Lulu's Bar in Greenpoint, where you can get a free pizza for every drink you order, is closing this month. Good. All free pizza bars should be closed.
Like most honest Americans, I am loyal to only two things: drinking and eating pizza. If I can do both at the same time, then that's a winning combination sure to provide prolonged happiness. If I'm asked to do these activities in succession, that's a slightly less encouraging set of events that will still bring me joy. But never—and I mean never—would I be desperate enough to accept a free pizza in tandem with my drink, a free pizza that I did not earn. I do not want your goddamn consolation pizza and I'd like to leave this bar, please.
In New York City, there are at least four bars that I know of that give drinkers a free pizza with their alcohol order. The exchange, which is fundamentally infantile and made to resemble the goings-on at a county fair, involves walking up to a bartender, ordering a drink as you normally would, and then being given your beverage with a Chuck E. Cheese-style perforated ticket. This is a similar process to buying a lemon square at a Missoula Township bake sale and then being given a ticket to enter a raffle for a $50 gift certificate to Pam's Massage Parlour. You never come out winning.
Bars, especially the kind that discovered they could make pizzas at a cheap enough price to make the expense worth the profit, are not pizza shops. They are places for drinking, occasionally playing pool, and if the bar you are in is nice enough, for finally learning what exactly vermouth is. When pizza comes into the picture, the experience of going to a bar to lay back and indulge in a bit of whistle-wetting gets reduced to child's play. You know who loves free pizza? Kindergartners. You know who would happily accept food that was given to them for no real reason? Babies.
I am an advocate of accepting free food in most circumstances. Go to a stranger's wedding—eat four pieces of cake. Show up at a work event—that meat plate is all yours. Get fired and have to shill part-time at an ice cream shop? Feel free to shovel fix-ins into your pocket at the end of your shift. But a bar that is desperate enough to give you free pizza—a food that already gets a bad enough reputation for its varying levels of quality—in order to gain your respect, patronage, and money does not, by definition, deserve it. Would you accept the friendship of someone who, at every hourly interval of your night out together, handed you a French cruller as a reward? Seems circumspect. And frankly, manipulative.
The common defining characteristic of free-pizza bars is that they are geared toward the very, very drunk and the very, very impressionable. Have I accepted free pizza from a free-pizza bar when I was drunk enough to believe it to be a pizza-shaped, cheese-flavored pint of beer? Sure. Did I go to free-pizza bars when I was young, wide-eyed, and enamored of novel ideas like body pillows and home-cooked bar snacks? Of course. Now, I see the light. I'd rather seek out mediocre-to-good pizza on my own time, resulting in personal satisfaction in both belly and spirit, than be tossed a platter of cooked flour and tomato sauce straight from my middle school cafeteria just because I showed up to get blottoed.
I should not be rewarded for drinking heavily. The reward for drinking heavily is drinking heavily. Part of the understood struggle of drinking heavily (as all good must come with bad) is that food must be sought out with wanton but fierce dedication. If you find pizza, which is almost everywhere in every city in America and most often at late-night hours, you will feel infinitely happier than if you settled for some grimy bar's unwarranted handouts. And if you've stayed out too late and nothing is open, your punishment has been writ and you shall bear its truth.
If free pizza from a bar tasted like fucking caviar, maybe I'd try it once and a while. But it doesn't. Pizza that is given to you from a bar always tastes like three-days-old diner grilled cheese. The tomato sauce is high fructose corn syrup swamped in red dye and the crust, well, there isn't one—the whole thing is a mistake, its a blurry facsimile of pizza's bastard son. It's what a drunk person would say if they were asked to describe pizza to a person who'd never cooked it before.
"Juss put lotsa cheese on a round thing—*hiccup*—and cook it, I dunno, for ninety minutes? I never made it, how shoul I know. Here lemme get my phone I'll look up a recipe oh fuck my phone issss dead. Make food, juss make it, I don't care what it tase like."
Bars that lure you in with the promise of free pizza know one thing, and that one thing is: drunk people love pizza. But the dark, restrained road is the one less traveled. Having nothing is a better option than resigning yourself to bar-mop pizza because when good pizza inevitably returns to your life, even if that means allowing years to pass, sober or sloshed, that pizza will taste divine. Especially because no one had to trick you into wanting it.
[Image via Shutterstock]