If you'll indulge me in a moment of being a grumpy old man, I'd like to complain about technology. Yes, me — a person tethered to an iMac for much of the day, who uses an iPhone for everything from maps to studying Spanish to looking up where I know that actor from on a seemingly hourly basis.
Modern technology has made life more efficient than ever before, but having nonstop, instant connectedness to anything and everything on a smartphone has made a big change in the way we communicate face-to-face. It's become increasingly common to witness a table full of friends at a bar all doing something different on their phones, disengaged, or in the best case, simply distracted. We've nearly forgotten how to talk to one another, and in the classic social institution of the bar or pub, no less!
One way to break away from this trend is to take a trip to a quiet bar with fewer distractions. In a smaller, quieter, and more intimate environment — such as the one that I recently found at the Talking Pint in Riverview — you may find yourself forced to become engaged; in some cases, you may even end up in someone else's conversation.
The Talking Pint is a tiny beer and wine bar in River Springs Town Center. It says right in the name that this is a place where you go to have a chat. Sure, music and TVs are on, but they stay in the background, which makes it easy to talk without having to shout.
Although the Pint stays open late and serves a lot more IPAs than it does lattes, it has a definite coffee-shop feel. There's a large sofa next to the bar; several tables along the wall with intentionally-mismatched (and in some cases, antique-looking) chairs; a bookshelf with plenty of reading material, playing cards and board games. My two favorite touches: a reproduction of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story and a large console TV with an Atari emulator attached, so if you do need a break from conversation, you can blow up tiny, pixelated spaceships instead.
But I think you'll find that it's often more fun to shoot the breeze, or even to get involved in whatever owner/bartender/cook Matt Brooks is chatting with the regulars about. When I stopped by, I ended up talking baseball (I know nothing about baseball), beer (that's another story), and learned that Brooks' brother, who lives in Staten Island, holds the position of Grand Duke in a LARPing club (go ahead and Google that — I know you have your smartphone handy).
This is not to say that the Talking Pint is always a quiet, low-key affair. Live music is featured on the weekends, from singer-songwriter Robby Stewart on Fridays and folk duo Two Beats One on Saturdays, to Gianfranco Ferri, a guitarist and singer who performs a mix of Italian and American tunes on Thursdays.
The bar has a focus on American craft beer, and rather than taking the mega-tap approach of having dozens of beers to choose from, the Talking Pint has only nine, with another dozen beers in the bottle. The result is a fresh pint, as the stock gets rotated more regularly. Others should take note. The wine list is small but covers plenty of ground, and these are fresh, too — bottles open more than a day go into the category of "yesterday's wine" and sell at a discounted price of $5.
While a night of conversation at a bar like the Talking Pint may not cure us of our smartphone addiction, it's a refreshing change of pace. Though this is definitely a place to go for a good chat, there are still enough fun distractions by way of games, TV and live music, should you need it.
Who knows? Maybe you won't.