Third Room, in developer Mark Goldman's Calumet building at the corner of West Chippewa and Franklin, is where it all started in 1990. It's hard to believe, but back then the Chippewa entertainment district -- the now-famous "Chip strip" -- was non-existent.
Today, the building houses Bacchus Wine Bar & Restaurant and Latin club La Luna, with Third Room sandwiched between them. While Third Room and La Luna have separate and distinct identities, they share a basement for storage, a door for barbacks and a cozy rear patio where another bar awaits. Despite the rumors, there are no plans to merge Third Room and La Luna, said bartender Frank Zorechak, an eight-year veteran of the building's establishments.
For those who at all costs try to avoid the strip's popped-collar trendiness, Third Room still holds some allure.
On a recent Saturday night, we arrived just before the place was swept up in its usual midnight madness. Third Room is a classic late-night place. It fills up between 12:30 and 1 a.m. and stays that way until 4 a.m. When the weather is nice, however, the room can fill up and quickly empty out onto the patio like a tide.
The room is narrow, with nice booths up front along the windows for people watching. The deep red color scheme, votive candles and mix of avant-garde art on the walls set the relaxed mood. You'd think this was Allentown.
During our visit, a twentysomething group of women used the mirrors at every turn for primping. But their off-key singing later on sadly made it feel like a sorority party. My acquaintance had a $4 vodka tonic -- it's a drink that can go horribly wrong, but Zorechak mixed it well. Third Room also offers drafts of Heineken, Guinness, Labatt Blue and Sam Adams for $4.
Two flat-screen TVs positioned at the north and south ends of the bar were showing college football, and a dartboard was in constant use. From the DJ booth -- positioned near a potential dance area in the back -- came hip-hop and dance songs.
Third Room is the elder statesman on a block that has seen many changes over the last two decades. In fact, the whole Calumet building has long been a stalwart of class and style in an increasingly run-of-the-mill area.
56 W. Chippewa
Scene: Cooler and more sophisticated than most places on Chippewa.
Music: An instrumental, soft-jazz version of "You Got Me" by the Roots featuring Erykah Badu helped set the tone.
Drinks: Thursday night special on Molson for $2.50 and $2 well drinks.
Dress code: Some Sabres jerseys and jeans, but step it up a notch if you plan on migrating next door to La Luna.