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The Play Pen

Tastes like a crispy chicken salad

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There's something inherently American about pieces of fried chicken in a salad. It's Jenny Craig meets KFC.  It's blatant excess coupled with green modesty. It's iPhones, Simon Cowell's X Factor and economic worries all rolled into a single, delightful meal.

Well, maybe not. But this is where my mind wanders as I bite into a crispy chicken salad at the Play Pen in Lacey. Because as my meal is so quintessentially 21st century America, so too is this bar.

The sign outside the Play Pen advertises cocktails, pull tabs and dancing. Yes, the bartenders pour stiff drinks. Yes, a disheveled gentleman next to me at the bar wins $600 on a pull tab. But for the couple of hours my butt graces a Play Pen barstool, I see no sign of dancers. The attractive waitresses seem more business than dance. Besides, the sparse crowd likes the wide-set, unenthusiastic KJ who calls out the bingo numbers. Any group of young dancers would throw the place into a tailspin. Too much action and excitement.

B-7. N-41. Oh look I was wrong. There is dancing. A lady who wins a set of air fresheners on the N-41 call stands up with a celebratory shimmy. The bar's patrons clap as she walks toward the KJ. A single guy wearing a Moto-X hat stands up. "Weed is the only air freshener I need," he shouts across the bar.

Out of honey mustard sauce, I ask the bartender for a fill up. I also ask what time of day the Play Pen gets busy. She tells me the crowd can grow pretty large on Friday and Saturday nights. Looking around the bar, it's hard to imagine the place crowded. The empty bar stools, the loop of the NFL's greatest games and the lack of cool bingo prizes don't exactly scream "weekend hotspot."

I still enjoy my time. Why? Because of the crispy chicken salad, of course. The bar is a dive. But like my salad, the Play Pen has enough of what I need. Bingo, karaoke and stiff drinks. Anytown, U.S.A.

[The Play Pen, no cover, 3811 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey, 360.350.0861]

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