Beer me, Mario: Norse Bar, which opened last week in Edgewater, offers more than 60 brews and a plethora of Wii games.
How long does it take for a bar top to feel gluey to the touch, the smell of stale beer to override the scent of fresh paint, and the bartenders to become a little surly?
I wondered this after The Creative Director and I blew through the door on a 50-mile-an-hour breeze and later sat waiting for a pizza to be delivered to the Norse Bar, a spanking new spot in Edgewater that doesn’t serve food but offers an interesting beer list.
We both drank Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale ($5) as TCD and the bartender, Ben Buhr, who I later gathered is a half-owner, bonded over their shared admiration for the Kansas City brewer. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Boulevard,” said Buhr. “It was the first craft beer I ever drank.
The bar’s few other patrons, most of whom seemed to be friends of the owners (the weather really was not suited to barhopping last night, though somehow this was our third stop), were watching a baseball game between Texas and St. Louis.
The Norse Bar has all the trappings of a soon-to-be-popular neighborhood hangout: a sturdy wooden bar, high-def TVs, more than 60 beers, pretzel sticks for munching, a folder of menus from restaurants that deliver, and an added bonus—two TVs loaded with Wii games. When our pies from Apart arrived, Buhr kindly placed flowered paper plates and a stack of cocktail napkins in front of us.
“How’d you come up with the name Norse?” I asked him, eyeing a Viking helmet perched behind a row of taps.
Buhr shrugged. “It’s random. The other owner and I [he nodded toward a blonde, baseball-capped guy Facebooking on his laptop; later I Facebooked Norse Bar and found out his name is Ian Andrusyk] both live in Bucktown. Our friends thought this location was so far north, and one of them was like, ‘How about Norse? Sounds like north.’”
Buhr told us his apartment is around the corner from the Map Room. “A lot of the beers I’ve tried in my life, I’ve tried there,” he said. A onetime bartender and manager at Witts in Lakeview, Buhr developed the original beer list for Leopold, the Belgian-inspired West Town spot owned by the same people.
A bit later, Buhr slid a sample of beer in front of TCD. “Try this, dude,” he said. TCD sipped, then passed it to me. The smooth, rich liquid reminded me of breakfast.
“It has a fruity nose, goes down easy,” TCD said.
“No one has this. It’s kind of a secret,” said Buhr. It’ll stay that way, too, since I didn’t catch the name—but if you want to taste it, just stop by and ask for the dark beer that smells like bananas. (This morning, TCD remembered it was a Dunkelweizen.)
Another couple was firing up the Wii—Norse has all the old Mario games, plus Blades of Steel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter, and lots more. I asked Buhr if he ever plays.
“Oh yeah, I’ll play for like two hours before I’m open. Especially Punch-Out,” he said.
The phone behind the bar started ringing, and Buhr glanced at the caller ID. “It’s all you, man,” he said, passing the receiver to his computing co-owner, who for some reason gave me a fleeting impression of the actor Owen Wilson. Andrusyk answered the call, listened for a minute, and then strode purposefully toward the bottles of hard liquor. He poured a splash of Patrón coffee liqueur into a glass and threw it back. “Yeah, it’s delicious, pretty good,” he told the caller. “You, too, have a good night.” He returned to his seat.
“Wait, what was that?” asked a girl next to me at the bar.
“Dial-a-shot,” Andrusyk said. “One bartender calls another bartender, and they take a shot over the phone.”
“Who was it?” the girl asked.
“A place called Memories across the street. They sounded happy,” he said.
Nice neighbors those Vikings have up here in Edgewater.