Just around the corner from lavish CY Steak in the Diamond Cabaret -- which to my relief and chagrin, does not offer a happy hour -- is Cliff Young and his son Zachary's other concept, Bar Red. Until recently known as BaRed, the restaurant revamped its menu and changed its focus to classic-ish Italian. Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., Bar Red also offers happy hour with $5 drinks and small plates. With its secrets bared, did Bar Red have me red in the face -- with joy? Or was I forcibly BarRed from the premises? (OK, I'll stop.)
Right across from the Lindsay Flanagan Courthouse, Bar Red's brick exterior and red lights are plenty seductive. But the interior, decked out in chunky murals, round light fixtures and granite countertops, feels only slightly classier than a Quizno's. (The basement has more of a slinky cabaret feel.) No matter, for the happy hour hawk it's what's behind the bar and in the kitchen that really counts. $5 drafts meant I had to start with a goblet of Great Divide Yeti, not a screaming bargain but a fine way to whet the appetite. Bar Red's pizza has emerged as its signature, and half-sized pizzetti are just five bucks at happy hour.
The diavola variety, with Calabrese salami and red pepper flakes arrived slick with clear grease and a bland crust, but plenty of tasty salami. Compared to what gets passed off as pizza at McCormick's, it was a treat. On the more upscale side of the menu lay the suppli ($5), three risotto balls with provolone and prosciutto inside, sitting in tomato sauce among shreds of Parmesan. I had been assured the balls were made fresh, and they came out hot and crispy, but without a lot of flavor. The sauce, however, bright and complex, gave me confidence that Bar Red can at least pull off a solid ragu.
Considering there were only about two employees on duty when I stopped in, and not a single other customer for most of my time there, I can forgive Bar Red for not bringing its A game. Apparently lunch is busier, what with all the offices in close proximity. Live music, DJs and theme parties make the place livelier at night. It's tough to tell from one lonely happy hour if Bar Red's new identity is going to make the cut, but it's worth ducking in from the alley to find out for yourself.
Perfect for: Lawyers from across the street, celebrating a victory or mourning a crushing defeat -- justice can make someone mighty thirsty.
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Don't miss: I can't vouch for them personally, but some of Chef Adrian Chidester's main menu items -- like the beet bruschetta ($7) and the Amatriciana bianca pasta ($11) sound so good, I'd have no problem paying full price to test them out.