Central Station, now open at the Mount Vernon site formerly occupied by the interesting Oriental-French restaurant JaFe and then briefly by Flamingo's, aims to be a restaurant and something more. It has a saloon, restaurant, piano bar and game room spread over its compact two floors, in effect offering a pTC different level of entertainment every time you climb stairs.
Nightlifers will mostly gravitate to the first floor saloon, which was packed with a see-and-be-seen crowd on a recent visit. If the room itself seems low-key casual rather than high-tech hyper, all the oak used to construct this barroom may be the reassuring reason why.
Like Mount Vernon itself, the saloon can be a study in what a demographer would call the glorious mosaic of urban society.
"The crowd in the saloon during the day is predominantly straight and at night it is predominantly gay," says Central Station spokesman Don Davis. "The restaurant and piano bar get a mixed crowd. We aren't going for one crowd or the other. Our idea was to just open the door and see who showed up."
Those showing up in the saloon at night recognize the pulsating beat of the dance music, but may wonder why there is no dance floor. Is this a terrible tease? Not really. Management reasoned that if people really want to dance they can do so across the street, where the Hippo has one of the best dance floors in the city.
Past the saloon on the first floor is a dining room, whose black-and-white tile floor and white tablecloth setting seem like a separate ecosystem. Light fare and dinner are available here, though one wonders whether the noise spilling in from the saloon will make dinner seem like too much of a communal experience.
Upstairs, the front room has a piano bar that feels a tad formal; pianists tickle the ivories and croon show tunes Tuesday through Sunday evenings. Live comedy and jazz acts also are planned for up here.
Also on the second floor is a game room mostly filled by two pool tables. Trend watchers will note that the restored respectability of pool means that bars are now as likely to install pool tables as video games.
Where: 1001 N. Charles St.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.
Menu: burgers, sandwiches, seafood, steak, appetizers, soups, salads.
Credit cards: AE, D, MC.