If we could anthropomorphize a location, or space, then one might say that Strongwater’s bar/restaurant/events space is one helluva schizophrenic animal.
In one gigantic industrialized space, art hangs on the walls, couches look comfortable enough to sleep on and a bar in the corner hosts its share of patrons. There’s obviously a place for a stage/sound system setup, but tonight I’m here with the “I hate my job” crowd, and so it’s rather empty and quiet, but still jovial.
I walk through a corridor to the other half of the warehouse, and come upon the official restaurant/bar area. It looks dignified in the dying evening light, with handsome wood adorning the enormous wrap-around bar, retro couches and tables in side rooms that could host parties too big for the smaller sized tables, a ceiling to die for and the kind of windows that let you forget there’s a wall between you and the outside. There’s a masculinity to the room that seems neither forced nor intimidating; rather, an inherent quality to the building’s 1913 beginnings.
If the gritty charm of the building comes from being such an artifact, it’s also proving to be a hurdle in terms of getting the building up to 2013 structure codes. Due to the difficulty of renovating an ancient kitchen, Strongwater has had an incredibly soft opening.
The events space has made this easier, as they host random shows, performance art and electronic music, all within the same area. But the official bar/restaurant will take some time, although the bar is now open, with a full drink menu featuring cocktails and local and imported beers. All are reasonably priced, with the cocktails between $7-$10, and if you’re feeling really cheap, $3 will get you a Pabst tall boy. Once the restaurant is ready, they hope to offer a change of culinary pace from the meat-heavy gut bombs frequenting most other bar menus and focus on more experimental vegetarian cuisine.
While the city is flooded with watered-down cocktail jokes, Strongwater heads in the opposite direction with a focus on simple, house-made ingredients, like their ginger syrup that actually tastes like ginger, not soda pop. You can find it featured in their Bourbon Mule.
The star of the show is the Strongwater Rye. It's the kind of drink that reminds you why you drink — to feel something other than the endless ennui of days becoming difficult to tell apart. It's an intense combination of port-brined peppercorns, fresh habanero and rye whiskey. I asked for it neat because ice is a criminal offense and I'm a masochist.
With a killer drink menu and an amalgamation of creative ventures, Strongwater is sure to put Franklinton on the cultural map.