New LeVeque bar offers class at a cost

For nine decades, praise has been lavished upon a stunning Columbus landmark. If some of those lofty accolades can sound like Muhammad Ali-worthy exaggerations, the following claims are all verifiable: It's the undeniable icon of our local skyline; it was the world's fifth tallest building when erected in 1927; it was selected last year, by no less than Architectural Digest, to be one of the 10 most beautiful art-deco buildings on the entire planet.

Yes, I'm talking about the LeVeque Tower.

Thanks to a just-unveiled major renovation of the grand old edifice, we can now enter its eye-popping premises and enjoy a stylish snack along with a snazzy cocktail in The Keep, the little retro-hip lounge in the recently inaugurated Hotel LeVeque.

Light has long helped define the tower. Its beamed exterior illuminations routinely brighten Downtown panoramas and relate timely, color-themed messages on topics ranging from the Buckeyes to cancer awareness.

As new visitors will vividly discover, light is also celebrated inside via remarkable, myth-referencing murals and starry artworks informed by the night sky. Like the tower itself, these vintage decorations are time-tripping echoes from earlier eras.

So it's fitting that The Keep — whose second floor entrance requires passing by scads of delicious eye-candy — is a cool and dark, blast-from-the-past-type place where old-school gas lanterns flicker and heavy little lamps rest atop the small, curved bar. The compact-but-multi-chambered, casual establishment also features brown leather couches, Rat Pack tunes, a few TVs and extremely friendly servers clad in black ties.

Drinks run the gamut from an abbreviated, but interesting, French-leaning wine list (glasses are $6-$25) to Columbus-brewed draughts ($6-$7; five are offered) to big-league cocktails (most are $12).

From the latter category, the Sazerac-esque Amelia's Beacon made with Templeton rye, absinthe, a pretty lemon-peel spiral, plus house peach syrup, is potent, refreshing and just-sweet. The elegant In Brasserie Fashioned is even better — a strong, fruity (but unadulterated by muddled fruit), rich-yet-balanced twist on an Old Fashioned made with Basil Hayden's, orange, St. Germaine, a fancy cherry and a huge, scene-stealing spherical ice cube infused with bitters.

From the currently limited, not-cheap food options — here, $12 buys warm nuts, baked brie or a good-sounding pate plate — I tried the deviled eggs (3 halves for $8). Unusual but not weird, they're textured, smoky and brightly accented from minced country ham and pickled peppers. Like this place's name practically suggests, they're keepers.