Lakewood Gets a Bit Trendy
The end may be near for the dimly lit taverns of old. A place to have a few cocktails and down an array of bar food, consisting of re-cooked wings, heated pretzels and the like, until closing time. BAR 2, recently opened in the former Niko's space at the corner of Lakeland and Detroit, operates on an entirely different concept - an upscale and trendy bar scene complimented by a complete entrée menu served from the time the doors open at 5 p.m.
I recently sat down with the principals that operate BAR 2. The triumvirate, all in thier mid-twenties, includes owner J. R. Dugas, Chef John Cafarelli, and Bartender Mike. As we sat to discuss the recent opening of the new bar and restaurant, they were upfront and candid about what they want to do with their establishment.
“When I first walked into Niko’s on Detroit, I was very surprised to see what had already been done on the other side. I looked at what I could do to capitalize on that and what was missing in the community”, said Dugas. “A lot of the bars here are similar. They might offer something different, but they're mostly the same. There are a lot of young professionals and a very diverse group of individuals that live in Lakewood. I believe what we are doing here is the type of place they will want to come to”.
Stepping off embattled Detroit Avenue into BAR 2, one gets the feeling of being transplanted to somewhere in Tremont or The Warehouse District. Yet, according to Dugas, there is no need to go to those areas when it’s all here in Lakewood. “The type of setting that I personally prefer would have a Tremont, Downtown feel to it,” he said. Dugas wanted to bring an establishment to Lakewood that is both inviting and upscale, yet allows the individual a place to have fun and relax, all while enjoying an eclectic menu served fully until 2 a.m. According to Dugas, he “...tried to create a fun, exciting and laidback atmosphere.”
Chef Cafarelli had similar ideas while creating his menu. He said he gets his motivation from his passion of cooking. “I try not to overshadow ingredients; I have the belief that it is better to complement and enhance the ingredients instead,” said Cafarelli. There seems to be no limit to his desire to prepare an exquisite cuisine. Items on BAR 2’s menu vary from Halibut Cheeks, Lobster Ravioli and a delightful Duck Crepe to more exotic choices such as Red Curry Lamb, Stuffed Quail and Grilled Organic King Salmon. There is, of course, no shortage of mainstays in fine dining, including a bevy of Sushimi items, Honey-Rubbed Chai Tea Smoked Pork Tenderloin, and Belgian Ale-Ginger Braised Short Ribs.
All of these palate-pleasing delights can be consumed in a warm and friendly environment from the time the doors open until the kitchen serves its last customer, generally close to 2 a.m. It is rare to find so much variety on a menu that is completely available into the wee hours. Cafarelli explains that his first concern is the quality of the food that comes from his kitchen, followed closely by the pleasure his fare brings the guests. "It is important to take into account what makes food good and exciting,” says Cafarelli. He believes the foils and contradictions between the texture, flavor and aroma should stand out. “The more contradictions you can get in a dish, the more interesting and ultimately enjoyable it becomes.”
Few seem to embrace the love of food as much as Cafarelli. And BAR 2's clientele are all the happier for it.
Friends Stacey Hubert of Riverside Drive and Kristen Kostanzo of Hilliard Drive were very pleased with their choices of menu items Sushi 2 and Sushi 1, respectively. “I have had great sushi before, and this was right up there,” said Hubert. While Kostanzo had a different take, “I really like the diversity in the items on the plate; it was just a wonderful blend.”
Tom Rogers, of Arthur Ave., and a few friends recently took in a few cocktails at the new hot spot. “While I’m not a drinker, my friends enjoyed theirs’. It was a nice evening all around.”
BAR 2 offers theme nights throughout the week, including Ladies’ Nights on Mondays. Cafarelli is entertaining the idea of offering cooking classes on Sunday evenings in the future. The restaurant is closed on Sundays, but would possibly open for early evening classes. If interested, please contact the restaurant. “I think it would be a great way to get the community involved in a way that could be fun for all,” stated Cafarelli.