Wait! WHAT year is this? It’s an understandable question for a newcomer to ask upon first entering the vast East End bar, located on SE Grand. The preponderance of gypsy headbands and Mary Quant-style go-go dresses could make you think you’ve just stepped into a nightclub from London’s glam/mod past. With pressed, straight blond hair to her shoulders, dancer and scenestress Viva Las Vegas reigns over the downstairs bar, mixing a round of drinks with names cribbed from swinging London’s happening heyday while swaying to “Sticks and Stones” by the Zombies.
All things considered, it doesn’t really matter if you prefer the fortifying Noddy Holder (hot toddy with Dewar’s) or a simple Keith Moon (brandy and ginger ale). It’s the glittery East End scene itself that makes a visit worth navigating through its labyrinthine layout. Divided into three hangouts on two floors, the East End—which opened in December—offers a bright main-floor bar with lemon-colored walls, psychedelic art, a handy photo booth to capture bleary memories and understated couch-and-chair conversation pits. Downstairs, a larger area beckons with several booths and a jukebox, the latter of which serves as a catalyst for occasional impromptu ’70s dance parties that compete with the D.J. blasting British Invasion in the rock ’n’ roll rathskellar the next room over.
Bounding up and down the stairs in search of friends can work up an appetite, and fortunately, the enlightened bar-food is modestly priced and damn tasty. The drumsticks basted in a house-made barbecue sauce manage to be zesty without prompting a face-melting heat rash; and the cilantro-spiked shredded beef tacos are pleasantly succulent.
Most importantly, the chow serves as an effective anchor against the onslaught of festive cocktails that are potent and surprisingly balanced—despite containing ingredients that sound like they were thrown together by a teenager with access to a liquor cabinet. How else do you explain the Get Out of Denver cocktail, with its alarming mix of vanilla Stoli, Tuaca and RC Cola poured into a punch bowl? Science experiments aside, it appears the kids—and bartenders—at the East End are all right.
Part of our East Side Rising feature.