With a dismantled piano
lodged in one wall and photographs of local 1950s rockabilly bands on another, Fountain Square’s Thunderbird pays tribute to its building’s music-club roots. But these days, the bar acts as the stage, and the ’tenders play the rockstars. The evolving cocktail menu separates drinks with “Commercial Appeal” (originals like the Scattered Action, a hibiscus syrup–infused rum delight) from the “Critically Acclaimed” (covers like La Louisiane, a take on an Old Fashioned with a splash of absinthe), and each credits the person who invented it. Not surprisingly, co-owner Josh Gonzales’s name appears all over the list. The former Libertine dandy may have traded his vest for a Coors Light T-shirt, but the mixology skills that made him famous there and at The Ball & Biscuit (Nos. 1 and 2 in IM’s last “Best Bars” issue) translate well here.
Of course, there’s more to the success of this place than a gourmet highball. The enthusiastic waitstaff, Southern-inspired food menu, and Nikki Sutton–designed interior attract an eclectic mix of neighborhood hipsters, beautiful young cocktail connoisseurs, and middle-aged professionals who have heard the news (the news being a favorable write-up in The New York Times last summer).
If there’s any complaint about the consensus pick for Best New Bar, it’s that a seat can be hard to come by in this 80-person shoebox. What was a neighborhood tavern quickly became a destination for epicures from around the city. But that’s what happens when you pour such inventive, balanced drinks: People storm the place. 1127 E. Shelby St., 974-9580