8.72: Sam's Hofbrau

Sam's Hofbrau, home to some of Downtown's finest examples of spiraling topiary, among other things. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Sam's Hofbrau, home to some of Downtown's finest examples of spiraling topiary, among other things. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

Let’s get this one thing straight: strippers are not sex trade workers.

Short of turning tricks on the side, your average exotic dancer is not a prostitute. To refer to someone as a “sex trade worker” just because they intentionally manipulate carnal lust to entice people to part with their hard earned money would then indict a slew of other professionals including but not limited to advertisers and Instagram models.

We, as a society, are especially cruel to strippers. We invent justifications for condemnation. It is sad to watch someone profit off of the helplessness that comes with forking over money hand over fist to satisfy the basic dopamine triggers of addiction. Yet, by and large, we don’t go after oil execs for pushing their shitty crude on a hapless species that can’t imagine life without that oozing black gold.

I took a special journey this week into the depths of American addiction to explore “the club.” There a person can grab a hot meal and simultaneously satiate years of entrenched fixation on the female form.

Sam’s Hofbrau serves lunch and not just a meal in the glass as they call it in the world of cirrhosis anticipation. There is a full food menu at Downtown’s most jovially clad simulacrum of a Bavarian beer hall. Their website advertises “$5 Lunch Specials 11 a.m.-3 p.m.” including tacos, wings, sliders, chicken salad and a club sandwich. Boy!

Unless you’re doing prison outreach or are accepting a personal invitation from the President of the United States himself, you should never dine someplace where you have to be patted down to enjoy cheap food. That’s just a basic rule you can adhere to from here on out. The underlying premise of the pat down is that either there is something valuable inside that merits strict protection or the clientele is such that violence is a distinct prospect and, thus, the most lethal of grudges can be prevented by confiscating weapons at the door.

This is bullshit. Sam’s Hofbrau has nary a draft beer on the menu. If you want suds, you’ll have to cough up a disgusting amount of money for a bottled brew that, surprise surprise, can be converted into a shank or club with but a single swing of the wrist. Also, I should mention that the great treasure kept on the storied stage of this boner den is not a vastly precious commodity at noon on a Wednesday.

If you’ve ever indulged in critiques of the adult dancing world, you’ll know that “working the lunch shift” typically denotes a “b-team” or a less-desirable “still in development” or “past prime” aspect of strip culture. The daylight hours are like the minor leagues. You’ve got to start someplace where the stakes aren’t that great, the crowds aren’t that big and you can nuzzle up with some mentors who’ll teach you how to hit a breaking ball.  

On this particular day, I don’t see much dancing. Nor do I see a lot of stripping. What occurs on stage looks suspiciously like a methadone clinic pilates class. One hand grips the pole, while languid hips slide side to side and totally non-plussed eyes scan a pack of craven men sweating profusely beneath stained ball caps from perches back towards the wall where they can look without feeling obliged to tip.

Over at the bar, a completely fed up man tends the roster of alcoholics nursing Makers Mark at noon while a pack of dancers huddle together on their smart phones. Clearly the bartender enjoys his life. He looks a little bit like Tony Shaloub. Not neurotic, hyper-insightful, Monk era Tony Shaloub but otherworldly, Men In Black Tony Shaloub right after Tommy Lee Jones blows his fucking head off and it starts to grow back with an automatic grimace.

He tosses me a menu in a half-hearted attempt at positive customer interaction that stinks of a frustration built on the assumption that he is going to take my money so could I just fork it over now?

The pervasive pink light inside Sam's Hofbrau gives the "Damn Big" menu a radioactive sheen. Photo by Dan Johnson.

The pervasive pink light inside Sam's Hofbrau gives the "Damn Big" menu a radioactive sheen. Photo by Dan Johnson.

No, I can’t. Because I’m hungry and you’ve somehow neglected to hand me the lunch special insert, which doesn’t appear to exist anywhere. Without the guidance of clear cut value, I opt for the $8 club sandwich, because that feels apropos.

After I place my order, Shaloub II asks me what I’d like to drink.

“Water, please.”

“Bottled water?”

“Tap, please.”

“Yo,” he gets suddenly animate, “there’s a two drink minimum.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, we were losing money on food.”

Funny you should find yourself in that predicament, because I just ordered food from you, sir. I opt for candor.

“I’m just here to eat.”

He looks at me like I have tears of jizz squirting out of the corners of my eyes. The conversation loops back to the prerecorded message.

“There’s a two drink minimum.”

So that’s how I got a six dollar bottle of Voss water to help me wash down what was the single least inspiring club sandwich I have ever encountered in my life.

The chef himself delivers my food then lurks over me after repeatedly muttering the total in a heavily accented form of speech that I can’t quite make out over the absurdly loud hip hop.

(Side inquiry: do strippers appreciate the brutal irony of dancing to a music genre known as “trap?”)

Hey, Mazel. Looks like my sandwich is only six dollars, which would be a value at most other places, but here I feel like I’ve overpaid by approximately four dollars. It comes on a nondescript Styrofoam plate. Apparently the excursion to Restaurant Depot in search of appropriate dishware has been postponed indefinitely.

The sandwich itself is utterly fucked. I’m looking at two slices of barely toasted Bimbo bread hiding scant quantities of what is clearly circle cut Oscar Meyer turkey dressed with a single leaf of iceberg lettuce and two, possibly three, slices of bacon. I’ve also been gifted a handful of fries that I recognize as medium gauge Sysco issue. It is clear that these potato cutlets were frozen as recently as six minutes prior.

Sam's Hofbrau presents: The least inspiring club sandwich the author has ever encountered. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Sam's Hofbrau presents: The least inspiring club sandwich the author has ever encountered. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Have you ever met an elderly person who has given up on life? You’ll know the type—every little effort is an imposition, the pleasantries are gone. It’s clear that this senior citizen is just begging God to take them. Every beat of the heart, every drawn breath is a disappointment. That’s the kitchen at Sam’s.

On the positive side, they’ve got sports on the back-of-bar TV. Not just there, but elsewhere in moving tickers where you can check pertinent scores and betting lines. You know, just in case you’ve got money riding on a game somewhere while you’re in the club watching women dance to illicit the slightest motion in your over-sensitized nards while getting sloshed.

It all begs that supreme question: Why?

From the dancers’ perspective, I get that this is an oft-lucrative opportunity to accumulate cash. So there’s that. I understand why the club exists and why they treat me like an asshole when they find out I have nothing to offer. They’re not there to satisfy me. I am a fiscal void. I even comprehend that this shitty sandwich serves a basic purpose. It is a bare bones alcohol absorption device so that working men can rightfully say they went out for a sandwich when they mean they ate a sandwich so they wouldn’t get too drunk while objectifying a mechanical approximation of a female in a place where the red light glow makes the food and people and décor look like something from the end of days.

What I do not understand is why a customer would willingly allow themselves to be taken like this in an era where high speed smart phone data streaming means you can jack off to a shocking amount of free porn in, say, the bathroom of a Subway while choking down a five dollar Italian BMT foot long.

Here in Downtown, we don’t have the luxury of examining the roots of addiction. It’s everywhere and it’s far beyond our control. People with urges are going to do what they will to satisfy those urges. If we start pointing fingers at pushers and suppliers of all stripes, we might even end up jabbing judgment at friends or ourselves. God knows our collective ego can’t handle that sort of honesty.

Staying now on the sunny side, thanks for being a tax paying institution, Sam’s. May you continue to convert a daytime need for erotic stimulation into city revenue. For clientele, may a not-so inexpensive lunch made from horrid parts remind you to pursue positive changes in your lives.

I award Sam’s Hofbrau a “0” on the 8.72 binary and a “Yeah, pretty much” on the “I’ll bet you didn’t expect to be the one getting fucked with a bottle of water at the strip club” metric.

You too can visit Sam’s Hofbrau at 1751 E. Olympic Blvd.