Proprietors might argue otherwise, but operating a good neighborhood bar is really quite simple. Keep the beer cold and cheap, the crowd relaxed, the television set or jukebox at a less-than-obnoxious volume and show up every once in a while to let "em know you you give a shit. Curley's, a modest midblock tavern in what appears to be a converted residence on the Sauget-Cahokia border, accomplishes all of the above with aplomb. A beer -- served in glass-handled mugs that have been chilled by freezer (hardly rocket science, but astonishingly rare) -- sets you back a mere $1.25 at all hours. The crowd, middle-age blue-collar types, probably all live within walking distance of the little white bar. And the owner's a beefy fellow who goes by a single nickname: "Seadog." Or "Dog," for short. Seadog saw the world as a military brat before permanently settling in Cahokia come high school. Now in his fifties, he and his wife (also present -- another point in the bar's favor) own Curley's. They'll cook up a mean pork steak on their backyard grill if it's your birthday. On days when Seadog boards the booze train, your odds of getting free rounds increase. A lot of workaday bars make you feel like you've just trespassed on the hallowed grounds of a redneck country club. Not so Curley's, where Seadog makes you feel like you're a guest of honor in his house. Which you sort of are.
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