Tippin the Scales 

Lizardville loads up on whiskey and beer

Like any new obsession — be it fine wine, craft beer, cheese, or in this case whiskey — it's nearly impossible to know where to begin. The choices are bewildering, the terminology foreign. Lizardville is here to help.

Open since April, Lizardville is a boutique spin-off from the Winking Lizard restaurant group. Taking over the Bedford Heights space on Miles Road that previously housed the original Lizard, Lizardville aims to be the state's preeminent source for whiskey and craft beer. At last count the bar had about 170 whiskeys and 600 beers, a figure as impressive as it is daunting.

As longtime vodka drinkers, my father and I were eager to branch out, perhaps to discover a new favorite bourbon, scotch, or rye. What greeted us at Lizardville wasn't so much a menu as a catalog. The tome is filled with 65-odd pages, including a table of contents and index, as well as some four-dozen flights. Obviously, we needed some guidance.

"How's this work?" asked Pop, eager to get started.

"What do you mean?" responded the bartender, quickly deflating the mood.

Fortunately for us, another bartender stepped in to show us the ropes. After asking what we typically drink, he suggested suitable whiskey flights: single-malt scotch for Dad, bourbon for me. Served in curvaceous little snifters and presented on small wooden paddles, the three-drink flights indeed are a great way to evaluate a new label. We were instructed to sniff and sample each one straight, before adding a drop or two of water from the nearby container for the second pass.

If you think wine has its intricacies, take comfort in the fact that it's all made from grapes. Whiskies can be made from corn, rye, wheat, or malted barley. They hail from Tennessee, Kentucky, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, and beyond. Some are single-malt, others blended. And then there's the aging: new or used barrels, made from French or American oak, for amounts of time that range from 18 months to 25 years. The multifariousness of it all could drive a man to drink.

When you do settle upon a specific brand, you have a choice of a short (1.25 ounces) or long (2 ounces) pour. If you request ice, it comes in the form of a single, slow-melting puck. Since the whole point of the exercise is to experiment with untested liquors, I love the option of small, relatively inexpensive pours.

As bewildering as the whiskey selection is, the beer inventory puts it to shame. Nearly every inch of wall space is consumed by shelving devoted exclusively to beer. Grouped by style rather than brewery, they sit beneath signs that read "sour ales," "fruit beers," "Belgian strong ales," "stouts," and "porters." All are available for carry-out or in-house consumption ($1 over retail for regular sizes, $2 for large format). Beers off the shelf can be brought to drinking temperature in about six minutes. Most customers, however, stick to the eight seasonal drafts or 60-odd refrigerated bottles.

Cigar smokers are given more variety here than would-be diners, with nearly two dozen cigars available for outdoor consumption on a covered, heated patio. Diners, on the other hand, have only a choice between fruit, cheese, and meat boards.

That will soon change, says GM Jason Presser. An expansion will bump up interior seating from 25 to 50, and a new kitchen will begin putting out more substantial food. As for whether that food will be pub grub or more ambitious small-plate fare, Presser says that's still undecided.

Apparently, we'll just have to keep drinking until we find out.

More by Douglas Trattner


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