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 V.17 No.31 | July 31 - August 6, 2008 

Restaurant Review

Boozing in Style

Two quickies at the bar

Imbibe’s smoke and mood lighting
Tina Larkin
Imbibe’s smoke and mood lighting

Hi, my name is Maren, and I’m not an alcoholic. But I’ve heard that denial is the first sign—so who knows? I’ve also heard that drinking alone is indicative of a drinking problem, which leads me to suspect that either I’m a lush or a huge George Thorogood fan. Either way, it was time to get out and knock a couple back with some good friends and complete strangers.

Lately, drinking establishments are doing their damnedest to attract thirsty patrons by convincing them that tying one on in a joint that cleans up well is superior to drowning your sorrows—or whatever ails you—in some two-bit dive. Shiny things draw me in like a mosquito to a bug zapper, so I found myself bellied up to two bars that, if nothing else, certainly knew how to put on airs.

A manly shot of Whisque
Tina Larkin
A manly shot of Whisque

Whisque

Coors Boulevard. Need I say more?

For those who need an explicit description of the area, picture an Applebee’s, Chili’s, T.G.I. Friday’s or any other corporate hellhole, and you’ve pretty much got the gist. Whisque is independently owned but seems to be striving to capture the aforementioned businesses’ business.

As far as decor, it’s on the swanky side. Dark wood, stone and pleather is the theme, and it’s not nearly as cramped as the usual chain-gang restaurant/bar. High ceilings, a large city-scoping patio and an enormous fireplace give off a nice hotel vibe, but the clientele and service work against the high-end ambience.

I paid eight bucks for a vodka martini that was listed with several house specialties that all took on some martini form. It was a “filthtini,” vodka loaded with olive juice. But it only tasted like olive juice, making whatever fancy-schmancy vodka it dirtied up obsolete.

I tried to order food but was S.O.L. in that department. Pretty boy bartender guy obviously had better things to do, as did the manager who arranged glassware in front of me for half an hour. I waved my hand, waved my credit card and even bared gratuitous amounts of cleavage—to no avail. By the time the barkeep got around to checking on me I was so fed up I just paid my tab and hightailed it outta there.

Imbibe

I almost hate myself for liking this place, but I’m a smoker so I’m biased. Imbibe is a cigar bar that fancies itself a backdrop for an episode of any number of shows that take place in Orange County. While that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, they did let me smoke inside. As it turns out, I can be bought.

Honestly though, it’s way too trendy for me. This place was probably outdated before it finally opened. Backlit smoke-tendril art and über-contemporary couches give the impression of trying too hard. When I went, loud, loud music seemed no different than unwanted construction noise outside my bedroom window, and hordes of knock-off clad barflies were stuffed into every nook and cranny. Luckily, the humidor was well-stocked and well-attended by knowledgeable staff.

All staff were friendly and helpful. A bartender guided me through the Scotch choices with no condescension, and I watched another staffer teach a customer how to trim and smoke a cigar.

Again, I ate no food. Imbibe has a rooftop deck with eats from Yanni’s but was so packed I tired of waiting in line to wait in line for a table. No wonder—this place even takes reservations for its couches.

Although it’s almost cheesy in its attempts to be chic, Imbibe could turn out to be a cool place. The smoke wasn’t overwhelming and the service was impressive, especially when considering how new and packed it was. If nothing else, watching the trendies try to smoke cigars provides a little comic relief. It’s like a preview of what they’ll be doing when they leave for the night ...

View Imbibe in Alibi Chowtown calendar

The Alibi recommends:

• Imbibe for urban scenery and ashtrays

• Whisque for happy hour with city views

Whisque Mesquite Grill & Bar, 4201 Montaño NW (at Coors), 898-3132. Hours: Sun-Wed 4-10 p.m.; Thur 4-11 p.m.; Fri-Sat 4 p.m.-midnight. Price range: $23 for two martinis and a Bud Light. Ambience: High school reunion. Credit cards, booze, large parties, valet.

Imbibe, 3101 Central NE (at Richmond), 255-4200. Hours: Mon-Sat 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sun 7 p.m.-midnight. Price range: $27 for two cocktails, a Scotch and a Bud Light. Ambience: Trendy but tolerable when viewed through the smoke. Credit cards, booze, VIP rooms, rooftop deck, humidor.

 
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