Like a recent college grad, The Imperial Room is still struggling to find its "self," but it won't spill beer on your shoes or make you bump and grind on the dance floor. The cozy, yet modern bar is emerging as a hip hangout for young professionals and gray-haired execs alike, with good food and even better drink specials.
Sharing sidewalks and a direct view of perhaps the Warehouse District's wildest, drunkest, singles clubs - The Drink and Rosen's - The Imperial Room is a refreshing stop for those who don't want to slam their rum and Cokes and rush to the dance floor to boogie.
Instead, the Imperial Room offers a laid-back spot to drink and talk with friends (if you can hear each other over the music), while maintaining a cool enough "edge" so you don't feel like you're at a suburban Timber Lodge Steak House or a Perkins.
A major draw, of course, is the drink specials that make drinking Downtown a little more affordable. The "all-day happy hour" probably ranks highest, including $3 tap beers, $2.50 rail drinks and $5 martinis ALL DAY Thursday. A secret bonus is the happy hour's resurgence on Saturday night midnight-2 a.m. There's also a Friday-Saturday 3:30-8 p.m. happy hour to start your evening off.
Things could be a little touch and go until the bar's new management gets all the details ironed out. In the past three years, The Imperial Room has had a bit of an identity crisis, dabbling in martinis, techno DJs, karaoke and who knows what else in between.
General Manager Matty Walsh, however, said he's getting things under control, and will soon open the restaurant/bar 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. seven days a week.
One customer, Phil, 29, wishes the bar would hurry up and figure out what it wants to be when it grows up.
"It's still searching for its self. There's no atmosphere," he said.
Thanks to its extended drink specials, The Imperial Room gets cranking early, so much so that you might have a hard time finding a table or scoring a spot at the bar.
There's live music two nights each week, Tuesday 6-10 p.m. and Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m., when piano players jam to the blues, jazz or whatever they feel like.
Other nights of the week The Imperial Room is just bouncing with whatever music the bartenders or manager decides to play. Walsh said the music depends on the crowd, although you'll never hear techno, and there's never a DJ.
You can hang out in one of two rooms, a lounge with comfy chairs and couches, or the bar that might be standing-room only. While there's no formal dance floor, if you're really feeling a groove, waitstaff will shuffle some tables off to the side and let youspin away.
(Smoke alert: For those who want to smoke, there's outdoor seating so you can light up.)
Rachel, 31, likes The Imperial Room's tamer clientele that don't treat each beer (or girl) like it's the last on the planet.
"It's not so meat-market like," she said. "There's a lot professionals - even my boss has been here."
But don't get Rachel wrong. This isn't a boring haunt just one step away from your cubicle; it's a happening spot. Weekend nights, mid-20-somethings and those in their 30s are rowdy in their own right, just not frat-party-style like down the block at Drink.
Drinks, food and hours
The above-mentioned drink specials really explain The Imperial Room's understanding for what happy hour should represent, keeping customers "happy" nearly 24/7.
On "off" times beers are about $4-6, rail drinks, $5, martinis run $8 or $9. Food is mid-priced, $8 to $20, and will soon be available 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday, and 11 a.m.-1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Extra bonus: There's never any cover. And the beer is really cold.
You aren't likely to find a place this homey or hip to start or end your night out. And, those tired of Downtown's overpriced drinks and overserved, oversexedpartiers might relish the laid-back, yet trendy hangout.