Our recent experience at Boozefish could also be described as a standard improvement. We visited last year, when the bar was new and trendy, and were disappointed -- there was a band, it was too loud to talk, and these wine-drunk suits tried to infiltrate our social circle. When we went back a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday night with Research Assistant Shashank, we were surprised that it wasn't packed with yuppoids. Instead, we found a small, murmuring crowd, and we were able to savor our blue drinks (the Boozefish Cocktail, made with Bacardi Limon, Blue Curaçao, pineapple juice and club soda and served in a pint glass) in a relaxing atmosphere.
Fearing that this was an anomaly, we returned for the Wednesday wine-tasting night and had yet another nice, laid-back experience.
"I know it's bad for business, but I kind of like it," said RA Kym, referring to the sparse crowd. "I hope they make it. It's a good place to talk." As we drank potent sangria and waited for the tasting to start at 6 p.m., we scrutinized the room. The bar was gorgeous -- made of dark wood with two small stained-glass inserts flanking the back mirror. Owner Maija Diethelm told us it came from a Houlihan's in Chicago, and she believed it dated from the early 1900s. Mottled-yellow walls complemented the dark hues and the Art Decoish, stained-glasslike light coverings.
Soon the tasting began. Under the tutelage of Fred Germaine of Vintage Sellers, we sampled two reds and two whites. The $15 price included a full glass of our favorite, as well as appetizers of pita with hummus and chips with salsa. Kym's favorite was the Gewürztraminer (Adler Fels from California), which she described as "complicated" -- it smelled of rosewater and at first tasted slightly bitter, but then its complex flavors came out.
"I fuckin' like this," Kym said of her Gewürztraminer and her newfound appreciation for white wine. "A year ago, I would've been, like, 'That's for housewives or people who mix it with 7-Up.'"
We were partial to the merlot (Windy Ridge from California); it was kind of woody but mellow and most pleasing to our palate.
Germaine later told us that Boozefish tastings feature mostly boutique wines. He said there was no "rhyme or reason" regarding the labels presented, but it was always two whites and two reds. "The best wine is your favorite wine," was his mantra. "My goal is to try to find people's individual styles."
More people started filtering in, their individual fashion styles ranging from "just came from work" (i.e., suits) to "went home and changed first" (polo shirts and khakis). The Girls Night Out (with guy) commandeering a table in the middle of the room fell into the former category.
These law-firm cohorts generally liked the wine selection and the food. Jenn, 25, was the regular and was full of helpful comments. "This isn't really a destination place," she explained. "It's more of an after-work, happy-hour place that turns into more fun later." We questioned what exactly "more fun" meant. "People end up here," she elaborated. "Young professional people end up here ... people mingle." Which made us wonder: Was it a good place to pick up?
"Well, it's not a heavy scene, but I have picked up here," she said, then burst into self-conscious laughter. She recommended coming back on a Thursday night, when there were more after-work happy-hour groups in evidence as well as the Thursday Wine Club (15 percent off select bottles). Owner Diethelm also talked up the late-night happy hours, with $1 off wine by the glass, $2 drafts and half off well drinks.
"We're not really a summer bar, so we're trying to do late-night happy hours," she said.
To which we thought, late-night hours + blue drinks + flirting with young professionals? That's "more fun" for us.