I found Indian Oaks Tavern on Sunday evening, after I’d gone to Barcadia with a pocketful of cash and coins for brunch, beers, and Burgertime. I left during the second quarter of the Packers-Eagles game, imagining an alternate universe in which Clay Matthews gets a cease-and-desist from Marvel Worldwide for trying to pass himself off to women in bars as the guy who played Thor. How would that happen? For one thing, why would Clay Matthews need to lie about being someone besides Clay Matthews? Maybe in that universe, he’s not actually in the NFL, and, in fact, he’s just some dude. In that case, how would Marvel even get wind of his perfidy? He would have to be famous somehow or at least notorious enough to evolve into a meme. Then it occurred to me that Clay Matthews pretending to be Thor is probably already a meme in this universe, so I thought about other things, in particular about this one time last fall when I drove to Lake Worth on a Sunday afternoon and saw some deer, plus a sign warning people about alligators.
Inspired, I headed west and then north on Loop 820, exiting at Navajo Trail and turning left into a lakeside neighborhood with streets named for various Native American tribes. I’d gone maybe two blocks on Shawnee when the words “Indian” and “Tavern” passed my peripheral vision, backlit on a marquee clinging to the face of a brick building the size of a four-bedroom home. I braked hard, flipped a u-turn, and pulled in for a beer.
Inside the crumbly brick walls lay perhaps the darkest bar I’ve ever been in — the only illumination at the time came from some lights behind the bar and the glow of a few TV screens, two of them tuned to the Packers game and another silently flickering with music videos, the sound apparently available only if you fed it some money. Unlit neon beer signs adorned the walls, and in the gloom, they could’ve been mistaken for pieces in a pop-art exhibition, glass and metal sculpted into dormant curlicues, vaguely suggesting nature in the way of mountains and beaches. Can you see the soul trapped within the twisted tubes of an unplugged Corona sign? Is it yours?
If you answered yes, I guess you believe that souls are literally a gas, and I guess it makes sense that they’d be a noble gas, but in any case, I didn’t really need them turned on to remind me to order a bottle of Budweiser. Like its macrobrew colleagues (Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light), the Bud ran me $2.50, though its ol’ uncle Busch is only $2.25.
Eventually, the bartender turned the signs on, illuminating floor-to-ceiling paneling and NFL regalia. Besides beers, Indian Oaks Tavern has snacks for sale in the form of pizza and assorted chips. On one side of the room, under a ceiling decorated with strings of red LEDs and a disco ball, is a microwave. A pair of pool tables and what looked like seating for a 10-person poker game are housed in the other side. Darts are also a big deal at this place, evidenced by the array of polished plaques on the wall near the card table.
Five barstools away, four middle-aged men watched the football game, which by then had turned into a bloodbath to the tune of Green Bay’s 20-something point lead. The most knowledgeable-sounding guy rattled off facts about Clay Matthews and his father and brothers, none of whom are named Odin or Loki. –– Steve Steward
Indian Oaks Tavern
2920 Shawnee Tr, Lake Worth. 817-237-5213.
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