Quarter Canteen: Being Shady Is Cool Now

By now you’ve probably heard of the numerous #metoo allegations that have surfaced against our intern Derrick. Through a series of tumblr posts and hysterical phone calls, we learned the true nature of his ‘freelance photography’ side business, wherein he maintained a private whatsapp group full of pictures of unsuspecting women he took through the grill between the general and women’s compartments on local trains. As Derrick’s legal guardians/owners with several warrants out for our own arrests, we took it upon ourselves to resolve the matter out of court, gladiator style, much to the trepidation of our lawyers. What’s more, the company’s sexual harassment programme has been officially updated to a more modern, anti-sexual harassment training programme. And needless to say, Derrick’s accusers have been silenced.

When we first heard there was a pub in Bandra that sold quarters, we were livid. We’ve always maintained that only true dive bars serve alcohol in actual quarter bottles, so did that mean that this was a dive bar? Why would a new restaurant even want to pretend to be a shady bar instead? It was our civic duty to find out. The offenders in question are a place called Quarter Canteen, opposite KFC on Linking Road. As this city’s self-proclaimed authority on dive bars, and elders of The Sacred Order of Old Monks, we expected the owners of Quarter Canteen to bend the knee, kiss the ring, and ask for our blessings prior to their opening.

However, as usual, we were never consulted. We decided not to let his insult go unanswered, and mobilised for our first review of 2019, Quarter Canteen. From the outside, it didn’t look much like a dive bar, and the white walls were too devoid of paan stains for us to take them seriously.

Once we stepped inside, the paintings on the wall of Chulbul Pandey helped us let down our guards, before the smiling waiters and tables with women and children brought them right back up. The place was dark, which is always a positive sign, but even that was slightly offset by the sickeningly colourful graffiti. We sat down on what we assumed was a sofa, only to find out it was a hardwood bench designed to look like a cushioned one, yet another reminder that nothing here was what it seemed.

Once we settled in and had a look at the menu, however, we were pleasantly surprised. They had all the alcohol you would find at a regular dive bar, at comparable prices, right from Blenders Pride to Old Monk. They also had a selection of alcohol you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere short of a truck stop, including Officer’s Choice, DSP, and Magic Moments vodka, which tastes like acetone laced with spoiled kerosene. With that said, we still ended up calling for a Heineken, because it was the middle of the afternoon.

What makes a dive bar a dive bar? Is it just the fact that they serve alcohol in quarters? Or is it the prices? Maybe it’s the ever-present sense of danger or the familiar drone of the TV playing 80s Bollywood music videos on loop in the background. Although they served quarters and had good food that was reasonably priced, it lacked the compulsive alcoholics, the mysteriously sticky tabletops, the essence of a true dive bar.

Sure, we had a good time, but our official position is that Quarter Canteen does not qualify to be a shady bar. And why should it? It’s a fun place that has cheap alcohol and it’s safe for women to go to which we, as champions of women’s rights (and wrongs) deeply respect. Maybe this isn’t the place you could go to for a night of silence while you nurse your whiskey and contemplate your crippling loneliness, and the fate of the human race. But will it make for a fun night out drinking with a group of your friends? Sure.

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