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BEST POOL HALL Minneapolis 1998 -

No fancy finger food here to mess up your cue. No booze to stagger your shot. No overdressed yuppies with $250 sticks trying to impress each other playing 8-ball. This out-of-the-way, no-frills parlor is all about the game--chesslike straight pool and breakneck 9-ball. The well-kept tables are generously spaced, giving everyone from the hotshot high school banger to the ol' time touch player room to hustle (you'll pay $4 per hour for a table during the day and $6.50 at night). The cue tips are always well-sanded, the shafts straight as arrows. Though there are weekly 9-ball tournaments for beginners and intermediates, the vets just while away the day in the back of the establishment, knocking down rack after rack, sipping coffee between cigs. If you go alone, chances are there's a game waiting; the room's open from noon to 4 a.m. But beware: These suburban waters have been known to attract a city-slick shark or two.

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