Bar Belle: The welcome wagon

Jul 29, 2009 at 5:00 am
Swanky Zanzabar
Swanky Zanzabar Photo by Sara Havens

It takes a lot to pry me from my routine. I’m a creature of habit(s). I like to know the bartender when I walk into a place. I like to saddle up with the other regulars who have saved me a seat. I like my drink sitting at the bar as I approach it. Some might call it high maintenance — I just call it love.

So when a new bar opens up, I’m usually the last person to check it out (unless I’m invited to the soft opening, of course). “I’m busy guarding this stool,” I’ll say as my horde of friends (read: two) migrates to the new place. “If the beer is free, call me.”

But ever since Venus has been in retrograde and there’ve been eclipsing moons around Uranus (go back two pages for details), I’ve felt the urge to change my ways. So I spent Friday evening barhopping to four new spots, and from what I can remember, I dug them all. Here’s the rundown:

 

Zanzabar

2100 S. Preston St., 635-ZBAR

Move over Nachbar: There’s a new bar to park your scooter in front of. Zanzabar has all the swank of a sparkly ’70s lounge, complete with a stage for live music, a pool table, an old-school jukebox and a few arcade games scattered about. With eight taps, a full menu, a sweet patio and reasonable prices, Zbar is the epitome of keeping it cool in the neighborhood. Yes: The gorgeous red-and-black interior. No: Bathroom stalls are kinda tight — no making out here.

 

Mulligan’s Pub & Grille

1801 Newburg Road, 632-2818

A lot of you were sad to see Kaelin’s go — but once you see what they’ve done with the place, you’ll forget all about the blue-haired hamburger joint that once occupied this space. A large, circular bar now takes center stage — with eight taps on each side, flat screens lining the walls and a menu that is more sports bar/Irish pub than Frisch’s Big Boy. (But don’t fret, early birds: The original recipe Kaelin’s burgers are still available, and at a cheaper price!) Happy Hour runs seven days a week (!) from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (!!). “I don’t call it happy hour, I call it happy day,” the bartender said. Oh happy day, indeed. Yes: $1.50 Bud Light drafts during HH. No: The bathrooms need a facelift.

 

Harley’s House of Brews

122 W. Main St., 384-0151

I stumbled into Harley’s once after leaving Bearno’s By the Bridge … hung out until the wee hours of dawn with the bartender and two other blokes while I drunk-texted my friends and sobered up. Formerly known as Zena’s, the new owners have scrubbed the place clean and offer a pretty decent spot to sit and watch the world go by. The menu is burger-and-hot-dog heavy and offers such treats as Chicklets (think sliders, but with chicken) and Bananapeños (too chicken to try). For Reds fans, they’ve got Hudepohl for $3 during games. Play ball! Yes: Washing a dog down with a Hudy Delight. No: The decorations don’t make sense — a goose and pictures of unknown celebs?

 

Swan Dive

921 Swan St., 632-1299

I love bars in basements, and I especially love bar names with double entendres. Enter the Swan Dive — a hip new hangout that took the place of the Dugout. What makes it so hip? For starters, the menu is completely vegetarian. Kudos. Secondly, I was thirsty, out of cash and not wanting to start a tab, so the friendly bartender handed me a cold can of Beer 30 Light and winked. Or maybe it was one of the many OWLs situated around the small room who batted an eye in my direction. It was the last stop on my tour, so details remain fuzzy. The only scribbling on my notepad I can decipher is “tecate = $2” — that’s one hell of a deal if it’s true. Can someone get back to me on that? Yes: Great place to hear live music. No: Not much elbow room.

 

Drunk Texts of the Week

•“r you harnessing ur chi?”

•“Haven’t u heard? Anl is the new orl.”

•“r u out and not in a closet sort of way”

•“No worries. It happens to us all. The absinthe was really strong.”

•“You better b under a blanket w a beer.”

•“Ther r 2 kinds of ppl n this wrld. Thos who mastrbte & thos who lie abt it.”

 

Check out my daily reasons to drink at barbelle.leoweekly.com