Gentrification continues its march along Fitzhugh pushing eastward and leaving Red Fork Tavern and now Strangeways in its wake. The new bar, dubbed a "pub without the Irish theme to it" in a recent Pegusus article, was opened by sibling owners Eric and Erica Sanchez, who sought to create a casual atmosphere with a focus on beer, cocktails and food.
In terms of space, they've hit a home run. Strangeways (2429 N. Fitzhugh Ave.) is humble and minimalistic. The scars from old asbestos tiles still mar the cement flooring, and tarnished brick and aged rafters are left exposed. The cement bar is poured into a rough cement mold, and wet trowel lines have now set beneath the sealed lacquered surface. It leaves a nice, visual texture and rustic touch that matches the rest of the bar space, punctuated with dim lighting, no windows and a heavy wooden door.
The Sanchez siblings leaned on their mother Rosie for a lot of the finish work and carpentry while tweaking a cocktail menu with friend and former Common Table bartender Jose Hernandez.
The space is tight, but service is loose. One night I sat far too long waiting for a refill while a pigtailed Erica sat at a bar rather than working it. Eric was social too, and one half of the space hummed while the rest of the guests spun empty beer bottles on the bar top. The service has always been a little slower than I'd like but I keep coming back because I'm drawn to the look, feel and tone of the place. I'm also curious to see how they handle the crush of a full house.
Order the michelada, made from chili beer and ask them to go a little easy on the Bloody Mary mix. The beer, infused with a single Serrano chili, is spicy and complemented by citrus and tomato flavors. Just don't eat the chili left in the bottle when you're finished. Everything good has been sucked away leaving an acrid, limp, pale colored pepper in its place.