Monday, September 25, 2023 Sep 25, 2023
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Bar Review

Wheelhouse Gives the Design District a Modern Gastropub

You'll find a curious piece of public art, too.
By Tara Nieuwesteeg |
Bret Redman

The first thing I noticed about Wheelhouse, a relaxed gastropub in the Design District, was the 18-foot white panel that dominated the outdoor patio, like an iceberg had cut through the hull of the establishment. I resolved to investigate.

But first I headed to the bar for a drink. The space is compact and modern, with large doors that open to the outdoor area. Booths and tables are sprinkled around the bar, and sleek lights hang overhead.

“The bourbon selection is unbelievable,” my friend said, pointing to a lineup of bottles on a shelf. “This place was made for dudes in their 30s.”

We tried the Fancy Free, an on-tap Old Fashioned, but it was quite strong. I ordered the Kickstarter, a mezcal drink—then decided to pace myself.

As I scanned the crowd, I spotted a group of men with beards of varying sizes. Close by, a blonde from the Society of Forensic Toxicologists, judging by the words emblazoned on her vest, sipped a beer. A couple stood by the giant white rectangle, snapping selfies. After a minute, an Italian lady came up to the bar.

“Do you have Aperol?” she asked the bartender. “It’s orange.”

The 18-foot white panel dominates the relaxed gastropub’s outdoor patio.

He rummaged around while she quizzed him on the proper way to make an Aperol spritz. As the bartender made the drink to her exacting specifications, I asked about the white panel. In the light, it was difficult to tell what the carving in the middle was. Was it art?

“It was supposed to hang from the ceiling,” he said. “But as it is—it’s a conversation starter.”

“It makes a lot more sense,” another bartender chimed in, “if you walk around and see it from the other side.”

When I did, I found that on the other side, the installation had the shape of a man’s body, as though he was falling through a plaster sheet. It’s a piece by artist Daniel Arsham called Moving Figure.

But where was he falling from? What did it mean? I wasn’t sure, so I went back to sipping my Kickstarter. It would probably make more sense in a few minutes.

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