Photo by Rachel Enneking, courtesy Bar One Fourteen
Of all the places you pined to sup and sip that were shuttered during the pandemic, Martha Hoover’s curiously eccentric cocktail closet Bar One Fourteen might have been your last holdout. Its candles-only lighting, avant-garde cocktail menu, and supper-club selection of bar snacks puts it in the running for Indy’s most unusual nightspot. (Esquire once called it “a lyric poem” and “a listening sanctuary.”) But with just 16 seats leaving little room for social distancing, it’s no surprise that this was one of the last local drinking holes to reopen after the pandemic, nearly two years after closing in early March 2020, nor that Hoover’s crew requires you to flash your vaccination card in the dark vestibule adjacent to the considerably calmer Napolese next door. Word to the wise: Scan yours or snap a pic so you can show it through the glow of your phone.
But reopen it did, for regulars and friends this past weekend, and reservations going forward (though the bookings are decidedly slim for the remainder of the year). Opening chef David Hoover has long gone on to new endeavors, the talented drink-mixing duo of Corey Ewing and Daimien Weems has returned, dreaming up as their opening seasonal specials an East Asian–inflected cocktail program with surprising umami notes typically saved for dinner plates, not drinks. The Oishii “Savory,” for instance, mingles Japanese Suntory Toki Whiskey with citrusy oleo-saccharum and a simple syrup steeped with porcini mushrooms, which gives the drink a woodsy, fresh-forest fragrance finished with similarly earthy umami bitters. More traditional elixirs such as an Old Fashioned or martini can also be ordered in premium versions with Asian spirits, though more straight-up classics are also available.
For food, chef Shane DeWeese and Patachou pastry chef Katy Hawkins have combined for a short but luxurious menu of upscale bites that pair perfectly with the drinks. Highlights include sweet, meaty peel-and-eat shrimp with two sauces, a bracingly garlicky Lebanese-inspired dip and another dairy-free sauce thickened with aquafaba. House sourdough with homemade cultured butter and single-origin California olive oil makes for a nice counterpoint to the shrimp, as well as the perfect pairing with a generously dressed riff on a Caesar salad, made not with romaine but baby gem lettuce, topped with a bright yuzu dressing and fermented vegetables.
One holdover that had to stay was the Fancy Burger, now made with Black Hawk American Wagyu beef, Spanish malvarosa sheep’s-milk cheese, and a creamy aioli. You can upgrade with truffles, or, just as audacious, you can get a side of potato “skins,” more like little rounds of pureed, enriched potatoes, topped with two types of caviar. They’re definitely worth the 20-month wait.
Lighting at each table has been reduced to a single votive candle honoring an iconic female cultural figure—Dolly Parton or Rihanna or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And the music, especially LPs of Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé live in concert, makes the place even more the rollicking, shut-up-and-listen sensory experience it was before. Why not give us double what this place was to enjoy after two years of listening to our own thoughts? 114 E. 49th St., 317-925-0765, baronefourteen.com