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A night at The Office

There should be no reason why fine dining and booty bouncing cannot coexist.

At least that was my thought when I set out to write a dining review of everyone's favorite Medford nudie bar, The Office.

Tempo readers are aware that we routinely publish food reviews of new and old restaurants across the Rogue Valley. They are among the best read and most contentiously debated stories to appear in the paper.

When I ran the idea of a dining review of a stripper bar by my roommate she seemed dubious. When I told her it would be my virgin foray into such a club she basically called me a liar.

"You've never been to a strip club?!," she said. "That's unbelievable. But you read Playboy magazine...." I'm not sure what her disbelief says about me as a person, but I decided to carry on with my plan nonetheless.

I walked to The Office in a cold, pouring rain. I laughed thinking it was a journey of purification before entering the den of iniquity.

The humor ended when I walked through the door and was hit up for a $3 browsing fee. Gotta pay to play.

First of all, the place is impossibly dark. I mean dark in a Sopranos-mafia-bar way. The sole source of illumination seems to come from some kind of a black-light system looming above the bar.

How a black light contributes to erotic ambiance is lost on me. In fact, black lights are evil. They bring to fore the hidden awfulness of everyday life in ways reminiscent of a David Lynch movie. Cops use them to find human fluids not visible to the naked eye. Invisible substances glow when under the black light glare.

As I pulled some cash from an ATM I saw the bills were splattered with white streaks and dots.

Trying not to think about the wretched places my money had been, I took a seat at the bar and perused the menu.

The eats are of the fried, breaded and grilled variety. Nothing costs more than $7 and most of it comes with a side of fries. Typical bar fare: teriyaki chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, club sandwich, etc. The menu gets weirder toward the bottom, where you find options such as "jalapeno bottle caps," "broccoli bites" and "onion scoops." I had no clue what an onion scoop is, and I wasn't about to find out.

There's an option to build your own burger, which was appealing until I spotted the chicken strip and fries plate.

I haven't eaten chicken strips since college, when I ate them three times a day every day. I decided to trip down those lean memories and ordered the strips, which are accompanied by a tub of sweet barbecue sauce and, you guessed it, ranch dressing.

Forget grabbing a beer. A pint of Coors Light runs $3.75. I had to take a quick look around to remind myself that I wasn't at Wrigley Field.

After ordering I scanned the rest of the joint and was reminded once again that clichés are constructed for a reason. The Office looked just like I thought it would. Dark? Check. Stage? Check. Head-splitting hip-hop music? Check. Sad fools sitting near the stage but not near enough to actually have to throw a couple of bucks at the dancers? Check.

I had no intention of spending a lot of money that night, and felt guilty leering at the dancers without paying up, so I turned my attention to the Duke vs. North Carolina game. I was watching Medford phenom Kyle Singler try to push the Blue Devils to victory when I was approached by the first of five dancers suddenly interested in everything I had to say.

Only in a nudie bar do women behave this way. When it became apparent I had no interest in a $15 lap dance, the dancers dropped the charade rather quickly. Nothing personal. Just business. They were, however, willing to answer a few questions I had about their occupation.

They all had interesting things to say about the industry. When you break it down, strippers are service-based wage zombies like the rest of us. They described an eight-hour cycle of crappy customers, boredom and withering benefits.

They all agreed the economy was killing them. Apparently, it's gotten so bad that anti-social tossers are opting to stay home and watch Internet porn rather than drop a few dollars at the strip club. I was always told sin flourishes in a bad economy. You know it's bad, folks, when it's hitting the strippers in their wallets.

Especially painful, they said, is the stage fee. Strippers have to pay the club $15 to $20 to use the stage. That's all well and good if you rake in $100 a night. But in the current economy, some of the girls said they were lucky to bag $20 during the weeknights. Some said they've left work owing the business money. Imagine having to pay to work.

And good luck finding solace in a union. A few have succeeded, but it hasn't caught on nationwide. Strippers across the country have tried to unionize only to be met with fierce resistance from club owners.

My chicken strips arrived hot and ready to liquefy in my bowels. The basket sagged under the weight of three hand-sized flanks of chicken and a fistful of crinkle-cut French fries. The fries were superb. The crinkle-cut variety is a rare breed in the age of shoestring weakness. They were soggy with grease and flecked with black crud from the deep fryer — just the way I like them.

My enjoyment of the fries briefly was interrupted when Ursula stopped dancing to berate a moron who slapped her across the booty when she got near, prompting the bouncer to escort the man to the door as he spit a stream of misogynistic filth at her.

The dancer seated near me said dudes get out of hand now and then, but it's not a huge problem at The Office. She described one incident where a guy grabbed the water bottle they use to wipe down the pole and sprayed a dancer in the face. Little did he know that bleach was mixed in the water.

I started to feel a bit queasy from the grease injection and pushed away the last knots of boiled chicken flesh. I think next time I might try the burger.

It was about that time I concluded my Office visit. In all, I would say if you're looking for a cheap dinner that's low on pretension and high on calories, The Office has what you are looking for.

And don't forget to tip the dancers.

Reach reporter Chris Conradat 776-4471.