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Belly Up To...

Welcome to Wedgewood, an east-side secret

11/20/2013

Bartender/manager Kelly Martin, right, and kitchen manager Tony Spencer, left, bring a family-feel to the newly re-opened Wedgewood bar.

Bartender/manager Kelly Martin, right, and kitchen manager Tony Spencer, left, bring a family-feel to the newly re-opened Wedgewood bar.

Wedgewood Dining and Spirits is a surprising find on the east side. If you’ve never been, it’s tricky to navigate due to its peculiar location on the short diagonal jaunt, Wedgewood Road. The building is long, yet deceptively large compared to its boxy outward appearance. All clues suggest the place is used to droves of patrons who fill every nook in the disproportionately large parking lot and every cranny inside. Big rectangular windows offer the inside a clear view of a lively East 26th Street.

Big windows letting blinding midday sunlight into the bar? This wasn’t the usual dark hide-away lounge one usually seeks out on this side of town. Inside, a horseshoe-shaped bar glowed with radiant afternoon light, illuminated by the shine of fresh pine-scented polish. It had the seating capacity to host at least 20, with the bartender perfectly poised at the center of attention. Her name was Kelly Martin. At 3 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon, the bar was quiet and empty, and I suspected Martin took the opportunity to shine things up, either out of duty or boredom.

This wasn’t a planned visit. “Usually this place is packed with people eating or drinking, especially in the evenings, and it gets really crazy in here on the weekends,” Kelly said. She proudly poured me a drink she says she invented — RumChata, Kahlua and milk over ice — and I took it with me on a curious venture around a dividing wall that framed in yet another large window — a peek onto “the other side,” into another world — the dining area where philodendruns hung in a row with outstretched leafy greens reaching for that fleeting afternoon sun. The entire space was tidy and classy with classic family-style clothed tables and chairs deliberately spaced symmetrically throughout the room beneath Italian oil paintings on warm-colored walls. It all glowed with what sun rays the greedy plants forgave.

It felt like a hotel lounge where I could belly up next to a fellow stranger from a faraway place, exchange intrigues and part ways upstairs for an afternoon cat nap. But that was just another figment of my imagination. There was no upstairs. I’d blame the drink for my delusions, but it was just RumChata.

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The simple setting and generous use of space were impressive, but it was the smoke patio where I felt most at home, even as a non-smoker. A couple of tables sat in the middle of what looked and felt like your favorite uncle’s garage, reminiscent of the day when you drank your first beer playing cards with cousins during the after hours of a family reunion. Garage doors opened to unite indoor folks with those outside on warmer days. But this was not one of those days. A gas-burning fireplace mounted to a wall welcomed me to settle in. I finally had found it, and what a fine hideout it turned out to be. CV

Wedgewood Dining and Spirits
3517 E. 26th St.
777-3401
HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.
11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-2 a.m.;
Sun. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
KITCHEN: Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
ENTERTAINMENT: Live music every Friday and Saturday
CAPACITY: 95 plus patio
 

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