Bowen House keeps it classic for sexy respite from Uptown bar scene
Hey, everyone. Did you miss me? Did you even know that I've been gone for the last nine months? Don't act like the return of Drinking Diaries isn't the greatest thing to happen to you today.
Well, I mean, besides the fact that The Loon's spiritual successor has opened, which is definitely where I'm going after I'm done here so I can down some whiskey Cokes and lament the fact that I'm less than a memory to you people.
But if I wasn't drinking to fix myself, it's a good bet that you could find me over at Bowen House, the sexy saloon in a historical landmark house formerly occupied by Ahab Bowen. I used to hit up Ahab Bowen every fall for my high school's '70s Day during homecoming week, but the vintage shop went out of style for good in 2011.
Time is valued here; it's an opportunity to savor the space and the attitude as much as the drinks.
Bowen House's owner, Pasha Heidari, was thinking vintage too — but he decided it would be better to go all the way back to the beginning of the house's life in 1874. Heidari already was preaching the old-school gospel with his Kennedy Room on Maple Avenue, but Bowen House's interior is coated in original photographs from the last quarter of the 19th century.
The marble-top tables are small and cozy, ideal for a quiet date over classic cocktails or wine with a plate of fried Brie. The all-black walls and silver accents give off a subtly sexy vibe that's a modern twist on the classic saloon.
This isn't a place made for an abundance of Uptowners looking to guzzle. Time is valued here; it's an opportunity to savor the space and the attitude as much as the drinks.
And if it isn't date night, the long bar, which takes up nearly all of the back wall, is an ideal place to pick the bartender's mind about your drink, or strike up casual conversations. If it's a cold or rainy evening, a spot by the fireplace merits consideration. And although the expanded patio's view of a strip mall is less than ideal, a seat out there still feels like a hidden alcove from the madness of McKinney Avenue.
But then, the most important part of any bar is the alcohol. Bowen House pays more than lip service to its time-traveling theme with a focus on pre-Prohibition cocktails. The refreshingly light blueberry bourbon smash I started with (they didn't have blackberries) probably was not the best choice for sitting on a patio in 40-degree weather. But then maybe I shouldn't have sat outside during 40-degree weather.
The Sazerac, on the other hand, was a reminder of why it is in contention for America's oldest known cocktail. The absinthe rinse gave each sip a tiny end note of licorice that blended nicely with the dry spiciness of the rye. Yes, I know how I sound right now. I don't care.
Although Bowen House's mixologists are well-versed in the merits of the Sidecar, Manhattan, Tom Collins and other classics, they also like taking your preferences and creating something out of nothing. It's nice to have those fallbacks — they've stuck around for a reason — but a little liquid adventure is good for the soul.