Posted On: 06/12/2000
The Famous Bar is not what you might expect. It does not have the typical traits of a southside bar. Your first impression will be the most obvious difference: the friendly and professional tie-wearing doorman who greets regulars and gives a positive impression to new patrons. The doorman, Mike Ingram, sets the atmosphere for the room.
You can tell this is a neighborhood tavern because of the rear entrance off the alley, where many of the local southtowners enter. The bar has an eclectic atmosphere that is matched by the crowd. The interesting mix of patrons are not only from the southside, but also from all over the city. The crowd ranges in age and in race. They all tend to be on the hip side of the scene, with most of the patrons often seen at other hipster bars across the city.
The owners are a sibling team made up of born and bred southsiders Mark and Kent Grey. The brothers have been in music and bar scene for the past twenty or so years. They opened the bar nearly three years ago, after extensive renovations-- evidenced by the sharply decorated interior. The space has continuously been a bar since the repeal of prohibition. When it first opened, it was strictly a coat and tie bar. Rumor has it that in 1937, the bartender, who was relatively new at the time, received a phone call from August Busch's wife. She told the rookie barkeep that if her husband showed that he was to tell him to come "directly home, because he had already drunk enough." Sure enough, as the story goes, a buzzed Gussie showed up in a horse carriage looking for a nip, but was refused service by bartender and was sent home to Grant's Farm. The story seems to have a few holes, but I am assured that it is all true.
On the weekends the music ranges from Saint Louis rockabilly kings The Tripdaddys to the instrumental surf of the Civiltones to the fun and dancey Chia Band. The bar is by no means a full out music venue. The bar has a classic tiny stage to the side of the front door, so the band can be seen from the sidewalk window. The music is not nearly as loud and dominating as other clubs sound systems that can tend to blast the music across the room and ruin your chance of carrying a conversation. Music is only available on the weekend as is the relatively low cover, which is usually only three or four dollars. When there are no bands playing the bar will often have lounge music to enhance the atmosphere. There is a television above the bar; this does not detract from the feel of the room, but it is a good way to keep an eye on the score of the game. The Famous also has staple amusements such as a pool table and the new Golden Tee.
The bar has a wide range of beer ranging from a couple of different Schlaflys on tap along with many different imports and other micros. While the bar does not carry the southside's favorite beer, Busch Bavarian, it does offer the low cost option of Miller High Life at just a buck fifty for those who just want to stop in for a low cost sip. The booze selection is fine, with a plethora of single malts and whiskeys. They also carry the city's only complete selection of the high proof French herbed liquor, Chartreuse.
As would be expected with such a selection of liquors, the mixed drinks also very exotic. Above the bar is a series of chalkboards boasting the various cocktails ranging from fancy specialized martinis, killer Bloody Marys to classic cocktails such as the Sidecar. The Bloody Marys are unique and quite possibly the best in town. Behind the bar is a selection of fancy cigars. The Famous is conveniently located next to a carryout pizza place called Fio's, which is very convenient for the hungry bar patron who wants more than just peanuts or pretzels.
Some of the more colorful folks that frequent the tavern are a wild and dancing flamboyant couple, Norma and Ray. Norma is an elegant beautiful older woman bordering on gaudy. She is thin, good looking and wears fancy cocktail dresses. Ray is shorter suave older gent. He wears a sport coat with a slick open collared shirt. They have the moves and the ways of old school Vegas rollers. When Ray and Norma get together they get the attention of the whole room with their fancy dancing. He has fast feet that are only outdone by his Norma. Ray spins her around like a top, all while she smiles and swoons to her partner's smooth moves. They are a true joy to watch.
The Famous comes off as having a more downtown cutting edge, but it retains a strong southside neighborhood feel. This bar is welcoming to everyone, which often cutting edge type bars often nearly always fail to do.
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