Ask Abel Kaase about some of the most eye-catching elements of his new concept, Swan Bar, and he’ll tell you that most of them were just “happy accidents.” The back bar, for example, was originally meant to be a classic mirrored wall until Kaase was told he’d have to rip out a lot of existing framework to install it. He scrapped that plan and replaced it with large sheets of aluminum foil, LED strips, and an ivory-colored acrylic cover that creates a cool, textured installation piece to anchor the space.
“A lot of this process was just going with the flow and having fun, and realizing that the end result was way cooler than what I originally planned for,” says Kaase.
A good chunk of those original plans made their way into the final product regardless. Kaase’s idea for a “vintage steakhouse without the steak” had been ruminating in his head even before he decided to close the book on Beerfish, the location’s former seafood joint, last year.
“I was itching for a refresh, but wasn’t quite sure what that looked like,” he says. “I remembered how much I loved being a part of the craft cocktail scene back with Sessions Public, and it just hit me that I wanted to do cocktails again.”
The drink menu, led by beverage director Pete Shea, offers six draught cocktails (cosmopolitans, appletinis), and a selection of signature cocktails that put a modern riff on the classics, like a rosemary-infused bourbon old-fashioned. Kaase also dreamed up a craft distillery aspect that’ll be up and running soon after Swan Bar opens.
That was the driving force behind Swan Bar—simple drinks, well made, in a moody and intimate spot inspired by Old World interiors of burgundy and rich textures. And Swan Bar is all of that, with art-deco-inspired wallpaper, shou sugi ban wood panels (a Japanese architectural technique of charring wood until it’s black), shiny black-and-gold marbled flooring in the bathrooms, and a large custom copper fireplace that demands a corner of the bar’s outdoor space.
But it’s also equally a no-frills kind of neighborhood joint—the food menu, a simple yet strong lineup of burgers, starts at $9. Kaase’s buddies were in the back drilling and sawing and installing the custom booths to get Swan Bar ready for its opening. His father made a number of the wooden tabletops by hand, which Kaase picked up and drove down the coast himself.
“I have a greater appreciation for making things and doing things versus just opening and moving on,” Kaase says. “I really wanted the creative process and collaborative input.”
You can spot that collaborative effort all over Swan Bar. Start with the bartop that Kaase repurposed from Beerfish. He and Shea added seven layers of patina over the galvanized top, just to see where it would end up. “We had already come to grips that it might not work out and we might have to toss it completely, so we figured we might as well give it a try,” he says. “We just kept going and adding more layers to it until all of a sudden it turned into something amazing.”
It’s another happy accident on the road to bringing Kaase’s latest passion project to life.
2933 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights
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