During a recent trip to Atlantic City, I stopped in at my favorite boardwalk destination, the Wild Wild West Casino. This casino is a graduate-level course in tackiness, with desert mountain landscapes, old Western storefront façades, a mechanical bull and an animatronic (but out-of-order)drunken prospector, whiskey bottle in hand, standing alongside his trusty burro inside the casino entrance. It's an Epcot Center for gamblers and night owls; in other words, my kind of place.
The casino was hit hard by the slump in business in Atlantic City. Modern tastes have turned away from the garish, heavy-handed thematic elements that made a place like this a hit in the past, opting instead for modern casinos that would double as unimaginably opulent palaces if it weren't for the stale cigarette smoke and inherent seediness of the gambling environment.
This is somewhat analogous to the rise of the "ultra lounge" in relation to the classic dive bar. Mainstream tastes are shifting from grimy charm to polished lounges and nightclubs. While I enjoy elements of both worlds, I'm surely a sucker for an honest, basic dive. If you can slip an old-timey theme in there, so much the better.
And so I learned of The Ageing Still, a Largo bar and grill located off the Pinellas Trail on Walsingham Road. The exterior sported a hand-painted sign depicting a moonshine jug and skull hidden in a thick brush.
My curiosity piqued, I arrived a month or so later for an in-depth exploration and found the sign had been replaced by a bright red, neon number that simply read "the Still." Another sign of the shift away from yesterday's kitsch, perhaps.
Inside, the bar was the quintessential dive — two pool tables, a row of electronic darts on one wall, cork darts on another, several TVs situated throughout, and a large bar in the center. There was no discernible theme, just a basic watering hole for folks who appreciate cold beer and strong drinks.
A sign in the back listed a half-dozen current specials, with several decent spirits on sale for $2 or $3. These were apparently quite popular, as the bartender informed me that at least half of the options were out of stock. Luckily, some specials not yet listed were available.
The bartenders utilize a solid hand-pour, as I found when I got my first drink. These drinks are a bargain, both potent and budget-friendly. The liquor selection wasn't incredibly varied, but it was adequate, with options from basic and cheap wells to a few high-end selections, priced reasonably at under $7.
The beer was standard issue, with major domestics comprising the bulk of the selection, and Shock Top representing the top end of the draft lineup. However, a few craft options were available in the bottle, such as Sam Adams and Cigar City Jai Alai.
I was particularly interested in the massive 100-ounce beer towers sitting at the end of the bar. These weren't getting much interest from the patrons, so my group grabbed one, and it was quite fun pouring our own drafts from a beer-filled column sitting directly in front of us.
Aside from the drink specials, beer towers and bar games, the Still also has live music every Friday. Essentially, it's a pretty straightforward place. It's not modern or flashy, but to me, that's its biggest strength — good, classic dive bar fun.