Here it is, in all its whimsy: Ivan Kane's Cafe Wa s (from here on out only referred to as Cafe Was, no space, on this blog), which opened in the Sunset + Vine complex over Labor Day weekend. After seeing it for ourselves, we have to say---it's not nearly as ridiculous as the renderings led us to believe it would be, and crazy that this was Schwab's. Theatrical flair, sure, a bit contrived, but it works for what it is. There's artwork slipping from the creases between the ceiling and the walls, a staircase for no reason, comfortable red velvet booths, the Bukowski Room plastered with pages from the author's books (overheard from one server: "He hated women, but OK! He's Bukowski."), an absinthe bar upstairs. Those windows out front and the vestibule? It's to set the tone "before they walk into this magical mystery tour," Kane says. As promised, a house musician comes out to play the rotating piano every 30 minutes, which may be odd at first but then it sets in: Where else are you going to hear live piano music and eat steak frites in this town? The menu veers towards brasserie fare with canapés, apps and entrees, priced as you'd expect.
Kane, who you'll see always working the room, says he plans to start the Bacharach Brunch (only Burt Bacharach songs will be played) in a few weeks when the patio opens, and his hope is that soon (from his "music connections") big stars will want to drop in unannounced and play for "those lucky enough to be here," meaning no cover charge if, say, Alicia Keys just happens to wander in. Let's make this clear: Cafe Was wouldn't fit in any other neighborhood, and only Ivan Kane could be behind it. Lots of plywood tracking here and here.