Drinking during the work week (for those with a 9-to-5 job) can be tricky. You have to walk that fine line between too much and too little – if you don't limit yourself, you risk serious hangover regret at the next morning's office meeting.
But after an eight-hour workday, you deserve an adult beverage or two, amirite? So for this particular DIY public crawl, I had Ivanhoe Village in mind. It's the perfect laid-back neighborhood for unwinding with co-workers – it has just enough going on to keep you busy, but not so much distraction that you're going to want to rage until last call. It's close to the Mills 50 district, and only a hop, skip and jump away from downtown – so a solid choice for post-work cocktails.
We started our night at the northern end of Ivanhoe Row (the commercial strip that runs along North Orange Avenue) at the Imperial Wine Bar and Beer Garden (1800 N. Orange Ave.). After ordering from a lengthy menu of craft beers and boutique wines, we grabbed a nearby wooden high-top, and I sipped on a Belgian Saison Dupont Farmhouse Ale ($8, 7 percent ABV).
The mellow, dimly lit room feels like a lounge or living room – a really, really expensive living room, that is, full of globally imported furniture – which helped dissolve the stress of the workday. You could easily settle in for the night at a place like this, but that defeats the purpose of a pub crawl. So we headed out after one drink and went to look for our next spot.
A walk across Orange Avenue landed us at the new Wolfies Pizzamia (1905 N. Orange Ave., sister restaurant to White Wolf Café, a couple doors down), and although the space was inviting and filled with the pungent aroma of marinara and garlic, we weren't quite ready for food yet. We made a mental note to return soon and continued on in pursuit of another drink.
Fortunately, just down the street, the Caboose (1827 N. Orange Ave.) was waiting. At first glance this joint looked like a smoky hole-in-the-wall. But the promise of $2 sangria lured us in. Aside from a stripper pole situated at one end of the bar, the rest of the no-frills, down-to-earth decor was appealing – especially the kitschy railroad knick-knacks on the wall (just like everything else on Ivanhoe Row, the bar is located right alongside the tracks), the four simple taps of domestic beers and the life-sized faux alligator. Oh, and did I mention the NASCAR coasters? Don't judge. Like I said: $2 sangria. With an orange slice, I might add.
At that point we found ourselves doing more chitchatting than drinking, and all that talking can work up the appetite. So we booked it to one of the newer Ivanhoe Village hotspots, the Hammered Lamb (1235 N. Orange Ave.), a friendly restaurant/watering hole in the former digs of Ethos Vegan Kitchen.
We opted for a seat at the covered patio bar (bar and table seating are available inside), which was a prime spot considering the cool breeze coming off the lake right across the street. We ordered Swamp Ape IPAs and Brooklyn Brown ale (on draft, $6) along with some sammies from the limited food menu. (Try the grilled cheese on Yalaha challah bread or the tzatziki chicken salad club.)
Before long, we heard the roar of an oncoming train, which meant "train shots" (blueberry-infused 44º North vodka) for all courtesy of the bar, which was a pleasant surprise.
And so it was that we came to that point in the night when we had to decide whether we should have another round or be responsible and head for home. The conversation started heading toward a beer-infused discussion of religion, and we realized that it probably was best to just call it a night.
However, if that night had called for a nightcap, we would have totally made our way over to the Hideaway Bar for a cheap PBR. After all, when you're in a welcoming and cozy 'hood like Ivanhoe Village, you want to end in a joint that feels like home – and there's no place in town more homey than the Hideaway.