Hi-Lo Bar is a new bar in Riverside in the space that PicNic at Home used to occupy.
As of late, when I go out on the town, I sometimes have trouble coordinating what type of night I want to have with my companions. They want bottle service; I want a tallboy of PBR. They want Jacobs & Co ; I want street meat. They want a classy evening enjoyed by all; I want a night out that begins with a discussion of whether or not ghosts are jerks (they are) and ends with falling asleep at the 24-hour A&W after making a papier mache hat out of discarded coffee sleeves and wet leaves. Enter Hi-Lo Bar. As indicated in the name, Hi-Lo combines a more indulgent highbrow (Hi) experience with a more divey, lowbrow (Lo) vibe all within one venue.
I visited Hi-Lo Bar after work on a Friday evening, anxious to drink away the woes of regular employment and the anxiety of a unionized pension plan. On the inside, the bar looks like the type of place Jonathan Taylor Thomas would take a date if he were still relevant. There's stunning art on the wall along with vintage concert posters. The tables are made of gorgeous reclaimed wood and there are arcade games I recognized from my youth as my first tastes of animal rights and feminism .
Hi-Lo Bar has a large selection of beer, wine and cocktails ranging from $5 for a bottle of Labatt 50 to $18 for a 650ml bottle of Imperial Pumking. They also have three beers on draught (Beau's Lug Tread, Blanche de Chambly and Dos Equis) in the midrange ($6). Intrigued by the cocktail list, I ordered a Spiced Sazerac and my companion had a Watership Down (both $12). The Sazerac was a delicious blend of bourbon, bitters and spices, but the Watership Down was the standout. This cocktail blended rum with carrot, ginger and citrus to make an amazing drink that gets you drunk with booze instead of drunk with power . In addition to drinks, Hi-Lo Bar offers small portions of snacks such as chicken liver mousse and fried chickpeas.
The only area in which the bar didn't include both highs and lows was with the service (just high). Although this is the type of place where one buys a drink at the bar and then seats themselves, the bartender approached our table more than once to check that our drinks were satisfactory. While it sometimes can be unnerving to get a lot of attention from servers ("Does she want us to order more expensive drinks? Does she want us to leave? Did she overhear us talking about the Senate scandal and now realizes I know nothing about the Senate scandal and is waiting for the perfect moment to school me in front of my friends?") but the bartender was laid-back and joking around with the patrons.
Overall, Hi-Lo Bar scored big points with me. It's highbrow enough to satisfy the part of me that really wants a literary-inspired cocktail and lowbrow enough to make it fun without the pretension. Just leave the wet leaves outside.