LoHi has no shortage of well-made cocktails, whether at the dark and serious Williams & Graham, its punk-rock neighbor Occidental, or any number of eateries that also boast top-notch bar programs. But Jake Soffes, owner of Hudson Hill, at 619 East 13th Avenue, thinks the neighborhood still has room for a different style of watering hole — a casual and breezy cocktail bar in the same mold as Hudson Hill.
So he's opening Lady Jane tonight — Friday, August 24 — at 2021 West 32nd Avenue to give LoHi what he describes as "quality cocktails without a lot of fuss." Lady Jane is named both for Soffes's aunt, who ran a recording studio in California in the 1970s and ’80s, and for the quirky Rolling Stones tune from the band's 1966 album Aftermath.
If you've been to Hudson Hill, you'll recognize the vintage vinyl theme that carries through to Lady Jane. Other similarities include bolted-down backless stools, countertop lighting, detailed woodwork, a preponderance of live plants (which, combined with brass fixtures, give Lady Jane a ’70s, fern-bar vibe), and a handful of vintage automobile photographs created by Soffes's father. And like the owner's first bar, this one is bright and airy by day, with a warm glow by night, in contrast to dim speakeasies and dives done up in dark woods.
At the center of the space are hand-plastered planter boxes sprouting live palms, giving an ambience somewhere between a tropical hotel lounge and an ’80s yacht club. The bar owner says he took inspiration from Palm Springs and South Beach, with a subtle art-deco motif running through, all pulled off by design team UNUM Collaborative. At the front, a low zigurat topped with a single bar table offers a bird's-eye view of the rest of the bar, while hunter-green banquettes wrap around the perimeter and into a secluded back room.
"We're calling it our sister bar. It's got a little femininity to it," Soffes says.
The biggest difference at Soffes's sophomore effort is the addition of bar pro Minetta Gould, who comes to Lady Jane after three and a half years at Ste. Ellie. "I'm definitely classically based," Gould states, so drinkers will find plenty of familiar cocktails, or minor riffs thereon.
"The house cocktails are super-approachable," she adds. Some of those come in specialty collectible glassware decorated with art from artist/bartender Allegra Beach. Gould explains that the opening menu carries a Pet Sounds theme, so the drinks are named after Beach Boys songs and lyrics. A take on a mojito, for example, is called Brand New Love Affair (a line from the song "Here Today") and comes in a gold-rimmed glass with a screen-printed seahorse. If you look closely, the seahorse bears a heart-shaped tattoo with the initials "LJ."
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Gould and Soffes are committed to reducing waste at Lady Jane, so metal straws are the norm, and they're also using ingredients that often get discarded at other bars. If you've cringed when watching a bartender drop an egg yolk down the drain when separating the egg white for a pisco sour or gin fizz, know that the yolks at Lady Jane are blended into a syrup for use in other cocktails. And citrus rinds are sugared and set aside until a tangy, bittersweet liquid forms, giving an added dimension to lemon-, lime- and orange-based drinks.
A small roster of bar bites accompanies the cocktail menu: almonds, olives and a charcuterie selection, for example. There will also be two grilled cheese sandwiches: the original inverted Hudson Hill sandwich (a must-have for grilled cheese aficionados), as well as a new version made with prosciutto and funky São Jorge cheese from Portugal.
Lady Jane is located on the ground floor of the new Alexan LoHi apartment building, which sprang up in the footprint of the now-demolished Dickinson Plaza. The bar will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, with happy hour served from 4 to 6 p.m. every day but Sunday.