Stroke of genius

Last Wednesday, while celebrating Father’s Day in advance, my Dad told me something curious and memorable. Finishing a sous-vide baby-beet salad — an adventurous choice for a man who uses the term “fills the stomach” to describe the quality of food — he said, “Well that was different. You know, I picked the first cucumber of the summer out in the garden. Sliced cucumber with a little lime juice on it really tastes great; the only thing better than that is when you get a can of whole tomatoes from H-E-B, put them in a bowl with a little salt and chill ’em — now that’s good.” Maybe it was the fact that we were dining at the Lodge — Jason Dady’s unique answer to haute cuisine chez Granny — that had me scanning the room to see if pops had been overheard. “I learned that ‘recipe’ from an old friend a long time ago,” he continued, “and it really does the trick — especially if I get hungry late at night — it helps me get to sleep.” Right about then, his entrée (an artfully prepared lamb dish) arrived, and I’d be willing to bet he was still daydreaming about cold, canned tomatoes.

The following night, I gathered a thirsty little group of friends to investigate karaoke night at Stroker’s Sports Bar. I learned about Stroker’s from a visual artist — which made perfect sense the second we walked in — it’s a gritty, out-of-the-way time capsule that could easily double as a secret hiding place, if you go at the right time. (If you happen to be a golfer, 1 p.m. is the magic time. “Sometimes, my golfers are waiting outside when I get here,” he told me.) No frills, no hard liquor — just a simple bar with a TV, pay phone, snack machine, a few pool tables, and, — on Thursdays — a karaoke command center, manned by BAM Entertainment, better known as Big Mike and Lady T.

Lulls between artful brutalizations of songs by Townes Van Zandt, Neil Diamond, Kid Rock, Color Me Badd, and Blondie were filled by Big Mike (a shop foreman) and Lady T (a loan officer), an adorably unlikely couple who married about a year ago after meeting on MySpace. “I don’t know if I would’ve ever met him in person if he hadn’t insisted that I ‘bring a friend’ to meet him at work,” Lady T told me. “I was working at Cootie’s at the time,” Mike explained. “I told her, ‘Bring your brother, your cousin, whoever — just come. Gosh, that must’ve been March 11, 2008, at 8:47 p.m.”

I have to admit that the endearing anecdote about finding true love online came as a bit of a surprise after hearing the duo’s parody of Sheryl Crow’s “The Picture” (featuring Kid Rock). Big Mike: “I put your panties away/ Hid ’em from my wife today / I can’t look at you when you’re sittin’ on my face.” Lady T: “You found my panties today / And smell ’em every day / You couldn’t look at me while I was grinding on your face.” A musical marriage made in Heaven, for which we can all thank the good old internet.

Growing a little tired of beer, and still wary of the blue wine-aritas certain people in my posse were cautiously nursing, I approached Raymond Samaniego, who’s owned Stroker’s since 2001. “First, I want to ask you about that,” I said, pointing at the pool-themed mural that runs along a wall opposite the bar. “They’re some of the greatest pool players in San Antonio,” Samaniego said. “Tony Hernandez, Bobby Brown, Junior Samaniego’s right there, and I’m up there, too. This guy came in here one day, looking a little like a hobo. He said he was an artist, but I couldn’t tell. The very next day, I saw an article in the newspaper about him. His name is Jesse Cantu, and he painted the mural.”

“I love it, but now I need a drink,” I told him.

“Well, we’re famous for our micheladas, have you tried one? What kind of beer do you like?” he asked, signaling the bartender, who had already started squeezing an entire lime into a mug of tomato juice she sprinkled with celery salt.

“You’re gonna like this,” he assured me. “If I drink one of these at the end of the night, I don’t get hungry. We have this regular who comes all the way from somewhere out there in Stone Oak. One time he told me he was lying awake in bed thinking about our micheladas. Finally, he drove all the way over here and made last call. He said he needed one to get to sleep.” •

Stroker’s Sports Bar

703 Roosevelt

(210) 533-4549

Best use Free pool on Monday and Tuesday, karaoke on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, DJ AJ spins “everything,” attracting a “younger crowd,” folks who — according to Samaniego — look like this writer.

Vibe Unfussy beer bar with the best nightcaps in town and a surprisingly varied crowd. Cussing encouraged — as long as you’re singing.

Shout out Big Mike and Lady T of BAM Entertainment can also be enjoyed at Zombies (12285 Nacogdoches) on Wednesdays and at Mustang Sally’s (3428 Roosevelt) on Saturdays.

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