Sitting on Forest Room 5's patio is like sitting at a communal campsite. The built-in benches and tables are low to the ground, and two little alcoves hold tables and chairs separated from the rest of the patio by rows of trees. The patio space is large, but much of it is covered in foliage with a babbling brook running down the middle.
The best part: there are two gas-powered fire pits surrounded by movable logs for seating. And because the pits are filled with charcoal and faux firewood instead of colored glass stones, the pits are a bit more realistic and comforting than the fancy fire features you find on a lot of other patios.
When the sun goes down, Forest Room 5 turns on just enough lights so patrons don't trip, but the atmosphere is dark enough to invoke a real campsite or mountain cabin porch.
There's a bridge spanning the babbling brook that my inner childlike explorer led me across. On the far side I found a staircase that led to a room on the second floor, which I later learned was Forest Room 5's art gallery and live music/theater venue. I also found a teepee for patrons, which I didn't see on my first visit because it was dark.
You don't have to go outside, though, to feel like you're in the great outdoors. Forest Room 5's interior feels outdoorsy, with wood-slatted walls, branches in the corners and statues of animals everywhere -- even on the bars and table. The booths wood-slab tables and the bar's stools are nailed-down logs. You could spend hours looking at all the trinkets in this place.I never visited Forest Room 5 when I worked in the Highland neighborhood, but on my two recent visits the waitstaff was nice, if in some cases aloof. Our food and drinks came out quickly and the bartender was extra accommodating.
Forest Room 5 has a rotating, seasonal menu, another fabulous feature. I tried the sliders in both vegetarian and beef versions and was shocked to find that I liked the veggie patty better than the burger; it was juicer and the flavors of the toppings (the same on both) complemented the veggie patty better. My friend devoured her chickpea summer salad sandwich, surprised at how similar it was to chicken salad. We also ordered one small plate, the herbed truffle fries, which had little grease and lots of earthy flavor.
Forest Room 5's claim to fame is their small plates; the summer menu lists 16 small-plate options, including grilled romaine with bacon, garbanzo beans and tomatoes, roasted corn soup, halibut tacos, and clams with strawberries and peas. The menu will be changing to the fall offerings around October 20. There's also entertainment: comedy open mics, live music, theater, and art gallery openings on the first Saturday of every month.I don't usually write about bathrooms, but since I notice fun bathrooms, I thought I'd share that Forest Room 5's are a delight. Patrons have been decorating the wallpaper with quotes, proclamations of love, drawings and more for what looks like years, and the sink was a carved-out log.
I know I'll be back. When I'm craving the mountains but can't get there, I plan to huddle around a fire on Forest Room 5's patio.
Best Feature: The teepee and the fire pits.
Best Deal: $5 for a slider and fries and $2 canned-beer-of-the-month during happy hour.