By: Ann Bodle-Nash
The Two Bit Street Café–under The Club sign, with its neon beer goblet topped with sparkle foam— anchors a spot mid-block on 25th street, in downtown Ogden. One of a score of storefronts in various states of revival, it is sandwiched between the Lighthouse Lounge and The Gift House on the north side of the street. A great coffee shop sits across the street.
As we walked by the café entrance Saturday, on our way to explore Union Station, Mardi Gras masks and beads splayed on a vintage table caught my eye. A bearded middle-aged man swaggered out the door, nearly bumping into us.
“Are you going inside? Great food,” he said. “No, well come in and I’ll give you a tour. Best hamburgers. If we meet the owner it will be a bonus.”
For some inexplicable reason we followed him in.
It struck me akin to the old bars in Missoula, Montana, with a 30’ highly polished wooden bar running the length of the place, a few small tables along the other side. A few couples eating stared as we walked by, keeping pace with our leader, unsure if he was an employee or an enthusiastic frequent patron.
He led us the length, then through a side arch and into another room with more tables and a gift shop. “Cool, isn’t it?” he said.
“Yes,” we agreed. Full of ambiance, atmosphere—a little dark but not smoky.
“You a regular?” I asked.
“No, first time I have eaten here,” he said.
Surprised by his answer, questions formed in my head. Why were we following this random man? Would I follow any man who said follow me? Was this because I was on vacation and empowered to accept the unexpected adventure? No matter the reason we were in motion.
“Got to get along,” he said.
We smiled, knowing we had places to be also. “Thanks for the tour. Maybe we’ll come back for lunch.”
A young, slim mustachioed waiter appeared. “Lunch?” he said, eyes taking in our host and us, two middle-aged, Plan B sort of women.
“Later,” we said, and followed our guide outside. He departed down the block, mirage-like.
An hour later we were hungry and weighed our choices. The Two Bit was the winner.
Something about that place drew us back.
We choose to sit on high bar stools facing a mirrored wall, beer-advertising signs glowing, clocks ticking. The man behind the bar looked up, gave a nod, went back to washing glasses. A waiter brought menus. A framed photo of 70-80s star, Stay’n Alive singer Andy Gibbs next to what looked like a miniature gold record, hung at the end cap of the bar. It was quiet.
The glass washer looked out-of-place in his dark blazer, stripped button-down, and red silk handkerchief protruding from his left breast pocket. He wore a gold-plated name badge: James Dayley, Hypnotist, Certified.
“Where you from?” he asked. I noticed his teeth, especially the front ones with some sort of a dark crazed line top to bottom. He reminded me of a pirate– not quite Jonny Depp but headed there.
“Washington, north of Seattle and South Ogden,” I replied. “Visiting my sister,” pointing to my lunch mate. “And you? I’m guessing Kentucky or North Carolina.”
“Nope. From here, but lived on three coasts,” he said. “Had houses in LA, London and New York for a time. Managed Andy Gibbs and other stars. Parent’s are still here. Bought the bar three years ago. You see that clock on the wall behind you? Two bullet holes. There are stories about this place.”
Stories about you too I thought.
We ordered a grilled Cuban without mayo to split. Sister hates mayo– I know this after a half a century of living. We were sharing the last paprika-spiced chips when James reappeared.
“Give me your spoon,” he said.
He walked away from the bar, rubbing it, looking for something at the other end. He came back and began to bend the neck. We stared. He started in on a banter about some famous mentalist from Europe being locked in a room with a rod in a glass tube and it bending. We watched as he bent the spoon more.
“Here, feel it,” he said, handing it to me. It was cool to the touch. I tried to straighten it out and it didn’t budge. I handed it back.
He smiled, that way magicians do when they know they have your full attention. He began turning the handle of the teaspoon around and around into a continuous curl while holding onto the rounded end. He handed it back to me. I was speechless. I could not unwind it.
So James was more than a bar owner, former manager to the stars and a hypnotist. Add magician.
I showed him my naked chicken trick—it’s all I’ve got—folding a bar towel and pulling on the ends to reveal the form. He provided a background song which I recognized. Part way through he recognized the trick and said he’d forgotten that one. I smiled. My little piece of fame for the day.
He performed one more, folding a spoon up in a towel and turning it into a fork. I gasped. It was well done.
Then he took a step of friendship and showed me how to do that trick. Offered me a little prize. Made me feel that whomever he really is, he has a glow that emanates and befriends. He found us–sisters that needed a little lift that winter’s afternoon. We were on an outing to forget the tremendous muscle pain my sister had been fighting for weeks—the reason for my visit. We had wandered onto his turf and he unknowingly or knowingly obliged. He appears to be a mentalist too.
Outside again my sister said, “He’s a little scary.” I nodded.
“But a little magical,” I said. “Meeting him in the daylight, in a public place might be best.” She smiled one of those smiles I hadn’t seen in a week.
And yes, the Cuban’s with unbreaded pork tenderloin, ham, swiss and Dijon were delicious, as was the tomato basil soup on the side.
Two other local IT Spots:
The Ogden Nature Center : Take a walk back to nature without leaving town. This 152-acre nature preserve and education center hosts trails through grasslands and forest, a chance to chat with rehabbing birds of prey, and a birdhouse strewn path that will amaze. Adults and kids will enjoy. Great date spot. Summer Concerts and camps. Open Monday-Saturday. Call for hours. Minimal charge.
966 W. 12th Street in Ogden, Utah, 84404
Directions: From 1-15, take exit #344 and head east 1.5 mi.
Crystal Hot Springs: One of the most scenic, outdoor, commercial hot springs I have enjoyed. Big rocks line the pools, with centrally placed waterfalls cascading overhead. Imagine a foreign paradise without leaving Utah. Outdoors. Family-centric. Great people watching. Just off I-15, north of Ogden. Monday-Saturday 10 am-10pm, Sunday 10am-8pm. Thirty minutes north of Odgen.
8215 North Highway 38, Honeyville, UT 84314
Phone: (435) 279-8104
Directions: Take exit 372 off I-15. Head east on Utah Hwy 240. In about 1 mile turn left on Hwy 38 and travel north 1.7 miles. Crystal Springs is on the west side of the highway. Watch for signs. Multiple pools. Waterslide.
Category: Indie It Travel