I'm not sure if co-owners Jeff and Darren Van Delden were inspired by Kanye West's song "Good Life" when they named their new Midtown bar, but I can't say the name of their spot without singing the hook and wanting to make it rain. If you have been to the Van Deldens' other properties, Saint Genevieve and Red Door, this image isn't far off, but where those bars are swanky and high maintenance, The Good Life - Midtown Bar and Kitchen is the more down-to-earth younger sibling.
Housed in the end of a strip mall on the corner of Smith and West Gray, the location was once longtime bar Deco Lounge before becoming another short-lived club. It's an ideal spot, in the heart of Midtown, in a walkable area of town among the young and ready-to-party. After Deco closed, I wondered what could take over and really work. I think The Good Life may be it.
As with their other properties, the Van Deldens have transformed the space with careful attention to detail. The interior has a speakeasy, Prohibition-era feel with two separate bars -- a smart use of space, as it breaks up the room and makes it feel larger. The small, open kitchen is a lovely touch and creates a brightness in the otherwise dimly lit space. The long communal tables in between the bars seem to be where many a conversation between strangers will take place. The front holds a patio area that looks sure to be a hot spot.
The bar is focusing on craft cocktails and some unique signature items like foam champagne and edible cocktails (essentially "classed up" Jell-O shots). They are displayed in the case like small, delicate pastries. The bar offers flights ($20 for four) so you can try different flavors. The key lime and the sweet tea were my favorites.
The open kitchen previously mentioned is putting out bar bites and shareable plates from a menu that Roost chef Kevin Naderi consulted on. That's enough to pique anyone's interest in trying the fare. On my visit, I had the Korean chicken strips ($7), the brats in a blanket ($9) and the house pickles ($5). The battered and fried chicken strips are served with a Sriracha mayo. The strips were light despite being fried, but there wasn't much to make this Korean; a side of kimchi at least wouldn't have hurt.
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The sausages fared far better. Garlic-infused brats were baked inside a flaky puff pastry and served with some truly addictive sweet and sour mustard. There was some debate in my group on the house pickles, however. Some of us loved the light, refreshing chile-sprinkled mango, jicama, watermelon and cucumbers, while others felt that calling the dish "pickles" on the menu was deceiving. The fruit wasn't really pickled, but just slightly acidic.
For those who used to frequent Deco Lounge, you'll see some familiar faces among the friendly bar staff. Happy hour runs until 8 p.m. on weekdays, with brunch served on Sundays. With new development like this, it looks like Midtown is back and maybe better than ever. Here's to The Good Life.