Best Lounge - 2009
Sol Lounge/Reference - CLOSED
Some enjoy basking in the waves of social electricity a big, crowded lounge emits. Others prefer a more subtle, intimate lounge. Brian Schmitz's building at 4239 Lindell Boulevard — the only 3 a.m. establishment in the Central West End — offers both. On the top floor sits Reference, so called because the bar itself is a glass case filled with artifacts (such as photos and currency) all referring to people in Schmitt's life. (He plans to eventually cover every vertical space up here with the 16,000 books he and his father have collected.) The only light in Reference comes from candles and a projector screen, leaving several nooks with leather furniture in the shadows — good for a private tête-à-tête, should one be necessary. Descending to the basement, you can feel the frenetic house and techno of Sol thump through your chest. "Sol" is Spanish for "sun," but this lounge is dark and cavernous. The 30-foot ceiling, walls of exposed brick and hulking wooden beams give the space the feel of an industrial cathedral. There's ample seating on the sofas and ottomans from which to gape at the kitschy cartoons and old movies that flicker on the back wall. Still more engrossing is the humanity gyrating in the middle of the room, galvanized by a set of very powerful speakers. From 1:30 a.m. onward, Sol gets packed, but the bartenders, backlit by soft-colored bulbs, glide to and fro swiftly, leaving you with only one task: lounge in the crowd and the sound.