Posted On: 12/01/2010
The crew at HandleBar, the newest saloon to take up residence in the space at 4127 Manchester Ave. in The Grove, is intent on redefining the biking and boozing concept. They’re talking Huffys, not Harleys. It might sound hokey at first, but even if the environmentally minded, cyclist-friendly theme doesn’t appeal, the alcoholic substances will.
Stiff, flavorful and fast – these are more than buzzwords for head bartender Keeley McGrew, HandleBar’s ambassador of booze and associate designer of the short but very sweet list of signature cocktails and shots that hover over the well-stocked main bar. Headlining the show is the Blue Bike, a blue Long Island Iced Tea which, even on a busy Saturday night, McGrew insisted I sample for strength before committing. With rum, vodka, triple sec and blue curaçao, it was a stiff but refreshing concoction. Among the shots, don’t miss the Road Rash, the most impressive – and most dangerous – shot on the list. Honey whiskey is doused with 151 and put to the flame, creating a spicy, hot, mad little demon of a shot that’s hard not to fall in love with (make this one your first). A handful of other shots, named for HandleBar’s employees, are similarly inventive and, thankfully, strong. Wednesdays this winter feature $4 hot spiked drinks, including apple cider and whiskey toddies.
But if the hard stuff isn’t your thing, there’s a nice selection of suds to choose from, too. McGrew is intent on featuring St. Louis originals when it comes to hops, and taps include a rotating list of mostly local brews: Six Row porter, Schlafly pumpkin ale and kölsch, O’Fallon 5-Day IPA and Hemp Hop Rye on my visits.
HandleBar is the brainchild of Tatyana Telnikova, previously manager and owner of City Museum’s Cabin Inn, who pulled up stakes with her crew, including McGrew, from the Inn when it closed in July. At HandleBar, she’s promoting her goal of more bike traffic in the city by providing a fun, centrally located spot with plenty of bike parking and surprises – 10 percent off the tab or a free beer, for example – for patrons who arrive at the bar under pedal power.
Only months old, HandleBar feels like it has been part of the neighborhood for years. The main space retains its aged look and wooden church pew booths from a previous tenant. A massive bar teems with an impressive bottle collection, dim chandeliers throw light on a magically absurd collection of bicycle sculptures and murals by local artists line the walls. To the side, an anteroom leads to a generous patio space complete with tables, ashtrays and a few fire pits.
Along with the local art and beer, HandleBar features homegrown musical talent every weekend – which mixes well with the $1-off signature cocktails deal every Friday and Saturday. Bellying up to the bar is a mixed bag of mostly young, casually dressed 20- and 30-somethings, couples and singles. This is a casual place with great drinks and a down-to-earth feel, adding more diversity to the neighborhood’s nightlife options, many of which feature blaring music and flashing lights.
Compliments to Telnikova for resurrecting a prime location – and for stocking it with quality booze and a staff who knows how to handle it.
STL AFTER DARK
Check It: St. Louis’ first cycling-centric saloon
Hipster or Hoosier: Neighborhood bar crawlers, preppies, wacky tattooed types, sharp-dressed professionals – everyone’s welcome.
Suds or ’Tinis: Wash down a red hot Road Rash shot with a local microbrew.
Where: HandleBar, 4127 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.652.2212
When: Tue. to Sat. – 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
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