Painkiller cocktail and patrons at the Beach House at North Beach
The bartender at the Beach House
studies data analytics at the University of Vermont. She put her expertise to work the other day at her summer job at the North Beach
bar, where she mixes and serves drinks for barefoot customers.
Christina McLaughlin, 21, didn’t need a spreadsheet or business intelligence software to assess the drinking preferences of the Beach House crowd. “Definitely the Painkiller,” McLaughlin told me, naming a $10 cocktail on the house list.
This was interesting to learn, because it pegged me as a conformist when it comes to Beach House booze. Before McLaughlin revealed the bar's analytics to me, I had ordered a Painkiller.
I’m not sure if I made the choice because it’s the first drink on the menu or because I’ve had my share of Tequila Sunrises. The day was moving toward dusk, and a Painkiller called to me.
The bar’s setting itself is likely to kill any pain you might have. I parked on the street by Burlington High School
and walked downhill along North Beach Campground
, passing through the culvert under the bike path. (Any time you can walk through a culvert to a bar, do it!)
The fenced-off space that forms the Beach House — a little tiki bar and a collection of tables — is about 30 paces from the water. The bar offers a view of the beach and all that comes with it: sunbathers, speedboaters, kids playing in the sand, grown-ups getting their analytics tracked by smartphones.
The people at the table next to mine had Rollerbladed to the Beach House on the bike path from south of downtown. They were barefoot, their Rollerblades set on the pebble-covered ground beside them.
Chris Butch, an ICU nurse and one of the bladers, was shirtless and color-coordinated. His towel, bathing suit and JammyPack all bore the stars and stripes. He was welcome at the Beach House without the usual restaurant attire and without spending a penny: He drank ice water.
“I don’t like to wear a shirt or shoes,” Butch said, “which is why I like coming here.”
His friends, who drank spiked seltzer, said they enjoyed having a drink option on the bike path, at the beach, in a casual and welcoming setting.
Back at my table, McLaughlin had delivered my cocktail and these words: “I hope you enjoy your Painkiller.” (I enjoyed it so much, I suggested Butch offer it at the ICU.)
The Painkiller at the Beach House at North Beach
The rum-based drink, a spiked fruit punch, is the color of a hazy sunset. It’s foamed up with a coconut cream and spiced with nutmeg. Served with an umbrella and a slice of orange, it's a hometown vacation in a plastic cup.
The owner of the Beach House, Sani Pasagic, pulled up a chair and talked with me for a bit about running a seasonal business, the rigors of being a restaurant cook and his son’s Church Street cheesesteak cart.
“People are finally finding out about this place,” Pasagic said of his beach business.
Maybe more people would find the Beach House if parking were permitted in the BHS parking lots. But signs warn that cars will be towed from the lots. My vote: Let people park in them for free. School’s out, and the parking lots are mostly empty. Shouldn’t people be encouraged to walk five or 10 minutes and through a culvert to a city beach?