A bar is nothing but a room with booze, a flat surface and some stools. Spend another hundred grand on stainless steel and cherry wood if you want, but ultimately your customers, be they clean or dirty, will behave the same. They will waltz into your place, drink, talk, go to the bathroom, if you're lucky drink some more, and then go home. They can do all this in barn as easily as in ballroom. Why buy a Ferrari to get to the Quickie Mart when a Festiva's parked out front?
The Cabin Inn is the city's best Shaker bar, a concept stripped of all but the fundamentals. Honestly, we're hesitant to discuss the Cabin Inn because we love it so much. We don't want a bunch of Riverfront Times-readin' jerks ruining it. The place holds about 25 people, tops, and occupies a cabin once home to the son of Daniel Boone. Inside, it feels like a rural British pub: softly lit, with low ceilings, a couple tables one of which is used by the musicians getting ready for their weekly gig. In warmer weather, the band plays outside.
On a Monday night, shots are flying like Cheney's in da house. We were almost nailed by a round of bourbon, but we were quick on the neck-jerk. We did, however, catch it in the gullet from a couple rum runners and at least one, but maybe two, Key-lime-pie shots the bar's specialty. They hit in our bloodstream and made their way toward our heart.
And, OK, we had a beer, too. It was a big night of drinking and shit-shooting. We learned in conversation with a certain Mr. Coffey the difference between concrete and cement, and the process of mixing and delivering the latter. We learned about tunnels and caves. Fundamentals. We sat on wood stools and clomped our mugs on a long slab of wood. "'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free, 'tis a gift to come down where we ought to be." We didn't need luxury; we wanted essence.
Bartender Michelle makes a mean rum runner. Like many versions, hers tastes like Hawaiian Punch. The traditional recipe (two kinds of rum, pineapple juice, lime, powdered sugar, bitters and nutmeg) is a bit too fancy for the Cabin . Michelle's runner consists of Captain Morgan spiced rum, Parrot Bay coconut rum, and pineapple, orange and cranberry juices. It tastes like something you may have drunk in college: very sweet and teeming with alcohol. Chase it with a beer and you're good to go.
Over in a corner, the band is playing a brand of Irish music unlike any we've ever heard before. It's beautiful: harp, accordion, mandolin and boran (a single-headed Irish drum). There is nary a jig to be found in their set. Rather, they create perfectly volumed acoustic ruminations that float through the Cabin like feathers through a pillow fight. They don't need amplifiers, don't need to plug anything in. The music nestles in the eardrums without incident. Talk about comfort: Tonight we've landed exactly where we ought to be.