A Veritable Korner-copia of Fun

Thursday Dec. 30th, 2010

It is more necessity than phenomenon: since time immemorial people have gathered at watering holes, so to speak, seeking the company of friends, neighbors, family, and strangers. Consider the desert oasis, Irish pub, or even the sitcom Cheers. Without question, Legion Clubs and Elks and Oddfellows serve more than well drinks and prime rib on Friday night. For this writer, places as diverse as Liquid Louie’s in Condon and the famous “round table” at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City still delight in fond recollection. We like company, even when we are alone. It is no mystery that coffee houses bustle in spite of perfectly functional coffee makers at home—complete with espresso machines! (Indeed, this column was penned at The Daily.) Call it stimulation, call it joie de vivre, call it social capital, a stop at the local gathering place is an investment in community and, when not taken to extremes, a bit of hedonistic pleasure. Being with others lifts the spirit and often dulls the pain of sorrow through dialogue and camaraderie. Surface play? Who cares. It feels good to be welcome and to experience a sense of belonging. The take-home message here is that not every place is about the food. That is, the importance and value of a place can be measured without emphasis on food. And so we visit the Korner Klub–twice, actually, to affirm this sentiment: this is a place for folks to gather in friendship and shared sensibilities. Aptly named, the popular Korner Klub could easily be held within the ranks of the “corner bar” found just about anywhere. It is a stretch, however, to think that the quality and flavor of its food is responsible for its popularity. (If so, the state of the American palate is woefully lacking.)

There are restaurants that have a bar, quipped one dining partner, and there are bars that serve food. Amen to that, and that is okay. Bar grub. So for the sake of this review, why not go whole hog and order popular bar foods, a tasting sampler:  burgers, daily special (lasagna), meat tenders, mac n’ cheese, nachos, and pizza. Fair choices for a fair impression. Sadly, the resulting  impression was of poorly-tasting food that seemed “assembled” rather than scratch-cooked. After a few bites it was easy to conjure industrial-sized cans of processed food and condiments lining the kitchen shelf. Inotherwords, if flavor and ingredients don’t matter, save your money and eat at the nearby quick mart. The tastes at the Korner Klub are evocative of a stop at a 7-Eleven during a road trip.

Ordered medium rare, burgers came far too well done and far too small for their rolls, which overpowered meat with bread. The lasagna was unremarkable and garnished with a slice of bread so covered with “flavoring” as to be inedible; buffalo meat tenders were clearly intended to represent the ubiquitous chicken wing and were satisfactory. Though an attractive little serving, the mac n’ cheese tasted of melted cheese product from a can (or Velveeta); the Korner Klub chili had a similar canned taste, ditto salsa; pizza crust seemed to most certainly have come from a package and pre-baked, yet was covered (finally!) with something approximating real cheese, the only redeeming aspect of the pie. Honorable mention goes to the nachos. One person commented that ingredients with a different profile (read: real) would make the nachos supreme: chips were layered properly with toppings, not a dry one in the lot.

On a brighter note, the Korner Klub earns high praise for surroundings alone. It is a nostalgic treasure trove, crowded with bric a brac, signs, posters and car parts galore, a haven for those who like to strut their prowess in identifying every make and model since the first Model T sputtered off the assembly line. That’s a ’57 Pink Cadillac. I can tell by the fins and pointy rubber bumpers.

The Korner Klub is chock-a-block full, from thick tires as footrests to authentic retro décor in the ladies’ room. (Walk past the men’s room and get a whiff of an authentic bar urinal, strong enough to make your toes curl.) The place is colorful, rocking, and fun; booths are crammed into nook and cranny. Stick to the bar area to maximize atmosphere and heed one caveat: someone at the Korner Klub has a penchant for all things Marilyn Monroe. Her visage adorns walls and ceiling in the separate dining area. One such ceiling picture offers full upper frontal exposure. (Think pointy bumpers on that ’57 Caddy, if you get the drift.) Parents might want to put well-visored ball caps on youngsters.

Surprisingly—and this should be written in bold print—the Korner Klub is relatively clean for its abundant clutter. It does not assault the nose with “bar” smell, excepting, of course, the men’s bathroom. Music is loud and it fits. This is no place for Barry Manilow crooning in the background. TV sets offer sports programs, a huge back room offers gaming, and a jolly good time is offered to all.

Finally we come to service. The wait staff is cheerful, exceptionally efficient, and makes you feel you matter–a far cry from some eating establishments in Bozeman which seem exponentially snootier the more popular they become. Both visits enforced this perception: servers at the Korner Klub far exceed reasonable expectations.
Prices are mid-range, and the Korner Klub offers nightly specials. Would this reviewer return? Yes. But not for the food alone. Some places are not about the food, after all, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Two-and-a-half stars. Cheers.

The Korner Klub is located in Four Corners at 8191 Huffine Lane. It is open every day for lunch and dinner. The kitchen opens at 11AM and closes at 10 PM. Bar and casino operating hours are 10 AM to 2 AM.

Cynthia Yates cut her teeth in the restaurant business, ran a café in the middle of nowhere, hosted a popular wine group, and was active in the Slow Food movement. An author of several lifestyle books, she has been known to eat on a regular basis.