Unlike the Vanguard, with its open garage-door façade, the Griffin has an image of being the more private watering hole on Fremont. The Griffin has beautiful exterior neon signage with a simple curtain-covered entryway, complete with bouncer. Get past the bouncer, and you enter a Gothic-chic interior. A mélange of Abbey and Great Hall (albeit with much lowered ceilings), the establishment has an extended bar on the left with comfortable seating with faux fireplaces throughout the remainder of the interior. A nice touch is the tavern windows behind the bar through which weeping-mortar brick walls may be seen. T-Rex’s “Telegram Sam” is playing on the jukebox, adding to the cool atmosphere.
The bar is extremely well-stocked with excellent beers and hard-to-find whiskeys, such Red Breast and Pappy Van Winkle vintages. I ordered a Red Breast, a pure pot still Irish whiskey, which was on my hunt-and-taste list. The price was right ($9) and the pour was average.
And that was my experience at the Griffin. While the selection was great and the interior nice, the staff was completely unengaging with a knowledge base verging on fundamental ignorance. The overall impression is that the Griffin is a post-Collegiate bar that somehow bought great stock. The old, stale beer smell is there, the crowd is there. The liquor selection, however, is for the big boys (and girls). If you are a professional, go early. If you are looking to meet your friends or hook up, wait in the extensive line outside that appears later in the evening.
Like the classic Crown Royal ad with the broken glass, “Ever seen a grown man cry?”, I just felt disappointed. If you are looking for a well-curated bar selection with bonafide bartenders, I would suggest Aureole or Sage. Better yet, head around the corner to the Downtown Cocktail Room or across the street to the Vanguard. Respect your Pappy.
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