Step up through the door at the Triangle Tavern.
Your eyes focus in the dim light. The bar top looks the same. So is the layout. There are new pictures on the walls. A beer case. And that's mussels on the menu.
The Triangle, which has held the corner of 10th and Reed Streets since Prohibition ended, reopens Sunday, May 10. It closed about seven years ago, an ignominious ending, given the history of this lively bar, where anything could happen and usually did.
Stephen Simons and David Frank, who own Royal Tavern, Khyber Pass Pub, Cantina Los Caballitos, and Cantina Dos Segundos, hope that few will notice the year's worth of work - more than a year's worth actually. Most of the renovation was in the kitchen and downstairs. They actually installed a kitchen, for that matter.
"They were a gastropub before the term existed," Simons said, describing the Triangle as a bar with "better food, better drinks, and better service than you would expect from a bar." Saying they felt a "kinship" to the bar's long-ago operators, they want to "take that idea and carry it forward."
The menu from chef Mark McKinney, who's half-Italian, includes the staples: roast beef ($9), mussels in red or white sauce ($12 an order, or $16 with linguine), and meatballs. There's also a sizable vegetarian and even vegan selection, including vegan roast beef and buffalo wings. (Menu is here.)
Regulars might recall the glory days, when old entertainers such as Tony Dell or Dusty Gale were just as likely to get out there and bust a move as they would bust a hip. The new Triangle will have a jukebox full of oldies but no live music.
Simons and Frank left the layout and vibe of the barroom and dining room much as they were, hewing to tradition just as Mark Bee did at Franky Bradley's, Avram Hornik did with the Dolphin Tavern, and the Garces Group did at the Olde Bar.
The Triangle's bar top is original - "there's even the same gum stuck under there," said associate Suzanne O'Brien - but the bar's base is new. For that matter, the bar and dining room got all new floors.
Mementoes were easy to find. Photos and memorabilia were stacked up in the basement (as was a machete). Staff members provided old photos of their relatives.
Cristina Tessaro set up a bar program combining the old classics, a few spins on the old classics, and new ones. Drink selection (here) includes a dozen draft beers, two tap wines by the glass (a red and a white, just like the mussels), a fridge full of cans, and what might be the best bar invention ever: adult water ice made from shaved ice in six flavors; it is available by the goblet or pitcher in six flavors.
With the Rita's water ice across the way closed, it is possible to get a regulation (nonalcoholic) water ice at the Triangle, too.
The beginning of the end of the Triangle was in 2001, when Anthony Fraietta, grandson of founder Antonio Patrone, sold it. Its last operator chose to close in late 2008 after a spate of incidents, including a five-day liquor-license suspension over serving minors. It opened sporadically after that.
The Triangle hopes to get approval for sidewalk dining, though the focus now seems to be getting things running smoothly inside first.