It's a festival of lights all year long at Bob's Garage on Freeport Road, in Blawnox. Depending on when you show up, the bar will be illuminated in light displays that offer thematic representations of Easter, St. Patrick's Day, summertime or Halloween.
However, it's during the extended Christmas season (November through February) that the Garage truly shines.
The outside of the one-floor, concrete building is dripping with waterfalls of rainbow bulbs, plus glowing Santas, stars and stockings — evoking memories of neighborhood home-decorating contests. Inside you'll find a world fantastical, where, intertwined with a parade of ornaments, are the thousand points of light (and then some) that the elder President Bush dreamed of in his campaign speeches.
"It took over 360 person-hours to put up all these lights," says Bob's Garage cook Dave Kimbal. "It's kind of absurd and over-the-top."
But the lights illuminate a worthy cause: the Spirit of Christmas charity. Owner Bob Paganico established the nonprofit in 1987 to raise money to supply Christmas meals and gifts for underprivileged kids and senior citizens. According to Kimbal, more than 350 families receive assistance each year.
The lead-up to Christmas features several events in which Paganico donates his profits and the bartenders their tips to the charity. The drive's big event, Hot Sausage Day, takes place Dec. 21, starting at noon. (See the bar's Facebook page, listed below, for details.) As for the bar itself, it's a solid neighborhood joint. Mixed drinks are poured with a heavy dose of spirits, while the beer selection leans toward big and national over local craft. There is a menu full of deep-fried delights, and karaoke happens on Wednesdays through Saturdays.
What shines even more luminously than the lights at Bob's Garage are the people at the bar. Bartenders and wait staff are down-home friendly, and regulars mix with adventurous East Enders, who've taken a drive upriver to sing along to tunes selected by affable karaoke host Tom Wadsworth.