Despite the state of Utah's increasing insensitivity and seemingly downright disdain for consumers and sellers of alcohol and those who enjoy imbibing, we've still seen a recent boom in cocktail bars. Just in the past few months, Water Witch, Purgatory, Prohibition and Tinwell opened to hurrahs all-around, joining the ranks of Murphy's, Whiskey Street, Bourbon House, BTG—you name it.
One of the newest spots for bellying up to the bar is Lake Effect, an expansive space on 200 South that most recently was The Hotel, and some will remember as Shaggy's. Longtime SLC bar vet Nick Chachas—who once worked at Shaggy's, as well as Gracie's and other adult fun zones—is the engine that motors Lake Effect, and he has created a watering hole that you could easily mistake for one in New York City, San Francisco or Paris, for that matter. I don't think anyone ever used the word "gorgeous" to describe The Hotel or Shaggy's, but Lake Effect is just that, as Chachas has totally overhauled the space.
Since I'm no interior designer, I risk doing injustice to the décor makeover. Quite simply, it's stunning—from tufted high-back chairs in Louis XIV hues, padded leather booths and a floor-to-ceiling wine display, to the bar's clever incorporation of both natural and industrial design elements (motorcycle engine chains made into chandeliers, for instance). Even the restrooms are memorable: The women's is wallpapered and feminine (so I'm told), while the men's is dark and decorated with erotic photography.
There is, however, a kink or two. On my first visit, my party had to wait at least 10 minutes while a hostess attempted to scan patrons' IDs with an iPhone. Once seated, it still took quite some time to quench that thirst, as it was a busy Friday evening and cocktail service was slow. However, Lake Effect had just opened, so hopefully those sorts of glitches have been remedied.
You know you're going to be faced with a bevy of beverage choices when your server hands you a spiral-bound drink menu—which lists original and classic cocktails, as well as liquors, beers and wines. Hunkered into a lengthy booth, we very much enjoyed a round of Bee's Knees cocktails made with lemon, acacia honey syrup, bitters and Hendrick's gin swapped out for the Tanqueray used at Lake Effect. The bartender didn't complain about our gin choice and was more than happy to accommodate.
I was pleasantly surprised by the food selection; it certainly isn't a typical bar menu. There are definite Mexican and Spanish influences, with dishes and tapas like paella, octopus and chorizo, tacos, churro funnel cake, carnitas and even the Mexican burger with garlic shrimp, avocado, pickled onion and jalapeño cream cheese. The slow-roasted cochinito with four housemade tortillas made me very happy. If you're looking for other flavors, there are also items like a Cubano sandwich, wagyu steak, cinnamon pancakes and a BLT—something for everyone.
The beer and wine selections are uncommonly expansive, especially for a place focusing on craft cocktails. There are 25 wines available by the glass, dozens more by the bottle, and some 130 beers that run the gamut from Bud Light to Wasatch Jalapeño Cream Ale, Unibroue Belgian Tripel or Lindemans Framboise Raspberry Lambic. Again, there's something for everybody.