Tonight we're at a thirtieth birthday party, the second one in as many weeks. If today, signature cocktails are all the rage at weddings, then this is all the rage for thirtieth birthdays: throwing a party at a bar that you've partially rented. (Old-school house parties gently weep in the corner, hoping that they will be in vogue again someday.) This party's at Skybox, a newish sports bar on the Landing that's co-owned by Nelly, Marshall Faulk, Darius Miles and Larry Hughes. The eponymous "skyboxes" are really just cordoned-off spaces from the rest of the dining and bar areas. Our semiprivate one is little larger than a college dorm room.
But the bar as a whole seems college-sports-arena size: It's slick and multileveled; more than 80 televisions call it home. Even in our diminutive skybox there are two large flat-screens just inches apart, and trying to watch them simultaneously turns the stomach. The couch is made out of football-like material, and the brick walls hold rows of signed basketballs, an autographed Michael Jordan jersey and clown-size basketball shoes. The birthday girl is skillfully navigating her martini glass, gesturing animatedly, but somehow not spilling a drop. Ah, the things you master in your thirties.
Meanwhile, we order the Apple Bottom Martini: Stoli Vanil vodka, Pimp Juice, Hiram Walker Sour Apple schnapps, a dash of grenadine and a cherry. After all, when in Nellyville...
Many celebrity-owned bars bank on gimmicks, and Skybox is no different. There's the Pimp Juice, the Hella Hot Sauce, the sports memorabilia. Star power can be an alluring draw, but it doesn't always work as a fundamental business concept: Planet Hollywood used to be where Skybox now stands; Hard Rock Café's seen better days. But here, every time we're ready to make some sarcastic comment ("There's corn bread, but where are the corn rows on the menu? Am I right?") Skybox almost always proves us wrong. The food is way better than we'd expect at a sports bar, celebrity-owned or otherwise, and the service is consistently accommodating and efficient. As for our Apple Bottom Martini, the vanilla vodka nicely tempers the sour-apple flavor, and the cherry at the base of the glass (which we guess is supposed to symbolize the apple at the bottom) is a clever wink.
The clientele here is mostly mid-thirties and younger, and jeans are the order of the day — oh, except for the group of young things who've just paraded in wearing teeny dresses. We give the tsk-tsk of a schoolmarm and posit that the Young Tramps Convention must be in town. Our friends snicker, and for a few moments we all feel superior in our maturity: We know better.
And then, minutes later, we watch as the thirty-year-old birthday girl sweeps her arm a bit too wildly. As if in slow motion, her sixth martini glides out of her glass and into a purse on the floor that's open wide like a thirsty mouth. She doesn't notice.
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