I realize that I have spent a good chunk of my adult life traipsing around the world visiting Tiki bars, but I never considered myself the kind of weirdo that would go out of his way to visit a theme bar, even if it is in tribute to the mighty GWAR. But there are two major reasons why I decided to set off on this road trip to review the GWARbar (based in lovely Richmond, VA). A) I wanted to go to Baltimore to visit a few of my friends B) Pusser’s Grill was on the way down and I wanted to try a Painkiller at the home of the Painkiller C) The mug Tiki Farm created for the GWARbar might be the finest Tiki Farm mug ever made (and you can only buy it at the bar).
Those reasons alone were enough to get us in a car for a miserable six-hour drive to Richmond, in inexplicably awful traffic with only a short stop in Annapolis for lunch and a drink. We arrived at the GWARbar shortly after sunset and there was a decent amount of people hovering around the front door. The bar is located inside a fancy brownstone store front in a fairly nondescript street that hardly screams “crack-fueled aliens from Antarctica.”
I tried to take it all in, but was oddly perplexed by the lack of kitsch and gore. For some reason, I was under the impression that the GWARbar would look like CBGB’s bathroom but with more vomit and blood. Instead, we were greeted by a somewhat subdued collection of nicely framed band posters, a handful of well-curated props and a tastefully designed bar that only hinted at the band’s arctic roots. In fact, the only offensive (if you can call it that) display in the smallish room is a sizable blood splat next to one of the bar stools that streaks all the way to the kitchen. Clearly a sign that at least one person was murdered there recently. The music comfortably blaring from the speakers consisted primarily of mid-90s SoCal punk rock and GWAR paraphernalia was limited to band photos laminated against a backsplash. Then it hit me. The GWARbar isn’t meant to be a bar for GWAR fans; it’s a bar that the band members would want to frequent if they could create their own establishment (which they did).
What makes this place so awesome (besides the mugs), is the food and drinks. As luck would have it, the GWARbar’s mixologists included three fine Tiki cocktails on the menu, as well as an assortment of beers, bombs and shots. I had the Bonesnapper, which features a nice melding of don q rum, peach and apple schnapps and some blood drizzle. Another plus, was that the place has a decent size veggie menu, peppered with a sick gourmet mac and cheese (affectionately called Jizmak ‘n’ Cheese), buffalo cauliflower (way hotter than it should be) and cheese tots. Everything was awesome and we could barely finish our meals.
When we first sat down, I tried to take a few photos and was stopped by a slightly insane man who asked me if I was a tourist. I said, “kinda.” And he joked that only a tourist would take photos at a local bar. I snapped back and said that it was equally odd to see a local hanging out at a bar themed after an intergalactic metal band. He just smiled at me and said, “See that guy at the bar? That’s Balzac, GWAR’s guitar player. This place ain’t no theme bar. This is our bar.” That’s when I realized just how incredible it is that the GWARbar not only exists, but that it’s thriving. If you are ever anywhere near Richmond, pay a visit to the GWARbar. You won’t regret it.