The popular spelling of "Bushwacker" leaves out the second H, possibly because its creator had too many of his own concoctions and didn't care about proper spelling. That guy, likely a man named Thomas Brokamp, has "Bro" in his name, so it's really no surprise that he created what amounts to a chocolate milkshake made with Bacardi 151. This alcoholic milkshake is not as popular here in Memphis as it would be at the beach, but it's a popular item at the Green Beetle, where I enjoyed one this past weekend. They're one of the few places in town that have Bushwackers, much to the delight of Wendy's Frosty fans everywhere. It's hot out, so now is the time to drink something you wouldn't normally drink like, you know, a drink made with a rum that is essentially pure gasoline.
The Green Beetle has been around since 1939, but in its most recent form for about seven years. During that revamp, the bar on the north side of the wall was torn down and the current bar, a horseshoe-shaped one, was built out of old shuffleboard tables. Behind that bar was the lovely Krista, expertly battling an onslaught of people stopping in before a show at the Orpheum. No, really, it was completely packed, and she was keeping it together, despite 100 women in rompers ordering shots, which is my personal hell.
As the crowd moved on to the show, Krista and her friend Jeff, a regular at the bar, spent some time talking to us about the Beetle and its patrons. I've spent a fair amount of time there; it's affordable, always full of South Main regulars, and has great food, but I had never heard about its being haunted. Krista and Jeff said that the ghosts are mostly mischievous, leaving sink faucets on in the restrooms and overturning salt and pepper shakers on tables. Krista said they won't act up around just anyone, which is fine by me, as I already have enough issues without having to deal with a meddlesome ghost.
The Beetle is a small bar, with green walls and dark paneling on the ceilings, making it feel more like a lair. A bar that is a lair is a place where you lurk more than you sit, so it is fittingly appropriate that it caters to those who enjoy lurking (ghosts and people alike). It's an awesome place to drink and eat before a Grizzlies game and it's full of TVs for all your sports-watching needs. During the sports dead-zone that is August, however, we were treated to the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore classic, Fever Pitch, which I guess is only a few steps below ESPN "The Ocho" showing a ping pong game. But as Jeff pointed out, the reason that the Beetle is so popular with South Mainers isn't owing to its status as a place to catch a game (or a rom-com); it's because of its role as a gathering place, a bar where everyone there is a friend and neighbor.
The intimacy of the inside of the Beetle spills out onto the sidewalk, where several tables and umbrellas are out for those who prefer to drink beer al fresco. At any given point in the weekend, these tables are packed with Downtowners making the most of their days off. While Downtown is not lacking in bars, it is certainly not full of neighborhood joints that act as both the last stop on a Saturday night and the first stop on a Sunday morning. The Beetle is like that, though; it even takes on a third role as a great business lunch spot. The menu is typical pub fare, but kicked up a notch. You've had cheese fries, sure, but have you had Philly cheese fries? The menu used to be exhaustingly large, even leading to one South Main resident attempting — and succeeding — at eating every single item (Mark's plaque for accomplishing this feat is still on the wall behind the bar). They've since pared it down a bit, but it still has something for everyone.
The Green Beetle may be one of South Main's neighborhood bars, but it's got the neighborhood bar feel that caters to everyone who walks in. Mosey in and grab a Bushwacker, limit your intake to two, and get some nachos to-go. And oh, if the faucet's on when you walk in the restroom, run like hell.
Green Beetle, 325 S. Main, 527-7337, thegreenbeetlememphis.com