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Why I Drink In Downtown

By Chris Charlson · February 23rd, 2011 · Swizzle

If you haven’t been downtown for a night out, maybe it’s long overdue. Yeah, I know you have to drive and pay to park, but suck it up and go. Parking really is pretty affordable on the weekends and the places I’m giving you are all within walking distance, so be adventurous.

It’s going to be a long night, so it’s best to start with food. For those of you who haven’t done a restaurant search lately, there’s pretty much any type of food in any price range downtown. I’m in a spicy mood, so I’m going to choose Nada, located at Sixth and Walnut. Maybe owners chose the name to be ironic, because since opening Nada has definitely been something. Featuring contemporary Mexican cuisine, the venue is impossibly trendy and for good reason — the food is fabulous and affordable. Try the Mahi tacos with one of the freshly squeezed-juice margaritas or a passionfruit caipirinha (voice of experience, no more than two caipirinhas if you want to keep going).

Next it’s off to listen to live Jazz at The Blue Wisp on Eighth Street. Since 1978, this eternally cool club has been featuring some of the country’s best Jazz acts seven nights a week. Even those who are not enthusiasts can’t help eventually getting caught up in the smooth sounds. Sit back, enjoy and let the music envelope you while you sip one of the club’s featured Blue Curacao cocktails. Cover charges and acts change nightly, so check the web site (www.thebluewisp.com). Now that your food has digested and the effects of caipirinhas have mostly worn off, it’s time to go dancing.

Most of the club-style bars in the CBD (central business district for you suburbanites) offer a more mature atmosphere. When I say more mature, I don’t necessarily mean “old” — you’re just way less likely to find dollar drafts, beer pong or a hottest abs contest.

It’s kind of like mid-twentysomethings and thirtysomethings who graduated from the meat market to the meet market, looking to find something maybe a little more permanent than several hours. That being said, both Bartini’s and Mynt Martini are great raucous fun; yeah there’s a cover, drinks start around $10 and guys and gals might get a little overfriendly after a few cocktails and conveniently misplace their wedding rings, but hey, you’re there to dance!

Both lounges/clubs have dress codes, so you will have to up your game a little — that means if you’re a guy, don’t simply raid your dirty clothes hamper for the evening’s attire. If you’re a girl, it’s more hot-sophisticated than hoochy, so flaunt it with a chic edge. DJs start spinning music Fridays and Saturdays starting at 10 p.m.; dancing ensues immediately.

Since you haven’t really had dessert yet, try a liquid version at Mynt (chocolate-covered banana martini) or Bartini’s (smores martini, complete with graham cracker rim and skewered marshmallows). While these places might take you out of your comfort zone, sometimes being overly discriminating really isn’t any fun — so live a little.

What To Do:
• Live jazz throughout the week at Blue Wisp Jazz Club, 318 E. Eighth St.
• DJs on the weekends at Lunar/Launch, 435 Elm St.
• Live music Thursday-Saturday at Mainstay Rock Bar, 301 W. Fifth St.
• Live dueling pianos at Penguin Dueling Piano Bar, 441 Vine St.
• Variety and drag shows on Wednesdays and Fridays at Roxy’s Restaurant & Lounge, 909 Vine St.

What To Drink:
• Signature martinis at Bartini’s, 580 Walnut St.
• Latin inspired cocktails at Nada, 600 Walnut St.
• More than 80 single malt scotches and extensive beer selection at Nicholson’s Tavern & Pub, 625 Walnut St.
• Hand-crafted microbrews at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, 10 Fountain Square Plaza

What To Eat:
Full homestyle menu at Arnold’s Bar & Grill, 210 E. Eighth St.
• Extensive wine and bourbon list at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, 700 Walnut St.
• Contemporary Mexican cuisine at Nada, 600 Walnut St.
• Upscale dining and half-off happy-hour specials at Palomino, 505 Vine St.
• Seafood and oysters at Washington Platform, 1000 Elm St.



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