No one just stumbles upon the subtle facade of this chic-but-not-too-chic bar. Bar 89 (89 Mercer St.) is one of those special bars that seem like a local secret whether it really is or not. Bar 89 is one of the best, if not THE best, place to bring friends or family from out of town. That’s right, this gem is fun enough for friends, but safe enough for family.
The bar’s clean, modern decor has changed in a startling way. I walked in early Friday night and had to take a step back. The pink graffiti splash of wall art made it seem like the usually monochromatic gray bar got, well, hit by graffiti. The explosion of color is the opposite of Bar 89′s look.
After my eyes adjusted, I decided it was cool.
Art installations at Bar 89 are just that—temporary installations. “Bar 89″ makes a fast costume change and becomes “Gallery 89.” The bartender Ryan said customers are reacting so well to this show that the management plans to keep it up for awhile.
For more details on the art installation, check out the Gallery 89 page.
Bar 89′s Humble Origins
I order a watermelon martini because it matched the room.
The menu is simple: burgers, salads and desserts. The appetizers are standard fare (nachos and wings and such). The burgers are as big as frisbees. Keep your napkin close by because the butter from the bun will be dribbling down your chin.
If the menu feels midwestern, that’s because it is. The seed which grew into Bar 89 came from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the offspring of Elsa’s 0n the Park, (833 E Jefferson). Elsa’s was ahead of its time in the early 1980s and remains hot today. The martinis, the burgers and the rotating art installation concepts all came out of Milwaukee.
To add to Bar 89′s humble roots, you need to know that Elsa’s itself was born from even humbler roots. Karl Kopp, who owns Kopps’ Frozen Custard in Milwaukee opened Elsa’s, named after his mother.
The wholly New York twist are the restrooms. When you bring your guests, make sure EVERYONE USES THE BATHROOM. I won’t say why, you’ll just know.