Good Times is pretending to be a bar; it is also an excellent example of what a dive bar can be in the right hands. In this case, those belong to Claire Hampton and Zack Moore, two industry veterans who decided to bet on themselves as owners. That its best selling “item” is the beer-shot combo is strong evidence that Good Times is a dive, but Moore’s food and Hampton’s cocktails are even stronger proof that the little bar that occupies the former Fat Dog space at 1234 N. Western is only divey by aesthetic.
“I mean, we’re a dive bar, but we wanted to have good food and serious cocktails, too,” Hampton said. “The goal was to create a place where everyone is welcome, and I think we’re succeeding in that.”
If we’re assessing evidence, show us another dive bar that makes a house verdita (kind of an herbal sangrita) to build a Verditarita, a boozy, fruity indulgence that’s almost a tiki drink, and also the best cocktail on the menu. Hampton takes bartending seriously, just as Moore, a veteran of Deep Fork Group and A Good Egg Dining Group, takes food seriously. Both were trained by two of the best in the business: Hampton by Hunter Kenzie, and Moore by Chef Quinn Carroll of Frida fame.
Good Times became locally famous—especially among hospitality industry workers—for its “adult Capri Sun,” a double cocktail in a nondescript pouch, served with a straw. It’s how young millennials relive their childhood, if their childhood had involved access to the house liquor cabinet and a funnel small enough to get vodka into a Capri Sun pouch. Good Times also has a frozen Painkiller and a frozen boozy coffee, and with winter approaching, will soon fire up the hot drinks. It’s almost as if owners who understand that divey doesn’t mean low quality decided to create food and booze that are designed to make guests feel welcome, and happy. And because we might as well tell the truth, a past that involved marijuana—medicinal (wink, wink)—might also contribute to guest enjoyment. The nachos are called Stoner Nachos; they’re not trying to hide anything.
“A lot of the food came from my 3am experiences where I raided my own refrigerator after a shift,” Moore said. That is
100 percent true, but your experience of raiding a fridge in the hours after everything is closed probably yields different results than a chef’s, even a slightly high chef. So the nachos start with Nacho Cheese Doritos as a base, but that will make perfect sense if you’ve ever come home late from a bar, starving from a night of drinking and eating bar snacks, if you ate at all.
What Moore does well is deliver food that is planned and executed with care. The chicken sandwich, dusted with Doritos crumbs and fried perfectly, is a marvel. The burger is yet another example of OKC’s golden age of hamburgers. You simply can’t go wrong with his menu, and both owners are quick to point out that their staff of fewer than 10 makes everything happen. That’s what happens when industry veterans become owners: They remember the hours on the floor, in the kitchen, and behind the bar.
The other draw—aside from yellow-eyed Belvedere, the bar cat—is the patio. It’s expansive, pet friendly, and adorned with murals. Hampton said they called on their artist friends to paint the murals out front and on the patio: Tony Thunder, Cody Lampier, and John Salome. She rattles the names off without a hitch. It’s easier to trust people who remember the names of people who contributed to their success. That’s the vibe at Good Times. It’s a dive bar, sure, but it’s also warm and welcoming, friendly and comfortable, and the drinks and food—obviously comfort food, but who hates comfort food?—are excellent.
Someone will ask about the decor. Someone always does. So imagine two high friends, late on a weeknight, supposed to be studying but talking about movies and music, and the conversation meanders through everything they like about pop culture. Now, take all those references, find a poster for each reference, throw in some art from friends, hang it on the walls, and say, as Hampton put it, “We just chose cool s**t we love.” It perfectly nails the aesthetic, the booze, and the food.