Out of all the New Bedford bars and restaurants to return post-pandemic, this one surprised me the most.

The Garden on Union Street has been closed down since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down downtown businesses. Restaurants, retail and bakeries were all affected, yet one bar stood closed even when the rest re-opened. Now the place with the iconic green awning has finally made its triumphant return.

Let's be honest for a moment: the "Gah-den" is one of those dive bars that you simply can't avoid. If you ever had the time to stop by for a beer or two, you'll realize quickly that the bartenders are friendly and welcoming. The normal crowd is still shuffling in and the drinks are just as good as they were in the past.

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I spent a good chunk of my early twenties at The Garden and my drink of choice was always the "Trash Can," a concoction that will grow hair on anyone's chest. Picture a Long Island Iced Tea with a Red Bull balancing on top of a Blue Curacao-soaked cocktail and that's the most popular drink at The Garden.

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Well, good news for fans and regulars: the Garden is back in business and it hasn't changed – except for the flooring. It still has its pool tables and money-grabbing punching bag machine that I will refuse to not hit every time I come across one.

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"When the bars were allowed to open again, we wanted to wait before the crowd poured in," owner Mike Lajoie said. "We had some renovations to tend to first."

The pool tables are still ready for action and the jukebox sits silently until fed a coin or two. Other than that, the bathrooms have been cleaned up significantly and the round table, better known as the bar, is well-tended. The TV is set to sports and the pinball machine is antsy for some action.

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A "welcome-back" goes without saying for this downtown establishment, where the "Trash Cans" are waiting for your consumption. You know it's been a long time coming.

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