Frank Bonanno and partner/bartender Adam Hodak to open the Green Russell in Larimer Square

A few weeks ago, we reported that Frank Bonanno, whose expanding group of restaurants includes Mizuna, Bones, Osteria Marco, Luca d'Italia and, in December, Lou's Food Bar, had signed a lease on a sizable subterranean space at 1422 Larimer in Larimer Square. At that time, his plan was to open Wednesday's Pie, a little counter that would sell pies for takeaway on Wednesdays. He claimed that the remaining space would be used for private events, though Joe Vostrejs, COO of Larimer Associates, the group that owns the property, hinted that something else might be afoot.

Turns out something else is afoot: Wednesday's Pie is just a front for the Green Russell, a cocktail joint that Bonanno is opening with partner Adam Hodak, who also runs the beverage program for all of Bonanno's restaurants.

"There's no place downtown that's not a restaurant that serves nice cocktails in a nice loungey space," notes Hodak. "And the restaurants aren't open past 12, so you have to either go to a terrible club or a beer-and-shot bar with loud music. We're opening a place that has no bouncer and no shots. We're going after everyone who wants to go out and have a nice drink."

Ostensibly, that means Bonanno and Hodak will be channeling the vibe of New York City hot spots like Milk & Honey, a speakeasy on the Lower East Side that employs a knowledgeable staff of bartenders to craft drinks based on the whim of the patron they're serving. In order to follow suit, Bonanno and Hodak have committed to hiring a highly professional staff.

"This spot is just going to have bartenders -- no cocktail waitresses or servers," says Hodak. "I'm not looking for bartenders to make my drinks," he adds. "I'm looking for bartenders that make the drinks that the guest wants."

Which means that Hodak isn't even entirely certain he's going to offer a cocktail list, mostly because he wants the men and women he hires to work with block ice, fresh herbs and pressed-to-order juices to craft cocktails inspired by guests.

The space will be outfitted with tables and bar seats, and you'll have to occupy one or the other if you want to imbibe: the Green Russell is planning to enforce a strict no-standing-room policy, so drinkers without reservations will have to wait until a seat opens, and they won't be able to enjoy a cocktail while they do so.

Unlike the secret bars of other cities, though, the Green Russell isn't really meant to be a speakeasy. Though the entrance to the lounge will be through the pie shop, accessed via a marked stairway on Larimer Square, no password or gimmick, like, say, a secret passage phone booth a la New York's PDT, is necessary. Bonanno and Hodak want people to know the place is there.

"We really want to offer something to the community that's not here -- a bar that's not a restaurant," says Hodak. "We want people to come to a nice lounge, have a drink, have a conversation, and enjoy what's going on in front of them."

The Green Russell will open its pie shop door on November 1.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk