Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Escape from Douchebaggery, Part 33: Commonwealth

The reinvention of Downtown Las Vegas continues clicking along with the just opened Commonwealth, a Cocktail lover's dream and the first of many interesting spots opening on and around Fremont Street in upcoming months. So new that the place hasn't even had its official grand opening yet (they're still in the middle of adjusting things to get it all right during their soft-opening), Commonwealth instantly became one of my favorite bars in Las Vegas after my first visit (or basically once I walked in the doors during my first visit).

Commonwealth's pre-prohibition era atmosphere brings a trend that's gained some steam in other cities to Las Vegas, as it shares a similar vibe with popular Downtown LA establishments where people often dress to the nines in flapper girl dresses and vintage suits like The Edison, Villain's Tavern, and The Varnish. But Commonwealth isn't just chasing a trend... the place has a special magic and quirky voice of its own, and its just the kind of spot that proves Downtown is really coming into its own.

The place looks modest from the outside, but like The Tardis, it's bigger on the inside. The massive, 6,000 square foot building features a large main-bar area, a rooftop patio with great views of the city, and a hidden speakeasy in the back that can fit 28 patrons at a time and will feature a special cocktail menu. The place is flat out gorgeous, with design touches that are singular and quirky including dark wood floors, exposed brick walls, beautiful chandeliers hanging from exposed beams, plush and colorful mismatched chairs, unique wall murals and paintings by local artists, vintage Newspapers and black and white photos stuck to the walls, animal-print rugs, and an antique player-piano shoved into a corner. A statue of a dog dressed up in old English duds proudly greets customers at the main bar while a gorgeous albino peacock hangs behind the bar-tenders. Grab a seat at the communal bar in the middle of the main room, or snuggle up with that special someone in the leather booths, which are built into alcoves that afford you a little privacy.

The drink menu is excellent, with interesting signature cocktails created by excellent mixologists that pay homage to the roaring 20's. I enjoyed the extremely elaborate Horny Tailgater, a Whiskey Sour made with Wild Turkey and delicious smoky Barbecue bitters, topped off with PBR in glass rimmed with salt that mixes Peach and Mesquite flavors. As if that wasn't enough, the whole thing features a garnish of Beef Jerky floating atop this truly epic drink. Considering all that goes into the Cocktail, the price was totally reasonable compared to the fancy-pants mixology establishments in LA (and around the same price-point as excellent signature drinks they serve at The Downtown Cocktail Room).

They also feature an excellent selection of rotating craft brews, the names of which are scrawled on chalkboards behind the bar. I ordered pints of Stone Arrogant Bastard and Old Rasputin out of taps creatively topped by vintage boxing gloves and tennis rackets. I was wary of the Wells Bannana Bread Ale because I don't usually go in for flavored beers, but the bartender sold me on it and he was right... it was excellent and gave me a warm feeling, probably a Pavlovian response that triggered memories of my mother's home-cooked Banana Bread.

The Speakeasy isn't open to the public quite yet (though it will be very soon), but the rooftop patio is certainly worth visiting. The bar on the roof actually offers their own cocktail menu, with the tasty East of Fremont's (a potent mix of Gin, Cucumber soda, and interesting spices that give the drink a nice kick) and features plush couches for kicking back with drinks and enjoying views of The Fremont area and the city's skyline. The rooftop is where live bands will perform in the future, don't be afraid to climb the staircase, with its black  New Orleans-style railings, to access the chilled out area.

The creators of Commonwealth hit it out of the park with their quirky design flourishes and seriously great pre-prohibition style mixology program as they've brought yet another exciting and unique local business to a neighborhood that is quickly becoming the coolest and most colorful corner of Las Vegas.

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