As bartenders pour more than 75 aromatic whiskeys and single malts from a healthy menu of mixology-inspired cocktails, a team of chefs diligently reduce the same amber potions into savory sauces. These potent condiments flow freely over burgers and pizzas, punching up classic American flavors with the distinctive kick of Old Grand-Dad, Fireball, and Jack Daniels. On select nights, live bands flood the expansive eatery with catchy riffs and pumping bass, drowning out the clacks of colliding stripes and solids upon red-felted pool tables. An exclusive VIP area gussied up with sleek leather couches and velvet ropes hosts bottle service—vodka, gin, and scotch vie for tumblers' attention. Whisky Bar's private game room hosts corporate events and private parties, and a cavernous, free-access parking lot accommodates up to 150 cars, which is the same number of cars Evel Knievel once flew over—on United Airlines flight 1232.
If you're not paying attention as you walk down Elder Street, a big pink ice-cream cone will stop you in your tracks. This cone stands sentinel in front of the bright-blue façade of Swirly Bears, an old-fashioned ice-cream and candy shop. Customers can duck into the friendly space to peruse its candy offerings or satisfy their sweet teeth with a classic ice-cream treat, such as a float, shake, or banana split loaded with three scoops of ice cream and as many toppings as the customer wants. Even the parlor's candy-making classes and parties begin with a round of ice-cream sundaes, much like wrestling matches of old.
The independently-owned Mayday offers a variety of unique burgers, made from turkey, black bean, or beef patties with toppings such as Korea-style kimchi and cilantro chili sauce. Patrons pair the burgers with oven-baked fries and draft beer at this hub of the Northside neighborhood, along with trivia, comedy, and live rock and roll, and a two-tiered patio provides a fun atmosphere for the whole family.
The boldness of burgers isn't all Mayday specializes in, however. The subtle flavors of fine whiskey and charcuterie reward more ambitious palates, while a full array of hotdogs?served on homemade pretzel buns?add an upscale spin to comfort food. To top it off, customers can add a fried egg to anything on the menu, just like when we were kids, frying eggs on the sidewalk to top off our summer ice cream cones.
From behind a pair of baby grand pianos, two pianists take audience requests each Friday and Saturday night at The Penguin Dueling Piano Bar, urging the crowd to sing along in a display of musical showmanship. The ivory ticklers hail from all over the country and belt out popular tunes from the past 50 years that they’ve memorized by heart or tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. Onlookers seated at tables around the stage or nestled into plush couches in the lounge sip cocktails, quaff brews, and dive into salty snacks. Although the show runs on Fridays and Saturdays, drinks specials pop up each night and salsa-night Wednesdays promise copious amounts of hip shaking.
Craig and Laura Decker seem to have a difficult time making up their minds. They also seem to have a knack for turning this indecisiveness into an advantage at every turn. When it came to opening their new business, for example, they briefly wondered whether it should feature a wine shop, a wine bar, or a gourmet bistro. Their solution? All three.
This spirit of inclusivity pervades The W.G. Kitchen & Bar, where the Deckers pair seasonal wine varietals with globally inspired cuisine. Rather than choose between European elegance and New-American pizzazz, they settled on a compromise they describe as “Old World chic.” This label suits a menu that features small plates of housemade meatballs and bruschetta alongside assorted cheeses from around the world. The focus on small plates is in keeping with the Deckers’ have-it-all mentality and gives diners the option to sample several dishes without having to barter with adjacent tables.