Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bowling ball in a swimming pool


Post by Amy Price
Ok, Ok, I admit it. I suck at blogging. And yet I LOVE to read them. So in celebrating my 5th anniversary at ai3, I’m writing my first entry tonight over a glass of wine. Ironically, I logged onto the website to see what was last posted and Joe posted this morning about the importance of experiencing our benchmarks first hand. What a perfect intro into the first Benchmark Recon post!
Since last summer, ai3 has been regularly visiting our neighboring restaurants, bars, hotels, and hotspots. Why? Because happy hour is a blast with this group and because Joe nailed it- you can’t get inspired from an LCD screen and you can’t smell that high res pork belly photo, I don’t care how much you paid for your Macbook.
Here’s how it works- every couple of weeks, a handful of us will rush out of the office mumbling about work left to do, maneuver midtown traffic and quickly settle into the selected destination for some hilarious small talk and unwinding under the guise of local research to size up the competition. Don’t get me wrong, we love our fellow architects and designers, but you can’t drink in someone else’s space without checking out the restrooms, locating the purse hooks (or lack thereof- tisk tisk!) and sampling the server’s favorite menu picks. We photograph details we love, discuss things we don’t understand, but more importantly, we ENJOY the space. We drink, we eat. We check out the scene, the demographics, the mood. We laugh about whatever witty design metaphor Dave created this week, we tease Ethan about his hair product, and then we go home.

This week’s happy hour started at the Optimist, Ford Frey’s newest nosh spot on the West side at 914 Howell Mill Road.  Two concepts in one, the Optimist and the Oyster Bar are both themed in a southern coastal d├ęcor that echo Ford’s style (in Smith Hanes’ hand) with textural fabrics, funky lighting elements and a great cocktail menu. The vibe was laid back, the bar service reserved, and the food and drinks were awesome.





Curiosity killed the cat and Dan, Lucy, Elisa, and I decided to peek in at Richard Blais’ new restaurant, the Spence. We had a great array of shared plates and a couple bottles of wine. The space was… nice. Dark, simple, and with the warm woody Johnson Studio feel we’ve all come to expect from a Concentrics space. My favorite element was ironically the restrooms- the signage was great. Little toilet graphics on door portholes- the women’s sign had the toilet seat down, the men’s room had the seat up! Unfortunately the staff ruined the element of surprise by warning us all about the subtle signage on the way to the restroom, but they were clever none the less.






We finished the evening off at STK for a night cap. We sat in the lounge and comments seemed to hover around the Vegas style of the space- not necessarily our scene, but definitely a great homage to Sin City, it was like being transported to the Strip! Dark, moody, glowy and with great restrooms, it was a great way to end a wonderful evening.








“What sound does a bowling ball make when you throw it in a pool?”
You’ll have to ask Elisa for the answer to that one.

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