Formerly a cardroom where Sacramento's poker players regularly congregated to play a late-night game and talk about their crushes, the Phoenix Lounge has been reborn as a 5,000-square-foot sports bar, event center, and dart-throwing arena. Add a wall of flat-screen TVs, weekly trivia contests, and a regular lineup of standup comedians, and what remains is a spot to relax, laugh, and tip back a brew or two any night of the week.
Guests rarely glance at their watches at Liaison Lounge and Restaurant, where smooth jazz music and soft lighting create an unhurried and easygoing atmosphere. Instead, diners fix their attention on conversations with friends, occasionally signaling the bartender for another glass of wine. Servers dart nimbly around the white-clothed tables, bearing plates of upscale pub fare, such as warm paninis, juicy pork sliders, and smoked salmon bites. Occasionally, live performers fill the patio with soft music.
Though they are experts in traditional Japanese cooking and sushi-rolling, the chefs at District enhance their menu by adding in modern flourishes. Using seafood sourced from North American, European, and Asian waters, they wrap ingredients such as spicy salmon, fried scallops, oshinko radish, and avocado into more than 30 maki rolls. They also plate signature dishes such as miso-glazed white fish, grilled lime salmon, and ginger-soy-marinated AAA strip steak. Servers ferry these dishes, along with sake and soju cocktails, to intimate bistro tables. Ornate crystal chandeliers punctuate the sleek interior.
Mermaids and mermen are a surprisingly common sight at Dive Bar. Fin-clad entertainers spend their evenings elegantly swimming through the 7,500-gallon aquarium that hangs over the bar’s stone countertops, charming guests as the bartenders mix an array of classic and contemporary cocktails. Exposed brickwork, black-leather armchairs, and a dangling chandelier don’t necessarily continue the nautical theme, but they do contribute to the overwhelmingly luxuriant ambiance.
Live musicians grace the bar’s stage on Wednesdays, whereas Thursdays feature a dueling-piano show that brings to mind Billy Joel and Elton John’s legendary joust to the death. In addition to hosting DJ performances, the lounge pumps out dance-worthy tunes until as late as 2 a.m., even allowing customers to connect their iPods to the sound system and either play their favorite song or the shortest chapter from their favorite audiobook.
At Headhunters Video Lounge & Grill, Californian wines and draft beers complement plates of strip steaks, prime rib, and hand-battered coconut shrimp. Diners can lounge on the outdoor patio, noshing on staple bar appetizers such as loaded potato skins or mac 'n' cheese bites. Indoors, patrons relax in an inviting dining area with lime-green walls, ample plant life, and ceilings high enough to permit medium-size pet dinosaurs.