Thursday, October 8, 2009
A look inside The Usual, new bar opening soon in Fort Worth
The Usual takes a unique focus: Prohibition-era cocktails, in a smoke-free setting.
It’s been two years since The Usual was announced, and because the building it’s in doesn’t really lend itself to easy viewing of construction work inside, we are often asked if it’s still happening.
Well, we are happy to report that yes, The Usual is still happening, and in fact it should be open in one to two weeks.
The brainchild of The Chat Room’s Brad Hensarling, The Usual takes a unique focus: Prohibition-era cocktails, in a smoke-free setting. At launch, it’s expected to have around 28 drinks on the menu, with plans to expand that up to and over 100 as things progress. Brad has been doing a lot of research into the Prohibition era and its assortment of drinks – when last we talked with him, he was in The Chat Room, not with a Rahr in hand, but with a particular variety of speakeasy-era martini that “will knock you on your ass.”
The Usual’s unique menu of drinks will be a big draw ... but as it turns out, it won’t be the only one. It’ll also be an example of outstanding modern design, the likes of which we haven’t really seen before in Fort Worth.
Now, when last we took a look at The Usual, it was a gutted construction zone. It has come a long way since then, and when we first got a look at the nearly-finished interior, we were blown away. Unexpectedly, The Usual doesn’t look like a retro speakeasy from the ’20s (as its focus on that era’s drinks might make you think) – instead, it sports a sleek modernist interior comprised of metal, concrete, warm wood, and glass. It is absolutely striking, especially because the only hint of what’s in store is the small entry punched in the otherwise blank brick wall of its street frontage.
Springing from the mind of Fort Worth designer Kara Keith and realized by contractor Bill Smith, The Usual is the kind of warm and effective modernist design that isn’t really done in this area. Drawing inspiration from a variety of sources (to us, it has the vibe of Portland’s awesome Doug Fir Lounge), the interior is clean and contemporary, just dark and cozy enough without feeling like a cave. In these photos, the concrete floors had not yet been stained and all of the furniture was not yet in place.
In the photo above, you can see the main bar. Smith created those globe lights himself, because they couldn’t find any that gave them the specific feel they really wanted.
Along the sides are rows of intimate wrap-around wooden booths. They’re a great modern take on the classic feel of a Golden Era lounge, paying homage while carving out a clean, contemporary feel.
When you get the chance to go into The Usual for yourself, check out these booths and look up. There’s a cool surprise waiting on the ceiling above.
Along the front wall, in lieu of windows, there are two large porthole-like mirrors. They help give a sensation of depth to the space.
More booths, stretching to the back of the space. Just off to the left edge of this photo are the old fireplace (the back part of the building used to be a house) and the doorway to the patio space. We didn’t get a shot of the patio, because it was only just getting underway when we visited, but it follows the same designs as the interior and should be one of the coolest patio spaces in all of urban Fort Worth.
Brad tells us that The Usual should be opening its doors at long last in another week or two. We plan on going back just prior to opening to get some photos of the finished space. Look for more on The Usual to come!
Here are a few more photos of the beautiful design, taken around the bar:
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