Three friends and a dog on Prozac walk into a bar. The bar this time around is Bar 409 inside of Puck Food Hall at 409 South Main. The dog is a well-medicated Italian greyhound named Tiger. The friends, probably also well-medicated, are just here for the drinks and conversation.
Puck Food Hall is a collection of various types of cuisine, including places that serve pizza, pasta, gelato (and vegan sorbet!), coffee, Chinese fusion, baked goods, and salads, but tonight, friends, we are here for the bar. We're choosing spirits over sustenance.
Bar 409 is no dank hole in the wall. It's a bright, airy space painted the deep reds, dark blues, and bright whites of a Memphis riverboat.
- Bar 409 is bright and airy — and well-stocked with makings for fine cocktails.
Harvey Grillo is our bartender, and this man, when we walk in, is hard at work squeezing 100-plus oranges for drinks. He's a Memphis transplant, having been here about seven years, but he eases into conversation with us like a born-and-raised Memphian.
Two of Bar 409's featured drinks are the Purple Rain and the Kentucky Palm Tree. The Purple Rain is Wheatley vodka with Campari, hibiscus syrup, and a flowery liqueur, and it is as delicious as it is purple.
The Kentucky Palm Tree "tastes like the end of summer," Harvey points out, and it does! It's made with Buffalo Trace, Passoa, and fernet. We also tried the Ancho & Lefty, a drink with mezcal and Japones pepper syrup.
Like most brilliant mixology bars in town, Bar 409 employs homemade bitters and syrups and sets drinks off with unique garnishes. And unless the mountain of fruit before us is a mirage, the drinks' fruity ingredients are freshly squeezed.
This is a bar made for some people-watching. It's the first thing you see when you enter the food hall, and it's a good place to park it if you want to take it all in. The place must be a circus with South Main's monthly Trolley Night events since it can accommodate so many people, but, unlike most other places, it's built for a large crowd.
It's a multi-level hall that beckons to be occupied to the max on busy nights. On a date? Ditch them in the throngs! Have a kid? Plop them in the pop-up library adjacent to the bar! Have more than one kid? Stuff a $20 bill in one of their grubby fists and send them to get some ice cream! Have an affinity for fine drink? Venture no further than the bar!
A contained crowd in a place where there's something for everybody is a nice change from spilling wine in a gallery, like we are wont to do most Trolley Nights, right? On top of that, Bar 409 has just installed a projector to show movies on the vast, empty wall behind and above the bar.
The bar staff is envisioning themed movie nights for bar and food hall guests, and suddenly drinking alone while watching a movie seems way less lonesome. This is now our city's big opportunity for a collective Big Lebowski/White Russian gathering.
Bar 409 is not just accommodating of the liquor drinkers among us. They also offer a variety of local beers on tap and a small wine list, and those who want to dine can order food from any of the restaurant spaces and bring it to the bar to eat.
The night I visited, it was the middle of the week and not every restaurant space was open, but there was a decent crowd of people hanging out. It's also an air-conditioned inside space that allows dogs, so no more heatstroke on a patio for our canine friends!
Three friends and a dog on Prozac walk out of a bar. One, a photographer, accidentally leaves his camera but, thankfully, remembers the dog. We've enjoyed some drinks in a place that was left empty for many years, only occasionally used as a wedding venue.
It's another great new space for Downtowners and another beautiful building repurposed into something we can all get behind: spirits and sustenance.
Bar 409 is located inside Puck Food Hall at 409 S. Main.