Some people become art aficionados to try and appreciate the force of raw creativity. Some love the instant coolness of an art gallery or reception. But if we're being honest here, it's really all about the complimentary wine. Yep, a few plastic cups of grocery store Chardonnay and a sugar cookie can turn anyone into an expert on alternative photographic processes. At DADA Art Bar, the artist-accommodating nightlife spot that was recently named one of 2014's best bars, the wine will cost you but the looking is still free. I pulled up a seat for happy hour to find out how well the art behind the bar matched the art on the walls.
DADA is the second opening for budding restaurateur Iain Chisholm, who also owns Americatus Restaurant and Market right 'round the block. With its teensy size, friendly vibe and vibrant menu, Americatus (formerly Amerigo Delicatus) has the kind of cool that money can't buy. DADA is packing an art gallery, and event space and a kitchen, along with plenty of space to party, which brings in cool people almost every night for music, art openings, comedy, and other off-the-wall stuff. Happy hour, from 4 from 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday, ends before the nighttime fun really begins. I went on a Monday, when the weekly DADA Ciné-Club starts at 7; it was quiet as well as monochromatic, as the current art showcase was entirely black and white work. Yet it was a great show with a wide variety of perspectives — I was especially taken with the sinewy portraits by Christian Espino, which reminded me of DADA itself and its humorous kineticism.
It's great to be able to peruse art with a glass of wine or cocktail of your choice; DADA's happy hour specials include $5 house wines, $4 wells, and a few $3 and $4 drafts. Aside from the always dependable and cheap Genesee cans ($3), DADA offers Fort Collins Brewery's Red Banshee ale for three bucks as well. That's a damn good brew for $3, complex, tangy, and more interesting than the PBR that has fueled creative expression for over a century. And of course, there is a craft cocktail menu, with some old favorites and new mixes. I tried the Cap Hill ($9, not on happy hour) with Hotchkiss' CapRock gin, Lillet, lemon and honey in a little champagne glass, and was pleased that the bar could shake together something refreshing and simple, if not cheap.
It's a shame there's no food on special, but despite a well-built menu of snacks and sandwiches, food isn't the focus. For a place that explicitly caters to the artist crowd, a visit to DADA can certainly lighten the wallet. Don't expect to eat here for anything less than $8, and that's just for some pickled veggies. But I won't argue that Chisholm's eats aren't worth every penny; DADA is about the show rather than the dinner. Whether you're a patron of the arts or just in it for the booze, DADA is like a never-ending art reception.
Perfect for: Wednesdays are open mic nights starting at 7 p.m., and in a place like this you never know who's going to get up on stage. Then it's burlesque with Kitty Crimson at 9 — yeah, Wednesdays might just be the perfect time to stop by.
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Don't miss: The sandwiches at Americatus are legendary, and DADA's panini selections are different but no less mouthwatering. The Espagnola ($10) was piled with manchego, thin sliced pork lomo and dijon aioli. The ingredients were selected with such care and put together so well, it's truly worth coming to this art gallery/bar just to eat a sandwich.Follow @CafeWestword