I guess it's true what they say: You can take the bar out of Broadway, but you can't take the Broadway out of the bar. I'm not sure who exactly said that, but whoever it was, they probably spend most nights of the week at Desiderio's.
Yes, the same Desiderio's -- that's Desi's to you regulars -- that used to keep the theatergoing public going hours after curtain call at their Pearl Street haunt downtown. Three years later, Desiderio's on Broadway isn't so far from its theater back alleys of recent memory. A spanking (relatively) new location, replete with full Italian restaurant, is open in Lancaster on -- you guessed it -- Broadway.
It should be noted that the charm and neighborhood camaraderie of the downtown theater crowd is a bit lost here, even on a street named for the most legendary of all theater districts. Framed posters of Broadway musicals like "Cabaret" and "Jekyll and Hyde" are warm and welcoming to the non-football-watching folk (like me), but it feels all but lost in this sea of neon and sports-bar guy talk. If it were any more ironic it would be a Mamet classic.
That said, owners Jay and Bob have gone the extra steps to maintain the fans of yesteryear while inviting an entire new audience to this new suburban stomping ground. And in the quaint and humble streets of Lancaster, a finer neighborhood couldn't be found. The new Desi's fits in, just the way we like our on-the-corner bars.
On a recent weeknight visit, the lounge was noticeably low in attendance, though not necessarily quiet. As the sound guy for Wednesday night regulars Brothers Grimm (a band comprised of members from three popular local cover bands) traversed the rather large stage, he checked each microphone to find its pitch-perfect level.
"Chhhh. Chhhh. Chhhhhhheck," he barked, over and over, louder and louder. The few friends seated at the bar didn't seem to notice, but one of the rowdier patrons jokingly requested the technician to "Stop checking!" Ahhh, these are my kind of people. These are fun people.
The entire atmosphere of the place screams fun. Driving up, you're quick to notice a large outdoor patio that looks larger than most indoor dining rooms. Adorned with glowing lighted palm trees and a lovely stone wall, this place fills up early on the weekends.
Inside the lounge, a very long three-sided bar could easily seat 30 stools, with room for probably 100 or so more people around. This is quite the lounge. For every electrical outlet there are at least two neon beer signs, which gives a warm if not disco-like glow to the room. The impressive lighting rig and requisite disco ball also feed the idea that on busy nights, this place really jumps.
Add to that a pool table and a wall of signed headshots of famous local and national actors who have swept through town on Broadway road shows, and this place feels like a combination family room and finished basement. You know, with a bar.
Tuesday night, which proudly keeps its Pearl Street after-theater tradition alive, features Super Sound Karaoke at 10:15 p.m. So long as the disco ball is still up, so will I be. Come to think of it, every weeknight here starts after 10 p.m. Wednesday nights with the Brothers Grimm, Thursdays through Saturday with DJ Pauly Paul at 10 p.m.; only on Sunday and Monday nights is there no regular musical act.
Ultimately, it's the people that make a bar great. While we can't say for certain that the fans of Desi's past life make the trek out to Lancaster, even with its Broadway namesake, it's comforting to see a new life born out of the new digs. So long as they don't take down those musical posters, the traditions of Desiderio's will live on. Now and forever.
Desiderio's on Broadway
5827 Broadway, Lancaster
Scene: Locals, after-work crowd, music fans
Best time to go: Tuesday through Saturday
Music: Classic rock, oldies, karaoke
Drinks: Bottles, mixed drinks, beers on tap
Dress code: Casual
And in the quaint and humble streets of Lancaster, a finer neighborhood couldn't be found.
Next week: Elmwood Lounge