Tonight Dana Hollister’s Villains Tavern opens to the public, so far into Downtown’s Arts District that you might find yourself checking your shoes for river water. The bar is stunningly gorgeous, less Gangs of New York than we predicted and more like the fusing of a Gothic cathedral with an Victorian apothecary. Colored bottles line the windows of a tight, antique-strewn bar space, rivaled in splendor by the expansive use of stained glass and mirrors fit into the arches of an old church behind both the indoor bar, which itself came from an 1800’s Bowery bar, and an outdoor service station. There are animal heads and shady upstairs nooks for bringing the Jekyll out of your Hyde, which restaurateur Steven Arroyo seemed to appreciate as he canoodled with a date above the brewing crowds. And what’s found outside?
A stage is set outdoors for live performances for two connnected patios that provide the bulk of the space to socialize. Fresh fruit cocktails with blackberries and white peach look like country lemonade and micro-brews served in mason jars, well, look a little like pee, but the beer selection on tap is strong. We enjoyed a farro salad and lightly fried chickpeas served in cupcake wrappers as snacks at a preview last night, but we hope the spot’s signature Kobe sliders with bacon marmalade and cherry spread might emerge from the kitchen without being so burned around the edges in the future.
Villains should be popular with fans of Bordello’s moody charm, loft-dwellers with cool tattoos but questionable music/techno taste, architecture students from the neighborhood, and hipsters who dress like Arcade Fire. It’s strange, enchanting decor is definitely worth a trip to check out in a part of the city that can feel barren as dusk falls.
Villains Tavern, 1356 Palmetto St. Downtown. 213-613-0766