Panic settled in on a wednesday evening at Hillside Tavern. The bar was packed from the mounted deer head at one end of the room to the chalkboard draft list at the other end. As Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar” wafted just above the din of the dressed-down, middle-aged crowd, I realized I might actually have to wait for a seat.
Despite being full of humans, the tavern was chill: simple cocktails, no pretense, sports on the TVs. Still, I was glad when two seats opened up smack dab in the middle of the bar, that special place where bartenders can’t ignore you. Not that ours tried to. He introduced himself and explained that this was actually a somewhat slow night for Hillside Tavern. I looked around in disbelief. “Who are all these people?”
“We get a lot from the neighborhood,” he said. “There’s not much else on this side of the lake. A place like this was needed.”
Part of the crowd that comes to this fairly sleepy stretch of Mockingbird might be due to the ownership, too. Brooks Anderson and Bradley Anderson have an enthusiastic following from their other ventures, including Rapscallion, Boulevardier, and Veritas Wine Room. Hillside, it seemed, was another flavor in the successful lineup.
The tavern’s walls are covered with old photos, beer signs, and local art. The menu includes burgers, salads, cocktails, and beer. The place has a sense of contrived comfort, of a neighborhood watering hole waiting to be fully broken in.
By the look of it, I doubted the Lakewood community would have any trouble on that front. And as I finished my drink, I decided that maybe I’d wander in again someday—assuming, of course, that I didn’t have to wait for a spot.