It’s a Furniture Store With a Lounge Act

Price tags on the décor might lead you to believe that The Imperial is trying to sell more than beer and wine.



After a few drinks at The Imperial, you may get the urge to redecorate your home.

Photo By Norma Lopez Molina

If it weren’t for the price tags on the hand-carved wooden tables, chairs, benches and various Asian décor items in the room, some might not detect that The Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden on Lake Ivanhoe’s antique row has a day job as a retail store.

John Washburn opened The Imperial in April 2010 when his furniture business, Washburn Imports, continued to suffer with the economy. He had a lot of exotic furniture sitting around doing nothing after 5 p.m., so he did what all kinds of business owners have done to survive: find new markets.

You won’t see sullen hipsters sipping Pabst Blue Ribbon here. In the interest of matching libation to location, Washburn says he looks for beers and wines that complement the furniture—hand-crafted and out of the ordinary. The Imperial serves only microbrews ($5-$10, draft and bottled) and lesser-known wines ($7-$13 by the glass; $25-$295 by the bottle) with names like Lost Coast Great White Ale and Sharecropper’s Cabernet Sauvignon. In a room full of furnishings made to be centerpieces in homes, the hand-carved bar itself grabs everyone’s attention. It’s gorgeous, but it’s not for sale.

The Imperial crowd depends on the time of day: After work an older, professional class of people stops in for beers, while later at night it’s a hangout for 20-somethings splitting bottles of wine. People come here to talk, retiring to alcoves of furniture that give them some privacy. Food options are limited to a choice of cheese or charcuterie, but on Friday nights you can buy delicious sushi from the Fish Out of Water food truck parked just outside The Imperial’s entrance.  

Washburn isn’t concerned about the combination of new furniture and drinking. A few dings and scrapes could add character to the wooden pieces, which, by the way, you can put on your tab.
 

 


 

At D&B’s, Game On!

Dave and Buster’s is Chuck E Cheese for adults—and that’s not a bad thing if you’re into fun and games with cocktails and dinner. The new, 44,000-square-foot D&B’s on south I-Drive includes a sports bar, sit-down family restaurant and arcade funhouse with more than 200 games spitting out noise and tickets that players big and small cash in for prizes. The circular bar (above) divides the game area from the dining room, putting distance between diners and arcade noise. The bar was made for watching football, with seven flat screens hoisted over each of its two sides and a super-sized high-def screen mounted on a wall. You can get a personal speaker for your table so you can listen to a particular game. Nice touch. 

After reading several negative reviews on yelp.com, I arrived at D&B’s expecting overpriced, mediocre food, $6 beers and snooty service. But a non-happy-hour domestic draft was $3.50 and a delicious salad with grilled chicken was $9. Our server, Dave (not THE Dave), loved his job, and he was great at it.

D&B’s offers two happy hours (4:30-7 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m.-close Sunday-Thursday) and half-price games on Wednesdays. Good manners and legal ramifications prevented me from checking out the ladies room, but the men’s room was possibly the cleanest restaurant bathroom I have ever seen.

—Mike Boslet

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