I've been drawn to the area before, but the Beautiful People (BPs) at the Velvet Dog have always sort of terrified me. The Empire Room feels a little more comfortable because it's, well, darker. Café Trocadero is nice but makes me feel squeamish about being straight. So I wanted to check out the new addition to Martini Corner, the Buddha Bar, and see if it was my kind of drinking establishment.
Research Assistant Katie and I situated ourselves in the bar's west room, which is outfitted with red walls, leather booths and dark tables. Two other pairs were in attendance. The first couple, a pair of BPs in their late 20s, started out at a tall bar table but soon moved to one of the loungey couches. Couple No. 2 was a (possibly underage) pair sporting very hipster hair (his an artful shag, hers a very dark, thickly fringed blunt cut).
I began to worry that Buddha beckoned only the romantically inclined, but then two large groups filed in and deposited themselves on either side of our table (which now included RAs Liz and Greg). I introduced myself to Dominique and Morgan, two 26-year-old graphic designers who usually hang out at Mi Cocina, Re:Verse and the Point, and their friend Stephanie, also 26, who was in town from Chicago for the weekend. I asked if this was their first appearance at the Buddha Bar.
"Well, this Buddha Bar," Dominique said. "But we've been to the one in Paris." (We weren't aware of the Buddha Bar in Paris.) "We'll probably have a few drinks here and go somewhere else later," she continued.
"Are you here to pick up?" I asked.
"Well, Morgan has a boyfriend. But I'm single," said the pretty, talkative KU grad, who closely resembled Cara from The Real World: Chicago. (Because Cara now lives in Kansas City, I briefly considered that Dominique might be a pseudonym.)
I continued to prod. "But have you seen any cute guys here?"
"Um, I haven't really looked," she said. (Dominique was a terrible liar.)
So I set out to discover them for myself. A quick survey of the bar's two small rooms yielded pleasant results (including one guy I'm pretty sure I'd made out with once). The place was already packed at 10:30 p.m., and everyone genuinely seemed to be having a good time.
As I made my way back to the table, I decided it was time to invade the BP couple's privacy. I found that Jake, 32, and Sarah, 29, were (gasp!) secret lovers. Offshoots of a Truman State clique with six primary members, Jake, a "secondary," and Sarah, a "tertiary," were on their fourth date. Nobody in the clique knew they were seeing each other, however. We wondered if sexual history in the group was to blame; Jake confirmed our suspicions.
"I've slept with another secondary," he admitted. I was delighted -- I adore scandals.
Will the Truman Staters be enraged? Is the Other Woman desperately still in love with Jake? Will they be excommunicated simply for finding happiness with each other?
"Um, probably not," Sarah said and laughed. Disappointing. "But I can't really believe we're outing ourselves like this -- in a newspaper."
(It should be noted here that I didn't have the guts to tell Jake that the real Night Ranger was out of the country and that I was merely filling in. He bestowed much praise on the column, which rightfully should go to Jen Chen, but I succumbed to the flattery. My sincerest apologies, Jake. I'll forward your comments. )
Though they obviously were dying to get each other in the sack, Jake and Sarah didn't seem to have any intention of sneaking into the Quiet Booth -- a cell-phone cubicle with Transformer properties given enough martinis -- for a preview. I asked RA Greg's friends Jeff and Andy, both 26, what they thought of the stall's potential.
"You know, back in '87 I used to run an escort service out of that very booth," said Jeff. Ignoring him, I turned to Andy.
"I think it would be a whole lot more fun with tinted windows," offered Andy.
"Hey, you should talk to the Jewish American Princesses over there," one of them suggested. "They're obviously out for some action." Girls after my own heart, I thought.
So I made my way over to the attractive thirtysomethings, who introduced themselves as Lisa and Parisa. What did they think of the new bar?
"It's trendy and cozy," Lisa said. "The service is good. The prices are good. We ordered the edamame and ... "
Right, Lisa. We got that. But do you think it's sexy?
She leaned in close, lowered her voice and confessed, "Well ... the mushroom caps were a little dry." Wow. Now that's randy.
Interestingly, I ran into only two people who even mentioned the correlation between the Buddha Bar and, um, Buddha. Joseph, 27, and Kevin, 24, veterans of the Union Hill service industry, had much to say about the symbol's significance. Unfortunately, our conversation took place at the end of the night, and to be honest, I just wasn't tracking all that well. But I applaud their philosophical efforts.
Like everyone else I met, Joseph and Kevin were ultrafriendly. I dug the bar's atmosphere, and I definitely saw at least one boy with whom I wouldn't mind slipping into the Quiet Booth. Looks like I've found my bar.