by Michael Bowen
1017 W. First Ave, third floor * 747-8243
Beer goes with cowboy songs, wine befits classical melodies and mixed drinks blend with jazz. The syncopation of the backbeat, the improvised communication among piano, bass and drums -- what are jazz rhythms but intoxicating mixtures?
At ella's, try the Key Lime Pie martini, a blend of vanilla Stolichnaya vodka, Rose's lime juice and splashes of pineapple juice and soda. The Snake Bite combines Yukon Jack and lime juice. The White Chocolate Truffle Martini (known in-house as the "Fancy Nancy") tastes remarkably like chocolate mousse; it combines vanilla Stoli, Bailey's, Kahlua and more. The Electric Watermelon disguises its considerable firepower with a strong taste of melon -- no wonder, since the ingredients include Midori, vodka, rum, gin, triple sec and orange juice.
Artistic director Tim Behrens of CenterStage (of which ella's forms the elegant third-floor hangout) points out that his jazz and supper club offers approximately 38 appetizers and 14 entrees, including a tricolore bruschetta, scallops Mornay and an exquisite rosemary chicken soup. In addition, says Behrens, the well at ella's features nothing but high quality: Skyy Vodka, Beefeater's Gin, Dewar's Scotch whiskey, Jim Beam bourbon and Paul Masson brandy.
The decor at ella's is pleasing, too. As drawn by Art "Slimm" Jacobs, portraits of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and, yes, Ella Fitzgerald adorn the walls. Dark wood accents and ornate throw rugs add to the ambience, and there's a great view of the Catholic cathedral's twin spires through the windows at night.
On a recent Thursday night in the piano bar, septuagenarian Joe Close was playing in a trio with a couple of EWU students on bass and drums. CenterStage musical director -- and Behrens' wife -- Leslie Grove sat in for a set, singing lovely standards.
And the jazz and the drinks were shakin', well blended and stirring.
1 N. Post St. * 747-9750
Bartender Bob Parton reports that Cavallino's "most popular item on our specialty martini list is the Flatliner, which comes with Bailey's, a hazelnut liqueur, Bacardi 151 and a splash of espresso." The Fria Cafe Italiano (Stoli vanilla, Godiva liqueur, Sambuca and espresso) is "a good pre-party drink," he says. It's chocolate-y and has a strong kick.
As for the Cavallino clientele, "We get a good happy-hour crowd in here, mostly downtown business types," says Parton. "But on the weekends -- people in their 20s, in their 60s -- we get 'em all."
317 Sherman Ave., CdA * (208) 665-7407
The signature drinks here include the Brix Tini (Ketel One, Cointreau and pomegranate juice), Jerry's Wave (named after pilot, surfer and owner Jerry Goggin, and mixed with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, 99 Bananas, Bacardi 151, pineapple and orange juices, and Creme de Noyaux), Brix in the Wall (Chambord, Frangelico, Bailey's and Godiva chocolate liqueur over house-made vanilla bean ice cream), and the Razztafarian (Stoli Razzberri, Absolut Citron, lemonade and a float of blue Curacao).
Steam Plant Grill
159 S. Lincoln St. * 777-3900
For 70 years, it heated more than 350 downtown buildings. Now the Steam Plant warms up winter revelers in its bar with drinks like Millionaire's Coffee (Kahlua, Irish cream, Frangelico, coffee and a cognac float) and Blueberry Tea (Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Tia Maria and hot orange spice tea).
Beverage manager Jeff Panagos has created a Gilligan's Island cocktail (Cruzan's Coconut Rum, banana schnapps, pineapple juice and cranberry juice) and a secret house mix for the SPG Lemon Drop.
The Season Ticket
1221 N. Howard St. * 327-9790
Many of the mixed-drink specialties at the Ticket have unrepeatable names. Among the mentionables are Mama's Milk (Gentleman Jack, Kahlua and Bailey's) and the Bitch (buttershots, Caralan's Irish cream, triple sec, Bol's black raspberry liqueur and cream).
Here's bartender Damon Gaumer's advice: "You know how some people bring in their buddies on their birthdays for a really bad shot? Tell 'em to get the Bum Fight. But I won't even tell you what's in it."
(For the record, it's sweet and dry vermouth.)
Others Worth Checking Out
Spencer's Lounge; the Peacock Lounge; Beverly's; Milford's
Publication date: 1/27/05