I could finally experience this bar first hand once and for all.
I should mention that I was there at 5:30 on a Monday afternoon. Considering the day and time, it wasn’t exactly bustling, and a single visit anywhere isn’t a true representation of the general customer experience.
Since this was an unplanned visit, I was there alone. I realized the irony of my circumstance. Passing motorists could see me sitting up at the bar alone, just like those sad, lonely guys I’d seen there in years past. In the eyes of passersby, I had assumed the role of a sad lonely guy drinking a beer at Sadlack’s.
When I arrived, I checked in on Foursquare in order to document my visit, and left a comment that the bar should post the number for the suicide prevention hotline over the door. I wrote that in jest, and I thought it was pretty funny.
Once I was inside, I found it to be small and somewhat dated. I read that the interior was remodeled in recent years, and I could tell that it had been. To my surprise, it seemed to be clean and well kept. That aside, the general atmosphere inside is, how should I say? Vintage? Let’s go with that.
They have only a handful of beers on tap, but the prices are reasonable. I was, however, put off by the use of plastic cups instead of real pint glasses. I suppose they don’t serve beer in glasses so people can walk around outside on the patio with their cups to converse and play darts and whatnot. I don’t enjoy drinking beer out of a small plastic cup, but it is what it is. I will say that the bartender was extremely nice and repeatedly asked if I was doing okay and if I needed anything. The level of service that I experienced on my visit was excellent.
As I mentioned, the bar has an outside area. In front of the building are a few faded picnic tables. In the back there is a covered patio with dart boards and a few more tables. Unlike the interior, the outside has clearly not been remodeled in any way, and looks like it has been the same since the beginning of time. They have live music on the covered patio area at some point during the week, but I haven’t been there when that was happening, and I don’t know the schedule for that. I can’t imagine that many people could attend the live music because the patio is pretty small.
I expected to see a lot of college students at Sadlack’s since it’s located directly across from the university, but there weren’t many at all (at least while I was there.) The clientele largely consisted of old leathery, grizzled-looking men. I assumed that these men had probably been going to this bar for decades. I actually sent a text message to a friend and said that in comparison, some of the people made Willie Nelson and Keith Richards look like newborn babies. Ha! In fact, the #1 tip for Sadlack’s that a Foursquare user had written said, “I’m pretty sure this place has the highest concentration of missing teeth in all of Raleigh.” There is some truth to that statement, but I digress.
Sadlack’s is definitely not my style. I don’t see myself going back there, unless I did so ironically. I felt out of place the whole time I was there. I checked their rating on Yelp and I was baffled to see that it has an average customer rating of 4 stars. I was surprised by that. After reading the user reviews, my negative outlook on the bar softened a little. I found out through the reviews that the bar plays all of their music on real vintage vinyl records. I think that is really cool. I suppose it has its own unique charms that their customers have come to expect and appreciate.
Despite my ugly comments about Sadlack’s, the bar has been in operation since 1972. They must be doing something right to have been in business for such a long time. I imagine that they have a steady stream of regular customers. I’m glad that I finally had the chance to experience it first hand. The scene at Sadlack’s is just not for me.
If you find yourself perched at the bar at Sadlack’s, I’d be curious to know what you think. You may love it or you may hate it. As with anything, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.