There are two ways for a bar to attract a lot of attention: Either be the new kid on the block, or hang around long enough that you build of a sense of history that’s hard to ignore. A bar that can pull of both simultaneously is a rarity, but Saloon, the offshoot of the popular Foundry On Elm in Davis Square, might have stumbled across the formula.
One of the most handsome barrooms to open in recent memory, the pre-Prohibition New York City saloon concept manages to seem both novel and lived-in at once.
“A lot of places that open look brand new,” bar manager Dennis Cargill says. “With the dark woods and leather, you would almost swear the place has been there for a long time. People ask a lot if this place was really an old speakeasy.”
Part of achieving that feel was resurrecting furniture and fixtures from actual historic restaurants and borrowing some of their aura. Couple that with waitresses decked out in turn-of-the-century, flapper-style uniforms; hearty meats and cheeses served on wooden blocks; and a truly old-timey cocktail program that looks, Janus-like, both backward and forward at once. Altogether, it makes for a bar experience outside of the predictable.
“It reminds people of a bygone era,” says Cargill. “It’s like escaping from the real world and visiting a place from the past.”
It’s not just the decor that adds to Saloon’s aura: It’s what’s being served — and what those liquids are served in as well. The Claret Punch, made with brandy, Yellow Chartreuse, red wine, lemon, honey and soda water is served in actual 12 oz. flasks. “Once people see someone drinking out of a flask, the next table will order one,” says Cargill.
Little touches like that go a long way toward setting Saloon apart; likewise do the housemade drams. The Southie Comfort is made with rye, brandy, citrus rinds, toasted almonds or peach pits, honey, sugar and Jerry Thomas bitters. “It tastes like Southern Comfort, but it’s much more lean,” Cargill says.
Location, location, location
Also adding to the attraction of Saloon: being stashed away in the basement of Foundry with an unmarked entrance. People like feeling like they’re in on a secret.
“If you’re just walking down the street looking for it, you don’t even know it’s there,” says Cargill. “But you hear about it, and you look for it, and it’s part of that thing of trying to find something that you can’t.”