One of the nice things about living in Prospect Heights is that it’s easy to make decisions about going out to eat or drink. We go to the place, or we go to the other place. Or if it’s fancy, we go to the special place. So when a new bar opens up, I can say, “Have you tried that new place?” without qualifying it with “You know, that new Ethiopian transsexual grappa bar,” or whatever.
That new place, Barrette, is a sultry, seedy black-walled bar with an apse-like burlesque stage cut into its far end, just big enough for one bosomy performer. That mini stage — lined with cheap silver ribbons and vanity bulbs — acts as a visual magnet in an otherwise dusky harlot’s-jewelry-box of a room. The actual bar is a slick black sheet of Lucite studded with tiny candles, and the cozy half-moon booths are lined with dimpled red faux leather and overhung with tasseled, lace-draped, speakeasy-style lamps. It’s sexy in a gritty sort of way, like the saggy stripper of yore who smokes too much.
Their signature drink, the Barrette ($9), from the classy half of the drink menu, is a nice mix of Maker’s and grapefruit juice with muddled cranberries, ginger and sugar. The citrus undercuts the sweetness, but bourbon has no place in a martini class (according to me). The trashy section of the drink menu offers beer-and-shot combos for cheap, but they have a better, and surprisingly wide, selection of beers on tap and in bottles. Their wines are pleasant, particularly their pinot noir from California, which they took care to emphasize was made by a female-run vineyard (Heron). Female-run, female-friendly, female-filled, female go-go dancers on Friday: it’s like a sexy, drunken womb. I like it!
And the food is perfect — “small” portions of finger food that are mostly normal-sized (especially the buttery, flaky challah-bread grilled cheese, $3.50, more please, and the Portobello burger bite, with goat cheese and aioli, $4.50). All food comes in cheap checkered cardboard baskets, clam-shack style, which is a little anachronistic, but that’s fine.
It’s on the quieter side, but in a soothing, uncreepy way. The music is a steady stream of chilled-out, vaguely sexy music from the 1960s and 70s, like ‘Through the Grapevine’ and raspy, boppy French songs. If I haven’t yet made this clear, it has an old-fashioned, loose woman vibe — inviting and unprecious. Like, “Hey ladies, get drunk, get fat, who cares?... I said, Who cares!” Followed by a gravelly belly laugh, a little bit scary.