Category Archives: Bar Review

EDGE Bar at the Four Seasons (Denver, Colorado)

FACT: The hotel bar is coming back.  Some of the most iconic and groundbreaking bartenders that not only participated in the craft cocktail movement but started it, were found in hotel bars, and we are glad to say that the trend is swinging back around.  My fellow Dallasites have seen this exemplified in Midnight Rambler, Knife, and Dragonfly, but on my last visit to Denver I was delighted to visit EDGE Bar at the Four Seasons and found that it had some of the bartenders upping the cocktail game behind the bar … in a hotel.

While cocktail menus are fantastic, I’ve always enjoyed having conversations with bartenders and having them make me something off the menu.  (When it’s not busy, of course.  Don’t be that jerk that takes up five minutes on a busy Saturday night.)  I was delighted when both of the resulting cocktails were extraordinary.

Their program is innovative thanks to options like a monthly barrel-aged cocktail feature, the use of unique liqueurs and spirits, and knowledgable bar staff.  With leadership from their brand new bar manager, James Menkal, we’re sure to see more unique and innovative options from EDGE Bar.  Menkal was named one of Eater’s Best Bartenders in Denver last year and one of Zagat Denver’s 30 under 30 in 2014, so we can expect some exciting things from him.

Beyond a fantastic cocktails program, EDGE offers plenty of local beers along with more than 50 wines by the glass.  The bar itself is spacious and is a perfect spot for anything from a drink to shake off the work day or to shake it out before heading out.  There is plenty of lounge and bar seating and the bar is complete with televisions … if that’s your thing.

After a couple drinks, we were escorted to the dining room for dinner.  We started with the Beets and Goat Cheese and they were absolutely on point–a bit earthy and balanced with the light tang of the goat cheese.  The highlight of the menu was, without a doubt, the steaks.  EDGE smokes their meats with pecan wood and is one of the only places in Colorado using pecan wood.  The result was a deliciously smoked meat with a deep flavor that left us wanting more.

To complete the meal, we ordered the Roasted Cauliflower and the Lobster Mac & Cheese.  The Roasted Cauliflower was incredible and the entire table agree that we’d all order again; the texture was perfect and the light curry dusting added the perfect zing.  The Lobster Mac & Cheese was surprisingly delicate and the cheese was very light.

While we were too full after our meal to have dessert, we were treated to a milk chocolate lollipop in the shape of a cow with a couple drops of white chocolate.  It was an incredibly simple but perfect end to a delectable meal.

Overall, the EDGE Bar and Restaurant offered a perfect night without a single misstep.  I’ll be back on my next trip to Denver without a doubt to see what Menkal had done with the bar and to have another cut of their pecan-smoked steak.

EDGE Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Denver
fourseasons.com/denver/dining
1111 14th Street, Denver, Colorado
(303) 389-3000

Bowen House

I went through a vintage phase in college.  So where did I shop?  My first stop on a shopping trip was always Ahab Bowen, a little vintage shop tucked inside a historical house smack dab in the middle of Uptown with a smattering of clothes with that have already lived a full life, but still had more to give.  While I was sad when I heard the news that it closed years later, I was also excited about the potential of the establishment taking over the quaint, little house–a serious craft cocktail bar, Bowen House.

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The space was completely reinvented with a bar spanning the facade and a handful of intimate white marble tables.  The chandelier above the bar gives the space a decidedly haute feeling, but the atmosphere is anything but stuffy.  Oh … and this is a perfect date spot.  (They even joke that they host Tinder Tuesdays because so many blind dates show up.)

Thanks to owner, Pasha Heidari, Bowen House put together a killer lineup of some of the best in Dallas’s food and drink talent.  The food menu was created by Chef Graham Dodds and he has a team of incredible mixmasters behind the bar.  Some of said talent (ahem, the badass Reid Lewis … she’s a lady) was just recognized as one of the seven best mixologists in the city by “Modern Luxury Dallas”.

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As drinks go, previously you were meant to simply chat with the bartender and he (slash she) would whip up a perfect cocktail crafted to your specifications.  As of late, they’ve rolled out menus to make things a bit easier on those of us who have a paralyzing fear of making decisions when put on the spot.  That’s right … leisurely peruse the menu … or you can still chat with the bartenders if you’re into that.  (Which I am.  Like, really into.)  The menu offers classics, and then classics with a twist … each drink has also been reimagined by one of the bartenders.

Another new addition to their offerings to keep up cool on these 100º days–popsicle cocktails.  The popsicle menu totes four options that’ll sweeten you up and cool you down while packing a punch.

The food here is also surprisingly good.  The Fried Brie is a ta-reat with seasonal compote accompanying the melty, cheesy, crunchy goodness.  Oh, and the chicken salad–dubbed Mom’s Chicken Salad because it’s actually his grandma’s recipe–was somewhat addicting.  (And unfortunately it’s frowned upon to ask for seconds at a media tasting … whatever.)  Also, (I’ve been told) the potato chips are even pretty epic.  They have bleu cheese which is a no-no for this girl.

If you’ve never stopped in, make it a priority.  Get all the drinks … and all the food … (That doesn’t really narrow it down for you, does it?)


BOWEN HOUSE

bowenhousetx.com
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2614 Boll Street, Uptown (valet is located on Howland Street)
214.484.1385

Header photo courtesy of Bowen House.

Nickel & Rye

I lived in the heart of Uptown for 2-1/2 years … a mere 5 minute walk from Nickel and Rye and only went a couple times.  Like  a rookie, I allowed those times to be weekends in the wee hours, a time which happens to be the great equalizer of all Uptown establishments (read: drunk people acting ridiculously).  I was recently asked to stop in for dinner and did so begrudgingly.  Holy shit … was I wrong to have thought like that.  Nickel & Rye shattered my previous misconceptions of this gem.

First things first: they have a large and diverse selection of traditional and rare whiskies.  (Yessssss.)  In fact, they’re so proud of their whiskey options that they even offer their “V. Rye P. Club” that rewards you for trying whiskey.  Just try a certain number of whiskeys and you’ll be treated to parties–not kidding.  Look for Pappy van Winkle, local options, and some with a little Nickel & Rye twist, all for pretty decent prices.

Beyond that, they don’t settle for the run of the mill cocktails.  They infuse liquors, make bitters, and generally do things pretty damn well.  And their cocktail list has a little something for everyone.

Nickel & Rye’s Maple Bacon Manhattan is one of their signature cocktails and has been for quite a while, no double because of their delicious bacon-Infused bourbon with maple syrup and the slightest hint of Averna Amaro.  Their second most popular cocktail, the Sparkling Cucumber (New Am Vodka, elderflower, cucumber, lemon, and champagne) is light, flavorful, and is a perfect cocktail to enjoy on their fan-fucking-tastic patio.

Beyond their two best sellers, they have a couple lot of other winners.  The Summertime Sadness (Exotico Blanco, mint, roasted jalapeño, cilantro, and lime) was a surprise with a lot of complexity thanks to the oddly, but well-paired flavors.  The basic Old Fashioned is even a winner–gotta love the old standards.  If you’re bold, let the talented barmen behind the large, concrete bar go crazy.   Tell them what you like and what you don’t and watch them work.   One of their newest creations from one of these adventures in bartending  even uses Blue Curacao (that apparently is making a resurgence … yikes) and a smoked wood plan to give it an oddly smoky sweet flavor.

The cocktails aren’t the only thing that Nickel & Rye is doing right.  Their food, all made in-house, is damn delicious.  (And their parent company, Kirby’s Steakhouse, would see to that.)  They took basic food items and made them either VERY well or just a tinge haute.  Site: their Lobster Quesadilla.  Eat this now.  Also not to be missed is their charcuterie board and their Brussels sprouts.  (If you’re a reader, you know that it really doesn’t take much from Brussels sprouts to impress me … but these were so good I almost ordered a second dish.  What!?  They’re vegetables.)

Of the McKinney Avenue spots, this is one place that you should hit for a happy hour that is sure to surprise.  Make sure to log some time on their patio before it gets too hot.  Because it will … and all the chilly cocktails in the world won’t be able to make being outside bearable.


NICKEL & RYE

nickelandrye.com
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2523 McKinney Ave
(214) 389-2120

Fat Rabbit

Dallas has a lot of restaurants come and go and come back and go again.  Upon Sfuzzi’s more recent exit from McKinney Avenue, Fat Rabbit, a new player took over its space … and brought along a logo with their own version of Harvey sporting a pretentious tux and jaunty spectacles.  Fat Rabbit came to us from a North/South Carolina restauranteur, Peter Lloyd, as his first Texan undertaking.  Apparently, we’ll see more from him as One Dallas is built (the new high-rise that is being constructed in the Hard rock Cafe field on McKinney) as he will be opening a restaurant in it.

The restaurant, complete with a generous patio and upstairs “VIP” bar (called Masque), bills itself as purveyor of American food.  While that sounds a bit “done” for the area, they do it well.  Their food selections are all over the place—just their appetizers offer items from tuna tartar to hummus to hot wings—talk about an identity crisis.  The good part?  They somehow seem to do it all right.

Fat Rabbit is in the heart of Uptown right on McKinney, so you know that they better either do their drinks really well … or really big.  They offer a full beer list with some locals and the usual suspects, wine options by the glass and bottle, champagnes actually from champagne, and, of course, cocktails.  I was honored to have been joined at dinner by Jackie of Pretty Petals (looking adorable, as always), and we had to stay away from fried things (I’m doing the Lent thing and gave it up), but aside from our limitations, we made some great selections if I do say so myself.

Their new cocktail menu launched last week and, thanks to the manager, Trevor’s suggestion, I started with one of their new Irish whiskey cocktails (because, if you have ever read anything I’ve ever written, you know that I’m a huge Irish whiskey nut), the Ron Burgundy (2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Benedictine, simple syrup, Peychauds & peach bitters).  If I had my druthers, I would have stuck with this drink the whole night as it was perfectly light with enough kick to keep it interesting.  Their bar program keeps it local when possible but not as a rule.  They also play with some different (yet still mainstream) ingredients to make their drinks a bit unique.

Jackie started with the Peach Keen (Deep Eddy Peach vodka, lemon juice, raspberry), which was sweet, so it’s the safer play if you don’t like spirit forward cocktails.  Their Summer Beer (Ketel Citroen, lemon, peach bitters, simply syrup, Revolver Blood & Honey) set the stage perfectly for the amazing patio season we have ahead of us–the peach bitters and the honey notes in the Revolver Blood & Honey both gave it just the slightest sweetness.

And … since apparently one cannot survive on booze alone (unfortunately) … we also dined.  We started with Tuna Tartar (scallions, sesame sweet soy glaze, togarashi served with wonton chips) and they were nice enough to bring me lettuce since the chips were fried.  The tuna came as a generous potion of fresh and tender tuna with just enough of the glaze to keep it interesting.  We followed that up with the Lamb Burger Sliders (lamb patty with pine nuts topped with roasted red peppers and tzatziki sauce) which were quite good, but weren’t our favorite.

We weren’t ready to commit to a whole, single entree each, so we ordered a few things for the table.  Again … we did well.  Their Lobster Mac & Cheese was un-real.  They add just a bit of truffle oil that balances the four cheese nicely without being overpowering.  Our lovely waitress suggested the Breakfast Pizza (candied bacon, tomato, quail eggs, Sriracha aioli), which, if you remember back to Sfuzzi, they had their own version … so it just seemed fitting.  I love that they candied the bacon for this pizza to give it a sweetness to counteract the spiciness of the Sriracha aioli (which I’d suggest getting on the side).  The winner of the night was, without a doubt, the Brussels sprouts.  I mean … hot damn, y’all.  I wanted to plant a hair in them at the very end so they’d have to bring me another order of them.  But that would be immoral … or something.

Fat Rabbit is open for lunch, dinner, and late night (SCORE) along with weekend brunch  (I’m going to get my ass in there soon to try their red velvet pancakes and mimosa bar), and they also hold events from time to time.  Tomorrow (Monday, March 13), they’ll be screening the final episode of “The Bachelor”–who do you think Ben will pick?  And later this month, they’re bringing in the 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey’s brand ambassador, James Dillon, to host a whiskey pairing dinner on March 23–3 course and cocktail for $45?  In … get your ticket to join me!

If the promise of good food and drink don’t pique your interest, maybe one of their weekly specials will.

Monday – $3 pints, 1/2 price dinner menu starting at 6pm
Tuesday – Service Industry Night (1/2 price burgers, sandwiches, & flatbreads starting at 8pm
Wednesday – 1/2 price bottles of wine
Thursday – live music starting at 8pm
Friday – DJ starting at 10pm
Saturday – brunch at 11am-4pm (mimosa & bloody mary bar), DJ starting at 10pm
Sunday – brunch at 11am-4pm (mimosa & bloody mary bar), live music starting at 3pm


FAT RABBIT
fatrabbitdallas.com
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2533 McKinney Ave.
(469) 941-4085

Vetted Well is … well … vetted.

Vet – verb \vet\ the careful and critical examination of quality

Vetted Well, the new bar above the recently-opened Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, may be one of my new favorite places.  Damn good food, a great beer selection (complete with 10 perfectly-paired boilermakers), one of the best rooftop patios in Dallas, themed private karaoke rooms, and a location directly above a quirky movie theater make for a great experience.

While Vetted Well does a lot … well … they have done well in not specializing in anything at the expense of others.  Perfect example: they have a damn good (local) beer selection (cans, bottles, and a bunch of drafts), but also have awesome cocktails and a small (but thoughtful) wine list.  They have some healthy food, but also some food that makes you want to break your Lenten commitment not to eat fried food (oops …).

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My review was actually my second visit … my first visit was with a  couple girlfriends after a movie to catch up a bit.  We enjoyed a shit ton of popcorn (which, if you order in the bottomless popcorn in the theater, you can continue working on finding the bottom upstairs), a Darker & Stormier (a seriously delicious take on the Dark & Stormy–apply brandy, Black Seal rum, ginger, lime, and crushed ice) and The Traveling Man (Eagle Rare 10 Yr. & Karback Weekend Warrior whiskey).  I was so excited to come back, that I nearly died when I saw the email inviting me in for a review.

I was spoiled with a couple boilermakers, a couple cocktails, and alllllllll the food (more on that later because, cocktails).  Their Moscow Mule was the traditional recipe (vodka, lime, ginger beer) and was well mixed, but the copper vessel was badass–because I’m kind of over copper mugs.  Next out was the Kentucky Buck (bourbon, strawberry, lemon, bitters, ginger beer), which was completely refreshing and I cannot wait to sit on their patio and sip one three of these on a warm, spring afternoon.

Let’s get back to those boilermakers.  Ten options, all decidedly Dallas with names like The Grassy Knoll and The Big Tex, make for a good challenge.  I’m four down so far, (… not as accomplished as Kevin, but I’m working on it) and I’m enjoying the progress.  Paired thoughtfully, my favorite so far is The Sears & Roebuck (Gran Classico & 512 Pecan Porter), but I look forward to trying the remaining six to see if it stays on top.  (There was talk about the technique behind drinking a boilermaker.  Do you take the shot of whiskey then sip the beer, sip both at once, or dunk the shot?)

Now … the food.  Everything they make is as homemade as possible from the mustard to the … other delicious stuff, and they also source from local vendors like Empire Bakery.  They’re currently serving lunch from their kitchen with brunch and then dinner to follow, but if you’re up there for dinner now, you can get items from the Alamo Drafthouse kitchen.  They bring it up with a dumbwaiter,  which they claim can hold 200 pounds … and I’m still upset they wouldn’t let me ride in it.  (Read: stay tuned for a staged dumbwaiter incident complete with live Twitter feed.)

We started with the Biscuit Beignets.  They hit the table and I knew my Lenten “no fried food” pledge was in trouble.  I figured that, as my mom says, Sundays are cheat days … and I’d been to church earlier.  So, I dug in.  I’m damn glad I did.  These fluffy, fried nuggets are perfectly light and come with dippable cinnamon sugar, raspberry syrup, vanilla bean crème, and spiced rum caramel.  Hot damn.  Next up was more fried goodness (because why just be a little bad?), Croquettes with smoked gouda, potato, bacon, and green onion, and served with a dill-lish dill ranch.  (Terrible joke … sorry.)  To round out the first “course”, they brought out the Panzanella Salad which, aside from the Brussels sprout I snuck off the plate while taking a picture, was snapped up before I could take a bite.

The heavy hitters of the meal were still to come–the 24-Hour Brined Pork Chop, Chicken Fried Chicken with Local Honey, Carved Turkey on Hippie Bread, and the Cubano sandwich.  All delicious and all recommended.  They mix it up by serving the pork chop with a waffle–take that chicken and waffles!  I’ll be having this one again thanks to the incredibly flavorful chop.  My other favorite was the Cubano (roasted pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, house pickles, and beer mustard served with traditional tostones).

I’m actually upset with myself for not requesting the Vetted Well Burger … this thing is a work of art–a burger with pork beans and pork belly?  That’s some genius shit right there.

Overall, Vetted Well is quite the delight.  The patio is unreal–both the front and back one.  The front patio has a great view of Downtown Dallas and the back patio is complete with locally made furniture and a giant outdoor screen where they’ll show classic movies a couple times a week.  If that’s not enough entertainment, check out one of their four themed private karaoke rooms for rent by the hour to accommodate 6-20 people.  You know I’ll be hitting those rooms hard with some hardcore Hall & Oates.  The karaoke rooms will be open to the public starting Thursday.

I can’t wait for the next rainy weekend when I can commit to spending an entire day bouncing between the theater and Vetted Well to get my hands on their burger.  Who’s with me?

Overall, I think their name is deserved.  I was told that “vetted” is used often in the military as a quality check.  While I’m not military, I feel as though I can still give this place my seal of approval–it has been vetted … and it’s gooooood.


VETTED WELL
vettedwell.com
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1005 S Lamar St, Dallas, TX 75215
214-695-7009

SUN-THURS: 11:00am – close
FRI-SAT: 11:00am – 2:00am

Checkered Past Urban Winery

A winemaker, farmer, and a designer walk into a bar …

Well, actually, they built the bar.  Namely, Checkered Past Winery, the newly opened urban winery nestled into a basement in South Side on Lamar in the booming Cedars neighborhood.  Partners Scott Relyea (founder and designer), Sandro DiSanto (winemaker), and Carolynne Chancellor (vineyard owner and farmer) came together in 2008 to dream up this Texas-centric “wine pub”, and their plan … succeeded.

Housed in the formerly dimly lit Absinthe Lounge location, the space is nearly unrecognizable–light, galvanized metal, and vespas fill Checkered Past now.  Who knew the space even had windows?

So … let’s talk wine now, y’all.  Checkered Past stocks wines from “their friends”–wines from other wineries around Texas that the staff loves, and from the rest of the world.  (Because it’s Texas vs. the rest of the world, right?)  They have bottles, glasses, and even draft wines available along with local beers.

They don’t stop there.  They’re making their own wine with two currently available and three more promised before the end of 2016.  (Bring it, Sandro.)

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Even better than just having a damn good (local) wine list, the food at Checkered Past is perty good.  Sandro a first-generation American from his Sicilian family, and the menu reflects that.  Simple, but delicious, the items on the menu were carefully crafted using local ingredients when possible, but they won’t compromise quality for the sake of staying local.  Not to be missed: their flatbreads, namely Rudi’s Double Meat (made with meats hand-picked from the best purveyors available and no sauce — novel), the Goat Cheese Pappadew Skewers, the Smoked Salmon & Herb Goat Cheese Bruschetta (I detest smoked salmon and ate one of these … and enjoyed it), and the Kalamata Tapenade (because sometimes the most delicious things are the simplest).

To make me love this place even more … they don’t f**k around with their post-meal goodies.  I’m talking about their pairing of dessert wines with their gluten-free Warm Double Chocolate Cake.  Even if you’re not a fan of dessert wines, let them make some recommendations–my favorite was the Jacquez Maderia from Haak Winery in Galveston.  You may become a believer yet.

Stop by Checkered Past for some good local wine, good eats, and ska music.  I mean, at least stop in to see what the innards of Absinthe Lounge really looked like.


CHECKERED PAST URBAN WINERY
checkeredpastwinery.com
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1409 S Lamar Street, Suite 008 (South Side on Lamar, The Cedars)(214) 242-0411

Free parking can be found on the far west end of Belleview, the street that Checkered Past faces.  You’re welcome.


Side note: the lovely Pizza & Champagne sisters and I will be hosting a “singles night” on 2/12/16 at Checkered Past!  Stay tuned for more details coming soon!  (All are welcome, taken or not!)


***Checkered Past treated me and a couple buddies to an evening of trying out their wines and food.  And I got a neat t-shirt.  I love t-shirts. Check out my Snapchat to see it! (@susieosz)***

C’Viche

There’s a new chico in town … and his name is C’Viche.  Get your ass into this play ASAP, because it’s f**king delicious.

Their cocktails pack a punch and are a perfect complement to their Mexican and South American food.  They have an extensive full bar with some more exotic options, so you can get traditional margaritas or get a little crazy with Pisco drinks.  Check out some details of my visit below.

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We started with their complimentary chips & salsa while we poured over their menu.  Their food options are limited in the most perfect way–they don’t do all that much, but what they do, they do really damn well.  Their menu is literally five simple sections … ceviches (obvi.)and crudos, specialties, quesadillas, “snacks”, and tacos.

In the meantime, we ordered a couple drinks with the help of the owner and chef, Randall–Jackie* went with their mojito and I opted for a Pisco Sour … because Pisco.  Jackie hadn’t tried Pisco, so we were given small tastes to sip.  If you want to know more about Pisco, check out #SDDContributor Brian’s review or mine from ages ago!

Their bar is pretty extensive, offering “100% agave Mexican tequilas & mezcal, Caribbean rums, Brazilian cachaça and Argentinian Pisco”. You can also opt for their local or Mexican & South American beers on tap or some wine.  But, when in C’Viche …

Their food is unexpectedly good.   Though, they’re owned by the same guy as Clark Food & Wine Company, so I should have known better … because that place is legit.)  The food is inspired by Mexican and South American cuisine and makes the food its own in a special and delicious way.

My absolute favorite food item we tried was the Tuna Crudo “Poke Style” (tuna crudo, tamari, ginger, and scallions).  Jackie and I had a little fork fight over who got the last piece … I kid you not.  We also got into some serious queso business along with their Street Style Corn and Avocado Fries.  Not to be missed is their fresh fish, which you can choose which fish you prefer, chopped (ceviche) or sashimi style (crudo), which style you’d like (Baja, Peruvian, island, or Asian), and you can even have them make it into a salad for just $2.

The atmosphere is decided casual thanks to the nice natural light it lets in, red metal bar stools, industrial lights, and cement floors.  The music keeps it light and the staff lights to kid around … which just makes things a little more fun.

Stop into C’Viche soon and get you some of their tuna crudo to accompany their new happy hour specials.
C’VICHE & TEQUILA BAR
www.cvicheandtequila.com
1922 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 238-3509

*Jackie is my new friend who happens to be a fellow blogger … check her our at Pretty Petals! You’ll hear about her again.

Lobby Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental (New York City)

My sister and I remembered the amazing experience we had more than eight years ago at this bar.  We were there with friends and were absolutely floored by the view overlooking Central Park from the southwest corner in the Time Warner building.

The service is impeccable and the drinks are well-mixed.  Order a drink and a couple of their tapas-style appetizers and watch the sun set over the park.  It really is one of the best places to do it in the city.  Just make sure to get a spot by the window!

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Lobby Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental
MandarinOriental.com
80 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023
(212) 805-8800

HOURS:
9am – 1am (Sun – Thu)
9am – 2am (Fri & Sat)

TEA: 2:30 – 4:30pm (Daily)