We were tucked into a dim corner of the bar sipping on a cocktail blended with bitter artichoke liqueur, gin and Icelandic-style yogurt while listening to heavy metal music and snacking on raw beef garnished with a black-as-death chicken egg. At a nearby table we spotted concert jerseys bearing the names Motörhead, Testament and Pantera, and just beyond the wearers' cap-swaddled noggins was a pair of crossed Carolingian swords that appeared to harken back to the 8th Century.
It doesn't take new visitors long to grasp that LBM is not your typical neighborhood bar. It isn't uncommon, say staffers, for weary travelers to crack open the door, have a look around the room, and swiftly return from whence they came. But stick around long enough to see past the art and artifice and you'll discover that, at its heart, LBM is an unpretentious cocktail bar with spitfire beverages and shockingly good grub.
Like that bracing, slightly vegetal cocktail with the ominous-sounding name The Fate of All ($9), LBM is best described as "weird but good." This Birdtown bar with the cryptic moniker definitely is not for everyone, but it earns a deep well of respect for having a personality, a point of view, and the balls to carve out an eccentric niche. If it's an Irish pub with a predictable look, feel and flavor you seek, there is no dearth of nearby options.
The kitschy, high-spirited setting might seem at odds with a serious cocktail program, but that's precisely the point. This dimly lit lair offers an intimidation-free environment in which to dip one's toe in the elixir chasm, much the way Porco Lounge disguises its meticulousness beneath colorful Hawaiian shirts. Behind allegorical names like Until the Light Takes Us, I Am the Sacrifice, and Snatcher of the Moon lie magical-tasting potions with complexity and balance. Priced between $8 and $10 a pop – even less during the bar's benevolent daily happy hour – the drinks undercut like-minded lounges by a wide margin.
For the better part of a year, the owners – a chummy coalition of bar and restaurant vets – worked 12-hour shifts to transform a blank double storefront in Lakewood into a compact 50-seat barroom and dining room. Beverages are served not in hollowed-out goat horns but attractive drink-appropriate glassware. With the exception of the meat and cheese board, food is presented not on rustic wood slabs but on sleek tableware. Bottles of water grace each tabletop and silverware is occasionally swapped out for new. In all of these ways, LBM differs considerably from its rathskeller kin.
That board ($18) is a great way to knock out a meal in a single blow. Deeply flavored cheeses like a two-year-old Beemster or semi-soft blue from Oregon join meats like cotto salami, beef cheek rillettes and a funky truffled lamb terrine. There's plenty of great grilled bread, jam, pickles and remoulade for customizing each bite. Fear not the oddly hued egg; it's merely a Worcestershire-stained soft-cooked egg that oozes into the coarsely ground tenderloin tartar ($12) when bisected. In addition to grilled bread, there's spreadable roasted garlic, onion aioli and chopped fresh herbs.
Other starters include deftly shucked oysters ($2 per) with mignonette and Cajun-dusted pork cracklings ($5) that failed to hold up their end of the bargain in "crispy" department. The phrase "packing peanuts" may or may not have come up in our table talk. No such complaints with the fried chicken ($10), crispy fingers drizzled with chipotle honey, perched atop great braised greens and sided by jalapeno "spoonbread" that is more like cornbread, to quibble.
LBM's burger ($13) is a beast. A supremely beefy blend of brisket, sirloin and short rib is topped with herbed goat cheese, roasted tomato and grilled onions. The bakery-fresh bun holds it all together. Garlicky fries come with house ketchup and spiced aioli.
If you like the homely arrangements found in chicken pot pie, you'll likely dig the poutine ($10), a mountain of fries buried beneath a creamy porridge flush with shredded chicken, peas and carrots. Absent, at least to my eyes, were bona fide cheese curds. Tender gnocchi ($10) arrive in a nicely spiced curry sauce, there's just a tad too much of it.
Already LBM has established itself as a neighborhood favorite during happy hour. From 4 to 7 p.m. those burgers and fries are just $7, cracklings $3 and classic cocktails like an eye-opening Sazerac, sturdy Old Fashioned and summery Tom Collins are just $6 each. At prices like those, it's a good thing the bar is within walking distance to the Madison Avenue RTA station.
Oh, and as for the mysterious name: For the record, LBM stands for... [end document]