200 Columbia St, Columbia Water Front
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
What kind of bar christens its backyard movie-viewing area with a screening of Finding Nemo? Who advertises their open-mic comedy night on Facebook with bad clipart of people laughing? What kind of place decides that amateur comedy is not uncomfortable enough, and then adds an open-mic poetry night to its entertainment roster to boot? Well, MikNic Lounge is that kind of bar. This joint ain't trying to be hip. No mustachioed mixologists. No gigantic ice cubes hand-chiseled from organic glaciers. No wild selection of oddball microbrews, nor vintage taxidermy in its decor. And therein lies its charm: in a city where virtually ever new watering hole is a theme park unto itself, this bar is just a bar. Think of it as a blank slate, a roomy and uncrowded place you can make your own.
When we visited on a balmy Thursday night, the bartender poured us a couple of unfussy $5 white sangrias, floating some orange and lemon segments in our glasses. Across from the bar, a makeshift kitchen juts out from the wall. A chalkboard menu offers grilled cheese and quesadillas, but nothing that stands up to the menu at Fultummy's, the rad and under-the-radar Japanese sandwich shop across the street. The cafe is low on atmosphere and doesn't sell alcohol, so MikNic's takeout-friendliness makes it the perfect dining area. Chow down on a chicken katsu sandwich and tofu salad in the bar's back room, which has plenty of seating and a small dance floor. On Saturday nights, a DJ pumps out disco and house, and we can only wonder if the amateur comedy, poetry slam, and Nemo crowds overlap with the dancing contingent. (Ay yi yi.)
Even better is the crab roll, which piles shredded blue and peekytoe crab on the same griddled bun, this time coated in a pleasantly tangy tartar sauce. At $14, it's definitely one of the best deals on the menu. The clam chowder comes out a bit thin and flat; still, it's hard not to slurp it down eagerly because chowder, like mac and cheese, is addictive even when it's not at its best.
Better yet, bring your takeout to the bar's sweet little backyard, pull up a plastic chair, and dig in. Like everything about MikNic, the patio has a DIY feeling: feel free to light your own citronella candle and rearrange the single string of rope lights so that it's not completely pitch black out there. Heck, why not treat it like your own backyard and invite all your friends to enjoy it with you? The staff is happy to screen movies from their customers' collections, and they'll probably let you DJ inside with your iPod if you ask nicely. At its best, MikNic could be treated as a home away from home with more room for company. So mosey on down to Columbia Street with your movies, your music, your favorite take-out, your bad jokes, your sad-girl poetry, and your dance moves. MikNic will welcome you.