The new look is old-fashioned7/15/2015
It’s OK to miss the House of Bricks. It was a hot place with live music, open-mic comedy and poetry, trivia nights, full bar service and delicious food. It was an East Village dream. So go ahead — miss the old place.
Keep in mind, though, that while House of Bricks is gone, there’s a new place that has all the memories and fun from before, and it’s right in that same familiar corner spot.
J.C. and Nancy Wilson, owners of the late House of Bricks, were inspired by old photographs of a streetcar that had crashed in front of Grand Theatre in 1916 — where their bar would be just shy of 100 years later. The number of that streetcar was 209, and the Wilson’s found their muse.
Walking into Streetcar 209, it’s clear to see the vision for the bar was classical speakeasy, though it’s not overly themed. The dark walls and mirror-lined shelving behind the bar tell the largest part of that story — it could be right out of a prohibition-era picture — but the rest of the idea comes together in little details around the room. The classy chandeliers, the silvery carpet, the black tablecloths and the mood lighting over the booths all fit the vintage ambiance, but they’re stylish, too, not just for theatrics. The lounge chairs by the entrance are reminiscent of ones you might find in the cigar room of an old gentlemen’s club, and the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Grand Avenue let in plenty of natural light.
What really nails the prohibition-esque style, though, is the cocktail menu. Ranging from $5 to $9, Streetcar 209 has 21 old-fashioned mixed drinks on the menu. Patrons can order anything from a Moscow Mule (Tito’s Vodka, lime juice and ginger beer, $7) to a Mint Julep (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, mint and simple syrup, $8) and everything in between. Manhattans are at the top of the list, with Maker’s Mark, Sweet Vermouth and bitters, and don’t forget about the classic martini, made with Beefeater Gin and Dry Vermouth, both for $9.
Be advised, the food menu isn’t something to skip. For House of Bricks lovers, the good news is many of the menu items were carried over to Streetcar 209. And they’re delicious. Many appetizer portions are meal-sized, and during happy hour (4-6 p.m., Tuesday – Friday) they’re half-priced, along with pizzas and flatbreads.
Like the old haunt, Streetcar 209 still hosts regular live events, albeit a bit less rowdy. Open-mic stand-up comedy is on the first, third and fifth Tuesdays each month, open-mic poetry is on the first Thursday, and singer/songwriter night is on the last Thursday each month. Other live events and acts are scheduled throughout the month. For more information on performers, click the events tab on their Facebook page.
So don’t worry about missing House of Bricks. Streetcar 209 has everything there was to love about the venue and more. It’s old and new. CV
525 E. Grand Ave. • 288-2996
Hours: Closed Monday
Tues. – Thurs. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 4-11 p.m.
Fri. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 4 p.m. – midnight
Sat. 10 a.m. – midnight
Sun. 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. Tues. – Fri.
Bri Levandowski is a senior in journalism at Iowa State University. She is writing as part of an internship with Cityview.