Pearl's Blue Box poised to deliver
Published: May 16, 2012
Likely while this issue of the Current is still fresh on the racks, the Pearl will welcome its first full-fledged watering hole. From Stephen Mahoney ― the man who's lured many a downtowner to the far Northside for Prohibition-era cocktails at his speakeasy-inspired Green Lantern ― comes Blue Box: a chic, split-level affair that nods to the brewery's past (the name references a blue metal cooler where old-time Pearl employees enjoyed free beer after work) while taking a modern approach to drinks and design. Set for a soft opening any minute now with Christine Hill (formerly of the Mix) acting as bar manager and pioneering local mixologist Olaf Harmel (formerly of Mon Ami Lounge) concocting made-to-order potions on the upper deck, Blue Box is an easy ace in the hole as SA's next hot nightspot.
The look: A collaboration between Mahoney, architect and Current contributor Ron Bechtol, and metal sculptor Robert Diaz De Leon, Blue Box gives off an industrial vibe, but refined touches soften and warm the space. Modular metal shelving all but disappears into a steel wall treatment De Leon "quilted" and finished in a hue that echoes the luxurious walnut bar top. Up above, cylindrical glass pendant lights Bechtol sourced from Vermont lead the eyes back to a big focal point: a metal railing crafted from parts salvaged from the brewery's retired mash tun (a vessel used for mashing and wort separation).
The drinks: In addition to the classics, a pared-down menu of 10 specialty cocktails designed to satisfy a range of palates will be posted on a chalkboard in the downstairs bar, where Mahoney says getting a drink should take less than five minutes, even when it's busy. The more intimate upstairs bar, which was built with Harmel in mind, will cater to drinkers willing to wait for a custom-crafted libation.
The day-to-day: While Mahoney's playing everything by ear until the cocktails are flowing smoothly, iPod playlists will probably give way to occasional live music down the line. During the week, expect to see after-work crowds gathering as early as 4 p.m. and nightcappers lingering till 2 a.m. As for Pearl Farmers Market Saturdays, green thumbs are crossed for early weekend hours and adult refreshments on the Blue Box patio.