Posted On: 01/01/2008
Iíd finished washing my hands when I noticed that an insanely cute brunette in a dark red top had been standing behind me, no doubt witness to my little ritual of hair primping and checking myself out in the bathroom mirror. Already caught, I turned and smiled. She smiled back understandingly, brushed past and pulled out her lipstick. On my way out I noticed a playful grin moving up her cheeks. I already knew this bar was getting a good review.
No, I hadnít broken into the ladiesí room. The coed washing area, an increasing popular phenomenon in saloons across the globe, is just one of the wonderfully unique elements of Sol, the Central West Endís newest lounge and wine bar. If you havenít heard about this joint yet, please donít be upset. You werenít supposed to. Itís one of those word-of-mouth advertising schemes.
Hugo Perez, local real estate maestro and serial entrepreneur, covertly sliced the bow open on Sol the Sunday after Halloween. Originally the lounge was opened as a complement to The Grind, the adjoining coffee house that reopened at its new location at 4239 Lindell in early October. Sol itself, a 3,000-square-foot space constructed in 1935 as a warehouse for the Hamilton Flooring Co., has got the whole European/Soho artsy fusion thing going on Ė with the enjoyable feel of a hidden speakeasy. The dimly lit space is wrapped entirely with original redbrick. Dark, functional air ducts spread across the ceiling and dodge second-story support beams that jut up from the smooth concrete floor. The beams serve as natural dividers to a number of private lounging areas, each complete with low, wraparound couches and sheer white curtains. (On a second visit it was hard not to notice these playing home to several couples busy canoodling.)
Above the indoor cabanas, in his second-level perch overlooking the crowd, the DJ pumps out a steady mix of underplayed tracks from the í80s and í90s at a pitch-perfect decibel level (you can carry on a conversation without shouting).
Thankfully, thereís no food muddling up the place. Itís obvious that Perez has put some serious thought into his drink offerings. If youíre into rum, this is your place Ė itís the house special and a number of high-end bottles are on display behind the bar. On a recommendation from a bartender eager to pull one down, I had a glass of Flor de CaŮa Grand Reserve; sweet, palatable, but not really my thing. Instead I honed in on the draft selection, which is, by the way, excellent. More impressive than the fact that Sol has Peroni, Kronenbourg, Guinness, Fullerís London Pride and Youngís Double Chocolate Stout on tap at an ideal 45 degrees is that each is served up in a proper European-style pint glass with indicative glass indent. All the call and top-shelf liquors you can think of are available, as is a short menu of wines by the bottle and glass starting at $7 a pop (several good, if somewhat overpriced, Cabernets and Pinots). Word to the wise: Watch how much you order. Itís not hard to quickly rack up a hefty bill.
Because of the soft marketing ploy, a prevailing crowd has yet to establish itself. My company at the bar was mixed: attractive young professionals, pseudo-intellectual types puffing on Camel Lights, weekend binge drinkers in casually torn designer jeans. Sol does lean toward an older clientele, though; not Wilford Brimley from Cocoon older, but definitely not a brash, college-aged hangout either. Simply put, the place oozes a cool vibe. Sol isnít trying at all to be the next big thing. Itís trying to be its own thing, which, so far, is pretty great.
Itís always exciting to be in on a secret, something new and redefined, and this place is on the verge of something great. You can feel it. So for the moment, Iím happy to lean back, sip on my exquisitely cold pint, scan the crowd for that brunette from the bathroom, share laughs with my friends and enjoy the ample space at the bar. Iíve got a feeling that after the word gets out about this place, there wonít be much of that available.
STL AFTER DARK
Check it: The coed washroom and seductive lounges.
Hipster or Hoosier: Grad schoolers, baby boomers, CWE yuppies, weekend warriors, pretentious liberals, cute brunettes.
Suds or ítinis: Fine selection of rums, wines and draft beers/ciders/porters.
Where: Sol, 4241 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, 314.534.1300
When: Tue. to Sun. Ė 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
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