Idlewild opens Thursday, Feb. 14 in NoDa.
The cozy, casual craft cocktail bar is located in the Novel NoDa development at 36th Street Station. They’re open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Owner Vince Chirico chose to operate without a set drink menu, opting instead to let bartenders drive a custom experience according to a guest’s general taste preferences.
That means rather than peruse a drink list, you’ll have a conversation with the bartender about what you’re in the mood for — dark or light liquor, refreshing or boozy, herbaceous, bitter, citrusy, etc. — and they’ll make you something special.
That’s not to say there aren’t some standard recipes on hand. They’ve got mastery over the traditional cocktails, of course, like a classic Manhattan or Penicillin, and there are some not-so-secret house signatures like the Queen Park Swizzle. You just won’t ever see a printed cocktail menu.
All custom cocktails are $13 but they’ve also got everything from $2 PBR to wine by the glass.
This style of bartending is an ode to famed bars in New York City like Milk & Honey and Raines Law Room where Chirico worked as lead bartender. He’s quick to point out that he didn’t invent this kind of operation and that he owes his opportunity to others that paved the way.
Idlewild’s cocktails are meticulously prepared all the way down to hand-chiseled ice, but somehow they’ve steered clear of the stuffiness that can come with that territory.
It has something to do with how Chirico staffed up with a people first, skills second approach to his team. His theory is that you can teach anyone to make a great cocktail, but good people are what drive an unforgettable hospitality experience.
In fact, my bartender had no prior bartending experience, and yet there she was hacking a hunk of ice down into the perfect cube with a pick.
It creates a come-as-you-are, everybody’s-welcome-here kind of vibe where I was as comfortable in my jeans and a hoodie as I would be dressed to the nines on another night.
A menu of shareable plates includes simple bites like a generous meat and cheese plate ($16) and avocado bruschetta ($10).
Portions are substantial.
Idlewild operates as a private club so you’ll pay $1 for membership the first time you visit.
It’s the lowest fee the county would let Chirico get away with. He wanted it to be a penny.
They accept walk-in parties of six or less. Sorry, no reservations.