The Olive Bar is close to achieving that elusive "all things for all people" sweet spot. They've got the winner for Best Bartender pouring drinks and entertaining guests. They've also taken home the Best Martini prize, but they're not some kind of geeky mixology-snob place. And with wins for Best Happy Hour and Best Late-Night Eats, as well as Best Pizza (next door at George's), it's hard to see how you couldn't find something to satisfy your own particular taste.
Here’s what Mike Androw, bartender at The Olive Bar, and this year’s winner of Best Bartender, had to say about being a good bartender. "You can teach a monkey to open up a bottle of beer. But when you have 10 tickets on a service bar printer, when you’re taking three separate food orders, when you’re making drinks for a bar that’s four deep, and you’re carrying on three separate conversations -- one about sports, one about foreign bond yields, and one about religion’s place in politics -- when you can do it all at the same time, and when you can do it 15 hours straight without stopping to eat or pee, then go home, get a couple hours of sleep, and come back and do it 15 hours again, then you’re a good bartender. Until then you’re just a monkey opening a bottle of beer."
You might say that happy hour makes itself -- affordable drinks, food specials, people getting out of work, ready to unwind. Its hard to mess up, but Olive Bar has the subtle touches down to an art. With over a dozen half-price appetizers and three-dollar domestic drafts, you can see the appeal. But bartender Mike Androw says its as much the balance of the atmosphere that makes Olive Bar an after-work draw. “The person whos 21 feels just as comfortable as the person whos 61,” says Androw. Its not an Irish bar or a sports bar. “We dont get cute,” says Androw. “We know what works. And we dont change that. We stick to the formula.” Olive Bars prime location, accessible to workers heading home after a day at the office, doesnt hurt either. “Everyone passes by,” says bartender Evan Parsons.
There are places that have everything – encyclopedic menus, staggering scotch selections, dozens of flat-screen TVs – but those places dont necessarily cultivate that elusive sense of feeling right at home, the thing that makes everyone feel like a regular. Olive Bar has all the goodies, tons of food and drinks, and you can watch the game and catch live music as well, but it earns its status as a neighborhood bar because the staff will pretty much have your cocktail or your favorite flavor of pint poured for you by the time you take your seat at the bar. “Just about everyone who walks in that door is going to feel at home,” says bartender Bryce Hardy, who along with each of the the other two bartenders has been there for six years. So they know their way around a cocktail, they know the town and they know their customers. “Were the place where you can walk in – a couple of guys together, a girl by herself, a group from work – and you feel comfortable.”