Going Downtown: Bar 201

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Update, August 2009: Sadly, Bar 201 is now for sale.

The corner of Charnelton and West Broadway just got an upgrade. Bar 201, which fills the space most recently left empty by the closing of the Moxie, is quite a charmer: a clean, urban space with quirky touches like feathery lamps and a wall tiled with green and gray squares that look, somewhat playfully, like they belong on a climbing wall. As bar manager Richard Geil said, it's reminiscent of a Pearl District spot.

Keep reading for more details and pictures.

We arrived early, while it was still light out, but this is a space that really comes together once it gets dark. Small hanging lamps spotlight the bar, and the feathery light fixtures that hang throughout (with one angular oddball in a corner) soften the feel of the dark, simple flooring and furniture. Behind the bar, glass shelves hold the liquor; the ubiquitous mirrors behind the bottles make the room a little bigger, though it’s plenty comfortable to begin with — especially once you wander into the east side of the bar, where a low countertop against the wall of windows offers peoplewatching on Charnelton Street.

Two glass tubs sit midway through the liquor lineup: one holds the pineapple-habanero infusion that was popular at Bel Ami — where Geil and bartender Aidan Keuter previously worked — the other a strawberry infusion that Geil says they haven’t decided what to do yet. Geil’s also got a bottle of grapefruit bitters brewing, and the dark and stormy is made with house-made ginger beer. More house-made ingredients slip into other drinks, including the cranberry gastrique in the flor de baya.

My companion chose the #201, made with gin, Clear Creek pear brandy and lime, while I went for the jade gimlet, with vanilla, vodka and lemon (or was it lime?). We tried the house-made tonic (in the glass above), which currently has a fruity kick thanks to the addition of kumquats, and eventually opted for a small array of favorite cocktails, including a lovely French 75, a gorgeous Manhattan and a bright negroni. We didn’t get food, but my nose twitched when the table next to us ordered from the small menu of burgers, sandwiches and salads — it smelled delicious. The bar’s happy hour, which is more of a happy evening, is worth noting; it runs from 4 pm to 7 pm daily.

Our evening started fairly quietly — and nicely so, with one bartender’s iPod playing Yo La Tengo in the background — but picked up as it grew dark out. A few other Eugene bartenders came through, along with Oakshire's Jeff Althouse and BoozeWeek's Elliot Martinez, notepad in hand. Two tables, the bartenders noted, were filled with people who’d just passed by and opted to come in. And with good reason: Bar 201 is doing pretty much everything right (though a few more bottled beer options wouldn't hurt). It's a superbly put together, appealing space; the drinks taste great; the bartenders are friendly, talented and excited about what they’re doing; and the bar's character is something a little different for Eugene. The emphasis is on cocktails, but it’s not a restaurant bar; it’s located downtown, at the edge of the Barmuda Triangle, but it’s mellow and intimate and a little bit spare (the closest comparions that come to mind in terms of the space are Uva Wine Bar, with its slightly cozy-industrial feel, and tiny but superb bar at Marché). Bar 201 doesn’t so much replace another stop in your libation rotation as give you a welcome new option — one I think I'll be taking fairly regularly.

... and while I'm speaking of new options, Albee’s N.Y. Gyros, on 11th between Lincoln and Lawrence, is a welcome addition to the list of near-to-downtown lunch options. I could do without the non-recyclable styrofoam take-out containers, but these suckers are so big they don’t fit tidily into a piece of foil. Five-dollar gyros in no time at all? Yes, please. (Dear vegetarians: falafel and spanakopita are also on the menu. I plan to try them all, and soon.)

Bar 201? Not an original idea!

The first sentence of this article is what prompted me to write this response to Bar 201's review. An upgrade it is not. Another bar it is. The "quirky" touches that first intrigued the writer of this review were nothing more than decorations and nuances that were already placed there by the owners of The Moxie. The only changes to the space vacated by The Moxie were that the salon equipment and the wall partition along side the Broadway entrance were removed. The light "feathery lamps and a wall tiled with green and gray squares" were present in the space that The Moxie left behind. And so were the glass shelves and mirrors on the wall behind the bar. As well as the green onyx bar counter that lights up from underneath and so brilliantly makes the green and cream-laced stone top shine with warmth and dazzling hues.
And for passing Bar 201 off as a somewhat of a new idea is incredibly ignorant. "It's a superbly put together, appealing space; the drinks taste great; the bartenders are friendly, talented and excited about what they’re doing; and the bar's character is something a little different for Eugene." This quote upsets me. Everything just mentioned is exactly what The Moxie promoted, in every way, shape, and form. As for the character, it is not that different from many places in Eugene, and let's not forget that it is not at all different from the previous lounge that occupied the space. Cafe Soriah is also another bar/lounge that promotes the same atmosphere. And as for being a cocktail lounge where people can go to have a nice and relaxing drink before having a night out on the town, The Moxie portrayed that persona the day it opened until the day it closed.
This reply wasn't meant to bad-mouth the new bar that has so graciously puffed it's chest in an attempt to scoff at the current economy. I applaud it's attempt to survive in the struggling atmosphere of downtown Eugene. I send my best wishes in hopes that Bar 201 survives and that people will be willing to enjoy a divinely made drink and a mellow aura. I just wish that when the reviewer writes another article, they do their homework.

Submitted by Frustrated Reader (not verified) on Thu, 03/26/2009 - 22:36.
the 201 space

Dear Frustrated Reader,

Thank you for the feedback, and the information about the lights and decor. What I said about the upgrade was in no way meant to be demeaning to the Moxie itself, but a comment on the space left by the closing of the Moxie. A new business in an empty space is, to my mind, almost always a great improvement on the space being empty.

I respectfully disagree that Café Soriah — which I love and frequent — has the same character as the Bar 201/formerly Moxie space, but again, a compliment to Bar 201 is in no way intended as a complaint about Eugene's other fine drinking establishments. The new bar is a little different from other places that are currently open — not a massive change.

Sincerely,
Molly

Submitted by Molly Templeton on Fri, 03/27/2009 - 08:39.
I like it!

I'm at bar 201 now having a drink. Aiden, the mixoligist, is exceptionally helpful and mixes wonderful drinks. He is happy to mix off menu too, which he does really very well. The bar is a good one, and as a New Yorker who loves cocktails, it gets two big thumbs up from me!

Submitted by Ash (not verified) on Sat, 03/28/2009 - 20:04.
Issues?

I have been to Bar 201 twice already. The drinks are excellent; the bartenders are expert and friendly; the decor is hip and fun. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Having said so, I now fear that Frustrated Reader will deem the previous paragraph a full frontal assault on the now-departed Moxie, the still-existing Soriah, and every other drinking establishment in town. So in anticipation of such a response...

  • I didn't say anything about the Moxie or try to make any comparisons;
  • If I were one to make comparisons, which I am not, I would have to note that you cannot get your hair cut at Bar 201, which is one less service than was available at the Moxie, so perhaps I'd say that Bar 201 compares less favorably to the Moxie on that basis;
  • On the other hand, if I were one to make comparisons (which I am not), I would have to note that at Bar 201, when I sip a drink I only smell drink, not drink + Barbicide, so maybe the comparison is not so clear-cut;
  • In spite of my most diligent attempts, I was unable to obtain a drink from the locked and darkened storefront that occupied that corner before Bar 201 opened, so like our dear writer I'd consider it an upgrade;
  • I didn't say anything about Soriah either, now did I;
  • But since it came up, Soriah is also a fine place to get a drink;
  • If somebody blindfolds you, drives you around town until you lose track of where you are, and then whips off the blindfold inside of Bar 201 while putting a drink in your hand, you will not have even a moment's confusion that you are in Soriah, I promise you;
  • Vice versa if they turn you loose inside of Soriah;
  • Come to think of it, that sounds kind of fun, getting blindfolded and driven around to bars;
  • If I buy you a drink, Frustrated Reader, will you lighten up a bit?
Submitted by Satisfied Drinker (not verified) on Thu, 04/02/2009 - 16:27.
Enjoyed Myself Immensely

Very friendly and knowledgeable bartender, a very strong and tasty cocktail, and also a great deal of enjoyment watching my drink made so carefully. Thumbs up for Bar 201.

I'm very sorry The Moxie failed -- I hate to see any small local business fold -- but no use crying over that spilt milk, or punishing a second small, local establishment for springing up in the same space.

A new small establishment on Broadway -- really, that's some balls in this economy. Wishing Bar 201 all the best. Try it, you'll like it!

Submitted by May (not verified) on Thu, 04/23/2009 - 14:33.
201

201 is where its at. It is very apparent that frustrated reader was an employee at the Moxie and doesn't want to believe that 201 is pullin through.

p.s. salon/bar... I really don't get the point of it. Before ever considering going there, I heard people had snipped hairs in their drinks... maybe the reason they went under.

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