Unless you order all of your holiday gifts online, chances are you'll find yourself making the annual mad dash through one of our local shopping malls – an experience that faintly resembles a frenzied Milton Bradley-style board game.
We knew not to expect anything less, when my husband and I visited the Mall at Millenia on a Sunday afternoon for some early holiday spending (ahem, I mean shopping). Now, I certainly don't mean to sound like the Grinch, but after a few exhausting hours of gift-buying, we longed to rest our feet. And what better way to raise our holiday spirits than by bar-hopping around the mall?
It happened to be a temperate fall afternoon, so we planted down under the big covered outdoor bar area of Blue Martini (4200 Conroy Road, Suite H-246) to indulge in the happy hour menu – everything is half-price until 8 p.m. here.
The upscale lounge, which also encompasses an indoor space with an ultra-lounge vibe, entertains high-end shoppers toting purchases from Burberry, Dior or Michael Kors. And while a pretentious air swarms the place – note the "Fashionable Attire Required" sign near the entry – my Bellini hit the just-sweet-enough mark, while my husband described his Masterpiece Blue as "a beast of a martini."
Mario, the most knowledgeable and affable bartender of the day, greeted us a short time later as we swiped through the iPad cocktail menu at the Capital Grille (4200 Conroy Road, Suite 146A, pictured above). He then concocted our chosen drinks by hand right in front of us – fresh muddled basil and lime for a Gin Rickey and a steady stream of Maker's Mark for a classic Manhattan. The latter was a fitting choice, in keeping with the swanky New York City feel of the bar's dark wood, but by the time we took our last sip, we were ready for something a bit more down-to-earth – perhaps with a local twist.
That was certainly the intention when we left the immediate mall area to stop in nearby Pasha Taverna & Lounge (4104 Millenia Blvd., No. 106), and the prospect of a cocktail from their diverse menu looked promising. But after waiting nearly 15 minutes with no bartender in sight, we made a move across the street to Crave (4158 Conroy Road).
Admittedly, we weren't stoked on visiting another chain – the blown-glass fixtures in Crave's bathroom stand out more in my mind than the ambience of the bar or the selection of craft beers (eight on tap), if that says anything. But I will note that my strawberry-jalapeño margarita proved rousing – it was definitely one of the tastier cocktails of the day.
It's undeniable that the large-scale retail culture surrounding the Mall at Millenia directly reflects the lack of distinguishing nightlife options in the area. Then again, it's the holidays, so I suppose I should lighten up and raise my glass to all of the best parts of the season – the tree-trimming and the gift-giving and the … family time.
On second thought: Bartender, I'll have another round.