The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
There are plenty of good places to grab a drink on South Grand, from restaurant bars to dives, but the new Night Owl space above Tree House Restaurant (3177 South Grand Boulevard; 314-696-2100) is a welcome addition. This stylish and cozy spot offers craft beer, wine and a nice cocktail list, plus regular music and late-night food are coming soon.
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There's a beautiful bar made from reclaimed lumber by Jermain Todd of Mwanzi Co. The walls are decorated with art pieces constructed from corrugated cardboard. Huge windows overlook South Grand Boulevard and seating is a mix of bar stools, tables, chairs and comfortable old couches. The lighting is dim, and the music is chill.
"We've officially been open since late November," says bar manager Kara Robinson as she mixes a "Ginju Sipper," one of several cocktails on the list at the Night Owl. The base of the drink is split between gin and soju, a Korean rice spirit. The cocktail is floral on the nose with a little spice. It tastes sweet and floral with some bright citrus and a hint of peach. Jasmine lingers on the finish.
Tree House regulars enjoyed a sneak preview of the space in late October. "We hosted a Taps and Tapas beer-pairing event with Tallgrass Brewing Company," Robinson says. "The response was wonderful."
Since then, Robinson has put together an original cocktail list along with bartender Sean Lewis. The "Oaxaca Old Fashioned" is Lewis' seasonal take on the classic but it uses mezcal. There's some beautiful smoke and citrus on the nose. It's deep and earthy with cocoa and warm spice. Smoke lingers on the finish.
The "Turnkey Sour" is nice and tart with some lovely vanilla and spice from the bourbon. Subtle floral and citrus notes add layers of complexity. The addition of Champagne makes the drink lighter and fresher than a standard whiskey sour.
The "Cachaça Samba" combines Brazil's sugarcane-based spirit with some mezcal. The nose is herbal with a hint of fruit; the drink is earthy and spicy with some smoke and pleasant bitterness.
Within the next couple of months, you'll be able to sample some "tasty veggie and vegan treats," according to Robinson, who says the menu is still being tweaked. Music will be a regular feature as well. The Night Owl has so far had live jazz and local DJs. The INICIO DJ Collective's Steve Touhy will be regularly spinning house music.
Right now the space is open Thursday through Saturday, from 8 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. and Sunday from 8 p.m. until midnight. "It still feels like a tiny secret that we pass from person to person," Robinson says.
When word gets out, this little place will fill up fast. Get in soon so you can say you knew it when it was still South Grand's best-kept secret.
Follow Patrick J. Hurley on Twitter at @VeganDrunkard. E-mail the author at [email protected].