The Tunnel Bar
By Keon Ruiter
I raised the oversized glass to my lips and could smell the potent
scents of different liquors mingling together in the glass.
It was my first martini ever, chocolate-raspberry flavored, for
only eight bucks. I took a
small taste, it was a chocolaty sting; Iím not a big drinker, so I had
to choke down the first few sips, but after awhile, I began to enjoy it.
I considered having another martini, but I was having too much
fun after the first one and I had to drive.
drinking my first martini in a little hole in the wall bar in
. When I say hole in
the wall, I mean that literally.
I was in the Tunnel Bar.
my first time going to the Tunnel Bar.
I was with a good friend of mine, and we were meeting
mutual friends that we hadnít seen in a while.
I parked my car and nagged him as we walked along the damp
pavement, ďSo where is this tunnel place again?Ē I chided.
ďRelax,Ē he said. ďIt sneaks up on you.Ē
My friend was right. The
barís entrance is barely visible and lies between two old train
lights in the dark stone wall off of
, overhead is Union Station.
We walked in.
I had to let my eyes adjust because the only source of
light came from ones that were set in the wall and a few track
lights overhead. We
scanned the area for our friends, which didnít take long because
the bar was only 100 feet long and 12 feet wide.
Huge overstuffed leather chairs were set along both sides
of the walls in groups of twoís and fourís, and right in the
middle of the tunnel was a small bar with a few tall bar stools
lining its perimeter. Our
friends were sitting at the back of the tunnel.
We took our seats
and started to catch up with one another.
But I was taking in the atmosphere while everyone else was
talking. Hanging above
the bar were two beautiful, dimly lit chandeliers. Opposite the
bar was a set of stairs that led to the rest of Union Station.
Rugged granite stone lined the lower portion of the wall,
and polished yellow tile lined the upper portion of the wall and
the arc of the ceiling.
Part of the barís
charm comes from its history.
It doesnít take a genius to figure out that the Tunnel
Bar was once a real tunnel. I
Google searched the Union Station Tunnel online and found out that
it was built in 1896 by H.H. Richardson.
The tunnel that the bar occupies used to be a passageway
that led pedestrians up to Union Station, which was a large
railroad stop back in the day.
Farmers, manufacturers, and the US Postal Service relied on
Union Station to import and export the goods that they needed to
survive on. The
station was also a major player in the war effort during World War
II. The trains that
left the station there carried many men to and from war.
The area behind the actual bar used to be a stairway that
led to the boarding platforms to get on the trains.
Over the course of its 110-year existence it has survived
two fires. The granite
and the tile that make up the Tunnel Bar are original since the
tunnels construction. In
September of 1999, the Union Station complex was renovated into
dining facilities. Part
of the renovation included the Tunnel Bar, which before the
smoking ban, was a cigar bar.
Soft jazz hummed in
my ear as I continued to breathe in my surroundings.
I understood why my friends liked to come to this
particular bar. Itís
not the typical bar that people our age would go to.
College students are definitely the minority in the tunnel.
Most of the patrons are older men and women going out to
, businessmen wrapping up a long day of work, or professors from
one of the many area colleges.
The bar didnít play loud rock and hip-hop music like most
other bars and I could actually think and have conversations
instead of shouting and getting a headache like I do at the Salty
Dog and Hooters. I heard a couple softly arguing close by, ďI
spent ten thousand dollars on a ring for you and youíre never
ready!Ē the exasperated man said to his fiancťe.
I couldnít hear what she replied, but I spent the rest of
the night pondering over my drink what a $10,000 ring looks like.
approached our group soon after I had staked my claim in one of
the leather thrones. He
asked my friend and I if we wanted something to drink.
I ordered the chocolate-raspberry martini I described
earlier. The bartender
soon returned with a towel draped over his arm and a tray in his
other hand. Perched
atop the tray was the biggest martini glass I had ever seen, and
it was just for me. It
took me a while to finish the martini, but for the rest of the
night the bartender made sure I was satisfied.
He would walk close enough to see if I needed another
drink. If I didnít,
he would walk away. If
I was ready for more, he was there.
The service was impeccable and the martini was divine!
The Tunnel Bar
serves more than just oversized martinis, those are just what the
bar is famous for. They
boast an eight-page drink menu that describes each drink in
detail, including the wines. Most
of the drinks are modest, sophisticated, and inexpensive.
An average glass of wine will run you anywhere from five to
eight dollars, the martinis are eight dollars apiece, and a bottle
of beer will cost four to five dollars.
The drinks are much cheaper than those you would get at a
restaurant. They taste
fresher and crisper too.
One page of the
drink menu is devoted to simple gourmet appetizers including a
cheese and fruit platter, a few shrimp dishes, roasted nuts, and
strawberries DíAmour. Most
of the appetizers cost around nine dollars.
If simple hors
arenít what you had in mind you can go up the stairs
opposite the bar area and pop into the Union Station Restaurant or
Spaghetti Freddyís for some dinner.
While the martini
began to take effect (yes Iím a lightweight), I realized that
the Tunnel Bar is not a place to go to get wasted.
I tend to get louder when alcohol is involved, and my
friends had to remind me that we werenít in a dive bar or at a
party. The atmosphere
is quiet and mature. Even
when the bar is crowded the volume only gets louder than a hum.
I have fell in love
with the bar since that first trip.
Now, I like to go to the bar to relax, have a drink, and
work on some homework or do some light reading. I
donít feel awkward if Iím relaxing by myself in one of the
comfortable leather chairs like I would anywhere else.
If you are under the drinking age, you still can go and
have a soda and enjoy the atmosphere.
A haven for the
stressed, the tunnel bar helps relax.
If you are looking to party, the Tunnel Bar is the wrong
place to be. But, if
youíre stressed out from exams and the like, head down to the
tunnel and try one of the oversized martinis, or indulge in some
strawberries DíAmour. With
a huge drink menu, you are bound to find something that will help
ease your college burden.
I never thought
being surrounded by six feet of stone would be my idea of a good
time, but I guess I was wrong.