Everyone has seen the empty lot on Summer with the For Sale sign, where all there is to denote this barren lot as the original location of Barbie's Place is a faded sign advertising pool and karaoke. I've driven past this lot for years and always wondered about Barbie and what became of her bar. Turns out, Barbie's Place, now called Barbie's Bar Light Sports Bar, is just down the street at the corner of Summer and Mendenhall.
If you're coming to drink at Barbie's, it's best to know a few house rules. This is a beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking joint. They don't serve liquor, but you can bring your own and pay for a $3 set-up of mixer and ice for each drink. Barbie's expects its patrons to have a good time, so there's a two-drink minimum if you've brought your own spirits. This is a dart-throwing, pool-shooting joint, with numerous pool leagues reigning supreme. If you take a dart to the head, then you didn't heed the rules. This is a jukebox joint, and you better be able to croon a few country songs along with the regulars, because it's doubtful you'll hear anything off the pop charts.
Barbie's Bar Light, despite what it looks like from the outside, is huge inside. There's plenty of seating, even with pool tables taking up half the space. The windows are covered, ensuring that what happens in Barbie's stays in Barbie's. Turns out, a lot can happen when you offer buckets of six ice-cold beers for $13 Monday through Thursday. My friend and I got our bucket from Christy, the bartender working that evening, and sat down at a table to watch the pool league battles go down. Everywhere people were pulling liquor bottles out of their purses and jackets and jamming them into their own ice-filled beer buckets. Nearby, a woman in pearls with perfectly manicured nails poured herself a tall drink from her own handle of vodka and topped it with Evian water and a squeeze of lime she pulled from her bag. This is a tempting option for those of us who complain about the regulated liquor pours at other bars and restaurants. If you feel slighted by the small amount of alcohol in your drink, go to Barbie's and make your own! If, after a few drinks you need to go the restroom, they're marked with a Jeff Gordon Dr. street sign.
Drinking at Barbie's is a spectator sport. I certainly didn't want to interrupt anyone at the pool table or dartboard to ask them about their favorite Berclair-area watering hole. They came and went, clutching their fancy pool cues to their chests as if they were newborns. My friend remarked, "Some people go to church. Barbie's regulars go to Barbie's." He nailed it. I'm not entirely sure some of those folks leave when the door closes and locks for the night. Barbie's is one of the few places in town that, from what I have noticed, serves the trifecta of Busch, Bud Ice, and Natural Light in bottles. There's a menu, too, offering burgers and pork rinds. Barbie's also serves tacos on Mondays and Tuesdays. I got excited when I saw Christy serve someone a bottled Sunkist, but she was quick to point out that it was, in fact, a Henry's Hard Soda. I was still impressed because what other area bar serves Henry's?
As Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar" plays in the background, I ask Christy if I can pay up with her. The woman is swamped. She's the only one working a huge crowd, but you'd never know it. She keeps it together and courteous the whole time. She's constantly cleaning out ashtrays, offering her guests more beer, and straightening up tables. I highly recommend this place, especially for anyone interested in darts or joining a pool league. If you work in the Berclair area, make this your new happy hour spot. I can't promise you a seat at the bar, but I can guarantee Barbie's will have a spot for you somewhere.
Barbie’s Bar Light, 661 N. Mendenhall, is open seven days a week.