The Eats: The Neighbor Lady, 2308 E. Union St., 695-2072, Central District. Full bar, elevated pub fare, and comfort food.
Fries with veggie gravy and cheese? Yes, please!
The Deets: The Neighbor Lady is a recently-opened venture from Stephan Mollmann and Shira Bray, the same folks who run the Twilight Exit, and occupies the old Thompson's Point of View space just off 23rd and Union. Tinted windows prevent you from seeing much from the street, but step through its massive, gate-like entry and you'll notice the Twilight calling card everywhere--chintzy hanging lights, vintage framed oil paintings, even a "leg" lamp. Unlike its parent bar, with decor lifted from Eric Forman's basement, there's definitely a "classy saloon" theme happening at the Lady--Damask wallpaper, a subtle color palette, and matching furnishings take the aesthetic one step further.
Having never been inside Thompson's, I can't say much about the renovation, but it does seem the Lady is settling into its role in the 'hood gracefully. 23rd and Union is a notoriously rough intersection, and new businesses like this, and Med Mix next door, are bringing much-needed positive energy to the area. Lady's prime location, unflashy presence, and Mollmann's solid CD-centric business acumen are strong indications the bar will fare well. Plus, from the looks of her diverse stream of customers, its well-priced menu is as attractive to Twilight regulars as it is to Thompson's.
The Beets: In a 'hood best know for its Esquire and Oprah-approved Ezell's Fried Chicken, The Neighbor Lady is a gold mine for vegetarians. There are bountiful options for the herbivore here: lentil loaf with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, fried black bean and sweet corn raviolis, smoked white bean sliders--even sandwiches can be made vegetarian with either tempeh bacon or Field Roast. But for any vegetarian long-denied the simple pleasure of fries and gravy, the poutine, a giant plate of cross-cut fries, smothered in vegetarian mushroom gravy and white cheddar, is a must.
The fries are perfectly crisp and sturdy enough to withstand heavy gravy scooping. And, as if by cue--no joke--Pink Floyd's "Gravy Train" and "Nicotine and Gravy" by Beck just happened to play on the jukebox while I shoveled in happy mouthfuls. Gravy with a side of...gravy. What could be better? Maybe those cross-cut fries with housemade truffle aioli, but that'll have to wait until next time--which won't be long for me, that's for sure.
The Tweet: Don't wait, vegetarians: Get to know The Neighbor Lady!