Triple Threat | The Brothers Lounge

Like me, many people who eat and drink at The Brothers Lounge these days were kids when the neighborhood tavern originally opened in 1959. Back then, the beer flowed freely as local blues players entertained patrons. Robert Lockwood Jr. was doing gigs there in the ’60s, and in its prime, nationally known musicians such as B.B. King and Buddy Guy rocked the house.

But four years ago, when Rodger Riggs and Chris Riemenschneider bought the building that dates back to 1911, the music hall had grown silent, empty and dilapidated. It took more than $1 million in renovations, but Brothers reopened in March 2008 to packed crowds eager for readmittance to the former hot spot.

Although the rehab is recent, it has a vintage been-there-forever feel attributed in large part to handcrafted, custom-built woodwork throughout the space. The new incarnation houses three distinctive venues rolled into one address, each offering an appealing trio of food, libations and fun.

The Pub is long and narrow, dominated by a mahogany bar and a few small tables. On weekends, the crowd is likely to be two-deep and talking at party pitch. The adjacent Wine Room, intimate and elegant, is done up in gleaming cherry and upholstered leather chairs. Bottles of Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Barbaresco are attractively displayed in illuminated racks on the back wall, and Chimay White is on tap. A baby grand piano fills up most of the big storefront window, on which guest performers do their thing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.

And hidden in the back behind closed doors lies the Music Hall — a sprawling space outfitted with a 35-foot bar, high-top tables, a stage and state-of-the-art sound equipment.

The menu, created by chef and sushi master Kimo Javier, is the same wherever you decide to settle for the evening. There are snacking staples such as pretzels and mustard ($6), nachos ($7) and an artisan cheese board (market price) that are just the thing to pair with a pint of a seasonal ale such as Hennepin ($4) or a glass of Col di Sasso (a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, $6.50).

Although unfortunately now off the menu, my reaction to the popcorn shrimp ($9) coated in buttermilk batter, crisped in the deep fryer and accompanied by cocktail sauce and a cucumber dill aioli put me at risk for a serious case of eater’s cramp, the result of repeated movements of hand to mouth. Rock ’n’ roll wings with Buffalo sauce ($7) were a conversation-stopper: Everyone at the table became engrossed in dipping them in blue cheese, wrangling the meat off the bones and scoring some more.

Burgers and sandwiches offer light meal possibilities. Though it didn’t break any new ground, the smoked turkey BLT was fat with filling and flavor ($8). The Caesar salad was fresh and crisp but would have benefited from a more generous application of dressing ($7). A serving of mixed greens got a first-class upgrade with candied walnuts, dried cranberries, goat cheese and an almond fig vinaigrette ($4 side salad, $7 full-size). But the kitchen should skip the diced, out-of-season tomatoes that garnished this and a number of other plates. The pale, mealy little cubes only detracted from the quality of the dishes.

To appease a bigger hunger, look to the small selection of entrées. An intensely creamy mac-and-cheese with cheddar, provolone and grilled chicken ($14) is closer to pasta Alfredo than the classic baked casserole, but it is nonetheless tasty and satisfying. Twelve slices of remarkably tender flat iron steak, done medium rare as requested, with a rich mushroom demi-glace was a generous portion ($17). And it was a good thing, too, because each bite made me want another. An accompanying pile of crunchy potato threads resembling a haystack didn’t respond to repeated attempts to spear them with a fork — but once I decided this was meant to be finger food, they disappeared fast.

Weekly seafood specials, all moderately priced under $20, as well as Tuesday sushi nights give Hawaiian-native chef Javier a chance to show off his expertise with mahi mahi, grouper and red snapper. His seared ahi tuna ($10), one with ginger soy mayo and another spiked with wasabi, is a popular choice.

Everything adds up. This combination tavern, restaurant and nightclub equals three ways to get out and have a great time.

The Brothers Lounge, 11609 Detroit Ave., (216) 226-2767, Hours vary for each room.
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