Warm-Up Exercises

All right, we’ve refrained from getting all girly on you thus far, because nothing annoys us more than those subpar, Bridget Jones wanna-be chick-lit books in which the protagonist waxes ecstatic over the joys of shopping, chocolate, boys and cosmos. Give us some scotch, we say, and let us read Sports Illustrated instead. Or watch some hockey.

That said, here’s something we’ve been pondering: Does anyone else hate this transition period when it’s too warm to wear dark winter clothes yet too cold to don cute sundresses and sandals?

Ahem. Well, now that we have that out of our system, we decided to spend one of our transition-weather days by going to the bar at Lidia’s to see whether the restaurant’s awesome fireplace was lit. We had initially visited Lidia’s on a scouting expedition with Research Assistant Michael U. back in February on one of the coldest nights of the year, and we’d immediately loved its noncrowdedness (on a weeknight after work). The massive fireplace behind the bar was the real attraction, though. It was a thing of beauty on such an arctic night, and it embodied not only the word roaring but also Dickensian — you could almost picture shabbily dressed characters huddled around it, roasting sausages and bread.

Sadly, on our most recent foray on a First Friday, the fireplace was off, and the only huddling we saw was from a yuppieish couple sitting at the bar, heads touching as they shared a salad. The lack of fire was the only missing romantic touch, but we guess it was to be expected with the temperature hovering between almost-warm and not-warm. “We were wavering earlier in the day whether we should light it,” said Dan, our friendly bartender. “And if we light it this late in the day, the room would get smoky.” (General manager Jason Connor later confirmed that the lighting of the fireplace depends on the temperature outside. If it’s too warm, the smoke won’t be drawn out.)

“What? A bar that’s smoky? Whatever,” said RA Andrew with mock astonishment. But the bar area was still cozily intimate without the fire. It’s a somewhat small space hemmed in by a drink-holding ledge that people can hover around. We expected more of a crowd that night, but it was less artsy (and less fartsy) than we thought, a primarily middle-aged group having predinner drinks. “This is an older crowd,” RA Scott said. “It’s not a happy-hour place.” It wasn’t a destination bar, either. We saw a few art-walk devotees gulping their beverages before rushing over to imbibe some box wine at the openings, though.

Because we were in no rush to drink any jug wine from plastic airline cups, we indulged in Lidia’s luscious drinks, starting with the bellini of the month, a concoction of blood-orange purée mixed with Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. For some reason, just half a glass of this amazing beverage knocked us on our ass, and we had to order an appetizer of fried items to soak up the alcohol. Michael U., however, was not knocked on his ass (not until several more drinks later, that is) by the Il Diavolo Limoncello, a mix of Absolut citron, Limoncello, Cointreau and homemade lemonade. Served in a martini glass, it seemed innocuous with lemony goodness, but was lethally evil.

Scott went for the Cosmo. “I mix them really well,” Dan said, and this was no idle brag. It was not only strong but also really pretty in the martini glass, the pale-pink liquid garnished with a perfect circle of lime. We admired the drink as it sat on the bar by a big yellow martini glass full of olives and a glass filled with crunchy breadsticks (both of which we munched in another vain attempt to absorb the liquor); the effect was very Pottery Barn.

It seems like things are about to become more Pottery Barnesque in the area, thanks to the redevelopment of neighboring lofts and the future relocation of H&R Block. So Lidia’s plans to offer some happy-hour specials, Connor says. (Currently, there are none.) And even though it’s near the end of fireplace season, the warm weather promises great things — namely outdoor drinking. “We have a nice patio that overlooks the trains,” Connor says. “We also have an amazing mojito, believe it or not, for a place without any Cuban food. It’s made with mint from our herb garden out front. We do everything seasonally.”

And nothing is a better harbinger of warm-weather drinking than the mojito. Our girly tendencies are pleased.

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