written and photos by: Andrea Peterson
A new bar has washed ashore. Though I’m beginning to wonder which shore. For a landlocked state, it seems we’ve got quite the nautical theme going for some new watering holes in town. Between Fisher Beers and now Lake Effect—tourists might actually think it’s a good idea to take a dip in the Great Salt Lake. But nonetheless, Lake Effect is anything but the fisherman’s wharf.
Founded by Nick ChaChas, Lake Effect is located across from the Salt Palace Convention Center on 200 South. When describing it to friends who’ve yet to cross the threshold into the new cocktail joint—I keep hearing, “You mean where the Hotel Bar used to be?” The answer is, “Yup, that’s the one.”
From the moment you swing open the epic metal door—and by swing I mean take both hands and use full on arm muscle to open—you find yourself transported to the big cities of the American coasts. The first thing that catches your eyes is the floor-to-ceiling spirit wall stretching the length of what feels like a ballroom-long bar. Cozy hideaway booths mirror the performance of bartenders mixing up an assortment of cocktails while scaling a two-story-tall library ladder to reach top-shelf spirits. And servers rush by, seducing your senses with yummy nibbles that are anything but bar grub.
It will be hard to find something you don’t like at Lake Effect. On the menu are 57 cocktails, 120-plus beers and a wine room filled with more than 80 vinos. “Lake Effect is first and foremost a craft cocktail bar,” says ChaChas. If you like to grab a seat at the bar—my choice—you will see first hand that these bartenders take their job very seriously. There is expertise and skill involved in creating your perfect drink. And when they say “handcrafted” cocktails, they mean it. Everything is handcrafted all the way down to the fresh-pressed ginger.
For those of us who prowl Salt Lake City’s bar scene, Lake Effect’s opening seemed to come out of nowhere. But according ChaChas, this has been years in the making. 15 years ago ChaChas worked at the location when it was Shaggy’s and fell in love with the building. Right now, Lake Effect is just the first floor, but he has plans to turn the basement into a lounge and create rooftop patio that has views for miles. “Salt Lake City is ready for a more mature big-city feel.”
This isn’t an in-and-out grab a quick beer spot. Lake Effect is an experience—drinks, food and every night, live music from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. and a DJ until bar closing at 1 a.m.