Image via 42 Lounge.
In episode seven of Sex & The City’s sixth season (entitled “The Post-It Always Sticks Twice), Samantha brings Carrie to New York’s hippest new night club, B.E.D., to help her get over Berger, who’d recently coldly dumped her via Post-It note. Let’s not focus on why a 28-year-old man vividly recalls a 10-year-old show whose key demographic was women ages 35 and older. Instead, let’s talk about the nightclub.
Like many places the ladies seemed to frequent throughout the series, B.E.D. — an acronym for “Beverage, Entertainment, Dining” (which actually existed!) — operated by a specific, odd theme. Fittingly, a series of beds took the place of tables and seating and, of course, the name allowed for a heft of “go to bed”-type double entendres. While there aren’t overwhelmingly many drinking establishments with beds and linens scattered throughout their interiors, theme bars are becoming more common and serving more precise niches than ever.
In the vein of Camp Bar’s northwoods lodge motif and At Random’s “The 1960s never happened!” theme, 42 Lounge (326 E. Mason St.) — Milwaukee’s first “nerd bar” — opened early last month to give gamers a place to imbibe while playing video games, watch sci-fi flicks and unwind around people who have similar interests. While I don’t consider myself a nerd (I have, however, been assured throughout my life that I’m a dork), I still felt compelled to round up one of my two friends with a Zelda tattoo and give 42 Lounge an early chance.
After navigating the hellscape that is 6 p.m. downtown parking for 20-plus minutes and walking three blocks, I made my way to the 300 block of Mason. Formerly the site of Euro Café Bar, the Juneau Town bar’s tinted-window exterior doesn’t really stand out, save for the bar’s name emblazoned on the edifice in neon green. Inside, I quickly noticed the walls, speakers, television and furniture were all dark, onyx black—which probably serves the bar well during its occasional quick-draw laser tag tournaments. Pipes painted the same fluorescent green as the exterior logo and two massive skylights broke through the darkness to serve as the lounge’s only (non-LED) lighting.
As we took a seat beside the eight to 10 patrons enjoying a happy hour drink at the bar, a ponytailed bartender with a slight European accent was quick to welcome us, inform us of that night’s specials and hand us a drink list. In his considerate and professional way, he allowed us to peruse the menu that was equipped with both local craft and domestic bottled beer, Zombie Killer mead and a modest selection of liquor. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t indulge in one of 42 Lounge’s video game-inspired house cocktails.
The in-house specialties come with names like “Tron” (Midori, blue Curacao and pineapple juice), “Princess Peach” (a peach gin fizz to honor Mario’s distressed damsel) and the bar’s official shot, the “Ballzwacker.” I opted for a strange-sounding amalgam of Zwack (Jägermeister’s distant, less popular cousin), Bacardi Superior rum and coke with a cherry garnish ($8). The distinctly different liquors took turns on my tongue and quickly “pwned” me, warming my chest after just one sip. I’ve never had a (non-bomb) mix drink with a Jäger-like herbal liquor, and expected the worst, but it was actually enjoyable.
My guest also picked from the specialty drink list, selecting a libation named after Mario’s longtime nemesis, Bowser ($8)— tequila, Cointreau, orange juice and grenadine. She allowed me to take a few sips, and the villain namesake was totally off base for such a creamy, sweet and refreshing cocktail.
Also on the menu was a list of video games (sports, racing, rock band, Sega classics and other cartridges for all systems), which patrons can play for free. Many people did, but we moved to a couch along the wall to catch up. As we talked, the sound of beeps, soccer crowd cheers and exaggerated gunshots cut through the darkened bar room. I might be a noob, but I think 42 Lounge manages to honor the gaming culture, while still managing to be a functional bar for those who just want to kick back with a drink named after a dude from Bioshock.