Review: Par Lounge in St. Louis

When the Hi-Pointe shuttered its doors in 2006 many a local hipster and indie rock fan were, to put it lightly, less than pleased. Gone were the late nights packed into dingy booths at the intersection of Clayton, McCausland and Skinker; gone the nights of balancing bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon on the warped sides of the pool tables while enjoying long, smooth exhales from hand-rolled cancer sticks; gone the chance to rock out upstairs to whatever unsigned band had blown into town from Minneapolis, Toronto, wherever. Apparently the hipsters weren’t pumping nearly enough quarters into the Golden Tee machine to keep the place afloat.

Having enjoyed a few great nights at the old Hi-Pointe, I was more than pleased to hear a new set of owners had taken up the standard, wiped off the dust and put the empty space to good use again. Few things in an urban landscape are as depressing as forsaken venues cut down before their time and left to rot (see Parkmoor, The).

Par Lounge, the new bar’s name, debuted in early May. Judging by the open seats I found on both my visits, word has yet to fully spread that the old space is back in business.

Quick word of advice: Don't hold any illusions about Par being the Hi-Pointe reincarnate. If you’re still clinging to those cherished memories of a grungy dive bar paradise, do yourself a favor and stay home for an old-school jam session at your studio apartment.

Par’s clientele now belly up to a 38-foot mahogany bar to choose from an impressive array of aged single malts and upper-level vodkas, rums, gins, etc., all displayed nicely on narrow glass shelves neatly jutting out of the exposed brick wall. All the usual players are there in terms of bottle selection, imports as well. This is good news, especially considering the fact there’s nothing on tap at Par. But Par makes up for it with more than reasonable prices and cordial service. “Nightly specials?” one of my friends asked the bartender. Response: “Son, everything I got behind this bar is special.” He wasn't lying.

Everything I ordered, from a Budweiser to a Grey Goose martini, was prepared or served up with expert care. There’s a fine selection of signature drinks and house martinis, all named after certain individuals; the beer is cold; and the martinis are stiff and well-mixed. Happy hour specials run Wednesday through Saturday 5 to 8 p.m. and include $2 bottles, $3 well drinks and $4 call brands.

The new owners had a “loft feel” in mind when they decided on Par's décor. It's not deceptively simple; it's just plain simple. Exposed brick is present throughout, leading up to an exposed 12-foot ceiling, complete with ubiquitous air ducts and metal rafters. Past the bar, a few tables sit adjacent to a lounge area, complete with leather couches/love seats, coffee tables and designer rugs, all settled under one of Par's two 52-inch flat-screen LCDs – the other being behind the bar. Sidenote: Par proved a surprisingly good place to watch a Cards game.

The easygoing mood in this place is matched by a casual dress code for a laid-back crew of drinkers. On both visits I was in the company of twentysomething college kids, working professionals, baby boomers, a few couples on date night. Patrons wear anything from cargo shorts and flip-flops to three-piece suits and Pradas without anyone batting an eye. Music is piped in at a tenable level from one of those newfangled touch-screen jukeboxes mounted between the windows. Oh, and there is a MegaTouch machine, so if your girlfriend gets bored, there you go.

If you can let go of any lingering Hi-Pointe attachments and keep an open mind, then I'd definitely recommend a night at Par Lounge. Few places make it onto my list of regular bars; this one will. It's a happy addition to the neighborhood and an ideal spot for a random, casual night out.

Check it: Plush couches, serious flat-screens.
Hipster or Hoosier: Sports fans, scotch fans, local professionals, college friends, couples.
Suds or ’tinis: Take your pick; there’s signature cocktails, strong martinis and icy bottles.
Where: Par Lounge, 1001 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, 314.646.1300
When: Wed. to Sat. – 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Tags : Places, Reviews, Bars