A Replacement for Red Star; The Bald Eagle Pub; City Bar Thursday, Sep 27 2012 

The Search for a Replacement for Red Star

 

Bald Eagle Pub

140 Main Street

 

City Bar

333 Third Street

 

DBG and her Protector checked out a couple of the new downtown bars this week in an effort to find a replacement for their beloved Red Star.  They had the privilege of sitting in the back booth on the final night.  It was the last hurrah for karaoke. Metal Mike sung Memories from the musical Cats.  DBG got a little teary-eyed when everyone banded together and belted out Total Eclipse of the Heart. There was even confetti.  The only thing that could have made it better was glitter.

 

The first contender was the Bald Eagle Pub.  On a positive note: the drinks are cheap.  But the space is an underground hole that lacks atmosphere of its predecessor, The Thirsty Tiger.  It might be the kind of place that eventually finds it’s niche, develops a personality and becomes a great dive.  But for now, it feels like you are drinking in a janitor’s closet. The staff’s bartending skills are also questionable.  DBG’s martini had both an olive and a lemon.  The ladies room also has a poorly placed mirror. So females are pretty much forced to watch themselves urinate or worse.  (Urophiliacs may rejoice at this prospect.)

 

City Bar in Lafayette has been an Acadiana favorite since 2005.  An expansion into downtown Baton Rouge was a logical move.  The owners must have poured a ton of money into the space that was previously populated by the old Avoyelles Café. The main bar is downstairs, a dance floor opens up at 10 pm upstairs, and a large patio stands out front.  There are TVs everywhere.  DBG will admit they did a wonderful job with the renovations. Downside:  The bartenders all resemble Barbie dolls—there was one token brunette.  (DBG wondered if the others hazed her for her imperfection.) The typical City Bar patron is someone who has outgrown Tigerland, but isn’t quite ready for a gastro pub, wine bar or intimate dive with well-known regulars. To be blunt—Happy’s and Walk Ons now have a worthy adversary.

 

Alas, it is good porch sitting weather.  For now, DBG can be found on her stoop yapping with neighbors or down at Radio Bar.

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A Farewell to Red Star Thursday, Sep 13 2012 

A Farewell to Red Star

Last week I heard the sad news that Frank McMains had made the decision to sell the building downtown that contains his bar, Red Star. He wrote customers a thoughtful letter thanking them for their patronage over the years and reminisced about his 12 years as a barman.

When Red Star opened, I was living in New York and working as a flight attendant for Delta. I found myself with a Baton Rouge layover, and a good friend invited me to a new cool bar. I secretly scoffed at the prospect but agreed to go anyway. I was pleasantly surprised to find a space I could only describe as a swanky dive for adults with jobs. Back then, downtown that was pretty much devoid of nightlife. Red Star gave workers a happy hour alternative to the Thirsty Tiger and Hound Dogs. A few years later, other bars started to populate Third Street. The Shaw Center was erected, and hotels returned to downtown.

I decided to end my expatriate days about four years ago and returned to my homeland. For me, Red Star was my only option for drinking downtown. It was a real bar. Many of the other watering holes relied on cheesy themes or scantily clad sorority girls to get customers in the door. Red Star offered an inviting space and bartenders who could actually make a proper martini. In all of my travels, I must say that Red Star most reminds me of Circle Bar in New Orleans. (And to quote Nicholas Cage: “This is high praise indeed.”)

Red Star always hosted bands on their way to and from South by Southwest in Austin. I saw Gal Holiday for the first time there and jumped around like a crazy person when Mod Dance Party came to town. The jukebox was carefully curated and could please the most eclectic of tastes. My favorite place for holding court was the back booth. It was the perfect place to gossip with friends or have an intimate conversation with a paramour.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Cherry and I would like to thank Frank for being a pioneer for downtown and for marching to a slightly different, but appealing drum.

Many of us will be at Red Star on Friday night to say our farewells and to toast an old friend who left us too soon. If the spirit moves you, join in. Put one last dollar in the jukebox.