The Next Door Lounge
5:45 seemed too early for a doorman, but there he was with a vintage mustache (monopoly man style), top hat, and tuxedo, sitting at a podium under an exaggerated old-fashioned yellow key hanging from the black brick face of the building. “Are you meeting a party?” He asked whimsically. “Um, no, I’m just here for happy hour, is that okay?” I hopefully replied. “Oh, it certainly is.” Then he spoke into a small microphone “One coming to the bar for happy hour.” Then he opened the door and in I went into The Next Door Lounge.
I felt like Alice after swallowing the “drink me” potion, small, compared to my surroundings. Everything seemed really big. Aside from me, there was a bartender, bar manager and two guys sitting at the bar. Big chandeliers hung between shadowy ceilings and leather lounge chairs. There was a definite “speak easy” theme being applied here. At the moment, I wasn’t sure if it was a hit or a miss. I sat at the bar.
I texted Jackie: “wait til u see the doorman! lol” Our sense of humor is our greatest bond. While waiting, I ordered one of the happy hour cocktails: the Moscow Mule, one of my favorite classic cocktails, when done right. After snapping a few shots, I took a sip. My tongue cringed. Uh oh. This was some sort of sugary lime syrup, not fresh lime juice. As any food and drink expert knows, an imitation flavor is never a good choice. This looked like a nice bar, why not use FRESH lime juice?
When Jackie sat down and looked at my drink with sparkly eyes, I had to give a sneaky whisper: “don’t order the Moscow Mule.” She understood and after making a comment about her “lesbian newscaster haircut” as she called it, she ordered a custom cocktail...spicy with jalepenos. It wasn’t on the HH menu, but it was a hell of a lot better than my rubbing alcohol and lime syrup.
The HH plated options were exciting. We ordered smoked pulled pork sliders with guacamole, sour cream, roasted almonds, crispy onions and apple cole slaw; spinach and goat cheese wood-fired pizza with walnuts, apples and herbs; crostini with red and white beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, celery roots and goat cheese, and lastly shrimp ceviche. We also added an order of sweet potato fries. This was absolutely one of the better HH food menus I had seen in awhile.
We were bombarded with plates of food all at once. Nothing makes me happier than being showered with delicious looking food after a crazy day running around! I ate the crostinis first because they were the closest to me. Then I sampled the sliders. Wow. I opened my little bun and added the apple cole slaw on top of the onions, perfection. The spinach and goat cheese pizza went down with flavorful ease. Good crust. The ceviche was the weakest link. It was good, but could have easily been picked up at any supermarket deli. No originality. We made the entire serving of sweet potato fries with curry ketchup disappear, so that should tell you something.
The bar was so dark it had a Vegas effect. You know how you never know what time it is in Vegas when you’re inside the casinos? Like that. As in Vegas, the party didn’t stop....at least Jackie’s didn’t. She ordered another one of her custom cocktails. I just glared at mine. I didn’t feel like ordering the Daiquiri or the Whiskey Sour, the other happy hour options. Maybe they were amazing, maybe the Moscow Mule just wasn’t their specialty. The cocktail part of this Happy Hour was a bust, but at least the food part was a win. I could have ordered those pulled pork sliders all night long.
1154 North Highland Ave.
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