By Dr. Ink
The first time I sauntered into Park & Rec, which was a few months after it opened some three years ago, I had to practically pull teeth to have someone give me the deets on happy hour. There were no signs or menus promoting it, nothing on the website, and the bartender on duty that day was uninformed.
Whether it was because of the constructive “medical” advice I relayed to staffers for curing the problem at the time, or if patrons began increasingly requesting info about the specials, Park & Rec’s happy hour today is alive and well — and no longer a mystery.
Happy hour menus are readily handed out at the attractive white marble-top bar, and the details are posted online.
The offerings are clear cut: Tecate and Pabst Blue Ribbon are $4 each; select wines plus drinks such as spiced rum with grapefruit, blood orange margaritas, and mules made with a choice of liquors are all $6.
Or for $1 more — and if you’re cool with unexpected outcomes — you can opt for the “dealer’s choice,” which is the path I took to losing my soberness here recently. Simply pick your spirit, and the bar staff takes it from there.
I chose gin, and within seconds the fast-moving bartender started loosely measuring in the booze along with house-made lemon syrup, aromatic Peychaud’s bitters and almond-kissed orgeat.
Served in a dainty tulip glass, the drink’s citrus level was nicely quelled by the nutty-tasting orgeat, but just enough to still incite blissful puckers after every sip. Also, as gin always behaves in my bloodstream, there was enough of it in the glass to take fast effect.
“What would you name this?” I asked the bartender about my drink as she started making the blood orange margarita my drinking partner chose.
“I’m not sure,” she replied, with a tone of relief that I was ecstatic with the results.
When I asked what liquor presents the biggest challenge, she cited scotch, adding that she gets most creative with tequila and vodka requests.
My partner’s blood orange margarita, which contained house-made blood orange syrup, was succulent and naturally a bit sweeter. But I liked my no-name gin cocktail much better.
On warmer days, Park & Rec’s outdoor areas in the back and alongside the main bar feel as though you’re attending a patio party at someone’s nice house. There is homey furniture as well as giant Jenga, ping-pong and cornhole.
Gone are the New Orleans-style vestiges from when this was the popular LGBT bar known as Bourbon Street. Yet the bartender said patrons from that establishment still regularly drop in as part of the University Heights neighborhood scene, which is arguably as diverse and welcoming as Hillcrest.
Also, in the absence of a kitchen, customers are permitted to bring in food and plop down anywhere within the property to consume it.