In lieu of manicures

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May 2, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Ellen Gabler
Ellen Gabler

Mell's Beauty Bar
606 Washington Ave. N.
Hours: Monday, 4-10 p.m.; Tuesday-Friday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m.;
Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.;Sunday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

If nail polish fumes don't cloud your head when you walk in, the martinis just might. Beauty and booze - that's the spirit of Mell's Beauty Bar, tucked away on the edge of the Warehouse District. Instead of playing darts or throwing peanuts on the floor, Mell's patrons amuse themselves with the bar's signature manicures and massages - $15 each.

Although ladies monopolize the bar until later in the evening, Mell's reputation as an eclectic music spot each night of the week eventually draws a diverse crowd for dancing.

What's hot

Mell's measures up on its mantra: "eat, drink and be beautiful." The brick-oven pizza is impressive, the martini list is fun, and the manicures and massages are a break from everyday bar-monotony.

A good getaway for the girls, Mell's can cater to a bachelorette party or that group of moms stepping outside suburbia for a night on the town.

The cozy atmosphere and attentive staff are major perks.

"It is very Sex-in-the-Cityish. That's why we like it," said Tammi, sitting with four of her 20-something friends. 

What's not

Ladies - if you're scopin' for guys, you'll have to wait 'til late night. Straight men won't likely saddle up to Mell's by themselves, at least not when nail polish is flowing like they wish beer was.

"We're married and we're still thinking 'where are all the men?'" said Wendy, 39.

That sorority-lodge-feeling lasts from happy hour until about 10:30 or 11 p.m. Then, with a dim of the lights and a bolder stream of music, the beauty bar transforms into a nightclub, finally drawing a somewhat stronger male contingent.

The scene

Candles, paired with soft, comfortable seats, plenty of pillows, and modern-style tables, give Mell's a laid-back, yet trendy feel. Groups celebrate birthdays, new jobs or a night away from their husbands, while duos and trios belly up to the bar to drink.

The "beauty shop" lines one wall in front of the skinny bar. Manicurists and masseuses spend about 15 minutes per client. Considering each service comes with a complimentary drink, you technically can check off that massage as just a $6 splurge - a martini is $8 and, of course, you'd want to tip. 

The late-night scene changes each night with a different theme: Monday there's no scene (the bar closes at 10 p.m.); Tuesday, electronic music; Wednesday, gay night; Thursday, techno music; Friday, international night; Saturday and Sunday, Hip Hop night.

(Smoke alert: for those of you still fighting the smoking-ban-nic-fits, Mell's has a few tables outside so you can light it up.)

The crowd

The late-night Mell's crowd rotates with its themed night. Generally, a fairly diverse and friendly crowd filters in. The bar's small quarters makes it almost impossible not to chat it up with a stranger.  

Drinks and food

Mell's brick-oven pizzas rise far above standard bar food. Around $12 or $13, the pies are a perfect light meal to pair with an $8 martini. Now those martinis: there's everything from apple, chocolate, watermelon, key lime and then some.

Drink specials later at night help keep the dancing crowd hoppin'. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays it's $2 domestics, $3 imports, $4 call drinks and two-for-ones on tap beer, all after 10 p.m. Wednesdays, two-for-ones on everything from 10 p.m. 'til close, and Saturdays two-for-ones from 11 p.m. to midnight.

Happy hour offers $1-off beer and $1 off martinis from 4-7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Outside of specials, other drinks are priced right along with the rest of Downtown watering holes. Beer, $3.50. Glasses of wine, $6 and up.

The only cover charge is on Saturday night, $10 after 10 p.m.

The Verdict

You might as well loosen those knots in your neck or get the grunge out from under your fingernails while enjoying a cold one. Looking for a dance party? Make sure you're feeling Mell's featured tunes - otherwise, it could be a looong night.