Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Forget the rain, there's a bar to review

I was going to be reviewing "after softball" kinds of bars today, but changed my mind last night to reviewing Mike and Molly's. Unfortunately, Kriddy left her ID in the car and it was raining and she got carded in MnM so we went next door to Seven Saints, whey they know our names.

Ok, I won't lie, Seven Saints is one of my favorite bars. It's a member of the Carlos Nieto family of bars. It's located in downtown Champaign, on University Ave, towards the train tracks, next to the alley. Many people, for some reason, have trouble finding that bar.

Parking isn't so great in the downtown area, so if you are going to any bar, you may just want to park at the train station. If you are lucky, you'll get a spot right in front of 7S. You probably won't get lucky.

Seven Saints is the kind of a bar that you go to WITH a date, as opposed to a place you go to try to find a date. It's definitely not a MEET Market. It's somewhat dark inside, but that's a mood thing. There are always candles burning on the bar and in the candle display at the end of the main sitting room. The music is somewhat subdued, and the selection is made by the staff. There is no jukebox. There are 2 tvs above the bar, one around the corner and one in the dining tables area. They will put on whatever you want to watch. Last night, we were flipping between the Cubs game and the evening news while watching about the storm.

The manager, Andy, is very knowledgeable about his craft. He was brought over by Carlos from Crane Alley (the second best BEER bar in CU) to help this bar along. When Andy arrived, he turned over the beer selection and also the hard liquor selection. The liquor was mirrored (same on east and west) of the bar, but he reduced the multiple bottles and more than doubled the liquor selection. In the top middle is Pappy Van Winkle 23.

The bar has some martini originals, and some other mixed drink specialties, but they seem to pride themselves on their whiskey selection. There are 2 shelves (or so it seems) of whiskey. If you want it, they've probably got it. If they don't have it, they'll probably get it. They had, during May (not sure if it's still going on) Whiskey Wednesday, where the whiskey was half off, which made for some really good deals on servings that were formerly around $30 a glass.

Their food menu is somewhat ... um... snobbish. While the main fare is "slider" style mini-burgers, they can be found with all sorts of interesting ingredients. Of their sliders, my favorite is the bratwurst slider (I think I had that once). They have beet chips, cheese curds, and hummus. I do enjoy their ribeye sandwich but it's not the best steak sandwich in the Carlos bars. There are other entrees on the menu besides sliders.

As for the beer; they have 3 mirrored coolers on either side of the bar that contain most of their beers. They have beers that fit all styles. There are wits, wheats, ambers, bier de garde, farmhouse, lambic, porter, stout, ciders, marzans, and several trappists. If you order something and don't know what beer goes with it, you could either go with the St. Amand Farmhouse Ale; or the new Flying Dog Garde Dog (bier de garde). There are several beers from Flying Dog, Dogfish Head, Bear Republic, Dark Horse, Left Hand, and Rogue (to name a few). There are (I think) 8 taps, with Guinness; Magic Hat (#9); Dark Horse Black Bier; Rogue (currently Issaquah Bullfrog); and for the macro... Miller High Life (I think). I can't remember the rest of the taps, sorry. There is also a cooler that has rotating stock, whatever is new and limited goes in there. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is in there. Most of the 22oz bombers are in there, including the Bear Republic beers. In the entryway to the kitchen is Andy's cooler. He keeps some "special" bottles in there. If you ask him nicely, he may bust out something special from there. He's given us a Dogfish Head Pangea, some stuff from 3 Floyds and some other high quality beers from his own stash. The stuff in his cooler is from his personal cellar, and he loves to share good beer. Just make sure you are willing to hear the story behind the beer, because he'll talk about it for a while.

Andy tries to keep the staff knowledgeable on their selection, but with all the hard liquors and different beers (there's possibly 50) they have trouble keeping up. Granted I don't need any help picking out a beer, but I can throw in a food pairing or a beer suggestion when I'm there. The beer menu isn't exactly up to date, but Andy will give a little writeup on the new beers on the back of the menu. (he likes to use an exclamation mark!)

Last night a guy was drinking Delerium Tremens and was looking to have something different, but then couldn't figure out what to have, so he ordered another DT, so I recommended a Unibroue La Fin du Monde, as those are both similar beers. He seemed to enjoy it. So that was nice.

If you want a beer or drink with someone, without having to shout across the table; Seven Saints is a good place to go. If you are taking a date out and don't want to be bumped into a lot, it's good for that too. The kitchen is open later than most of the other bars around, so you can get a slider at a late hour. (However if you are closing bars and need to eat, Merry Ann's is still the place to go). If you want to dance, it's not the place. It's not the busiest bar downtown, but on Friday and Saturday, the bar can get kind of full.

No comments: