The idea behind Moda’s reinvention made sense. Shake up the pricey (bottle service), exclusive (booth reservations required), and fashion-obsessed (who’s buying Prada these days, anyway?) approach in favor of something a little less Roberto Cavalli and a little more recession-conscious. The owners’ decision to join up with the team behind the more downscale Barleycorn seemed logical, so when the River North bar reopened March 12 as Social Twenty-Five I decided to see just how solid a makeover it was. In a perfect world, Social Twenty-Five would have had a good 25 things going for it. I counted three:
1. It’s a really sweet spot to watch the game. The giant main room has no fewer than ten very large flat-screen TVs that were tuned, on my visit, to NCAA action, a soccer game, and Fox News. Unlike plenty of sports bars that lack the ability to project sound above the din, here the basketball game was blaring on an excellent system, making it crystal clear to follow, if that’s your goal.
2. It’s an incredibly attractive space that still feels fashionable: a good pick for watching hoops in heels. Candles flicker on sleek high-top tables, and deliciously oversize U-shape booths provide ample space for traditionally hard-to-seat groups.
3. The bar has a 4 a.m. license, giving the downtown crowd somewhere to head when the city shuts down but they’re still good to go.
I wish my list was longer, but there was no cocktail menu, no beer on tap (really? at a sports bar?), and a fairly small but pricey selection available by the bottle; my Blue Moons ran me $6 each. Wine, displayed in towering racks, seems to occupy a place of honor, but the $8 to $12 glasses weren’t what I was expecting from a sports lounge.
Overall, it just felt a little funny, like a slightly upscale neighborhood bar in a pocket of River North that has no residential neighbors—only barflies immigrating from elsewhere for the evening. Maybe that’s why it was completely empty at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday, even though Rockit was buzzing across the street. Or maybe drinking at 10 p.m. in a 4 a.m. bar is just way too early. Maybe my schedule is what needs the makeover.