Smile Politely

A review of drinks at The Silver Bullet Bar

The Silver Bullet Bar at night with the blue sign illuminated.
Alyssa Buckley

Of course, The Silver Bullet Bar is something of a legend in town. Tucked away in Urbana and open just four days a week, the 21+ bar offers alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages plus entertainment options like billiards, gaming, and dancing. For those who have never heard of The Silver Bullet Bar, I’d like to mention that there are performers who strip inside the bar — and that’s legit work.

The Bullet has no website or social media, and sparse online reviews. There’s never ever been a review published on Smile Politely in all 15+ years, and so, I decided it was time to review the bar. First thing to remember is that The Bullet has a “No phones, No photos, No Instagram” policy. The sign didn’t mention Smile Politely specifically, but I’m going to guess it’s a no, too. As such, unlike my other Food & Drink reviews, there won’t be photos of the drinks I ordered at The Silver Bullet Bar. Not to worry, dear reader; you are so good at reading I bet you can picture the drinks in your mind.

I went with a friend last Friday night, and a bouncer checked our IDs at the door. When we arrived at 8:30 p.m., there was no cover since it was before 9 p.m.; early birds save $5.

Inside, a television played episodes of Star Trek, and we walked over to the bar. Along the wall opposite of the entrance, the bar had a swirly black-and-white graphic countertop with a red curtain behind it.

The Bullet has no official drink menu; the only poster hanging listed non-alcoholic beverages (bottled water, sodas, juices, sweet tea, Gatorade, and Red Bull). The bartender said she could make us whatever we wanted. I asked for an old-fashioned, but it wasn’t possible because the bar didn’t have cherries or oranges. I asked for a martini, and the bartender countered with an offer of a shot of gin or vodka.

We landed on a third choice: rum and coke ($5). Imagine if you will: a rocks glass filled with ice and Coca Cola — and know there was a pour of Captain Morgan in it. Little bubbles were visible in the brown cola, and it had two skinny cocktail straws, one lime green and one hot pink. (See, you’re doing it, Peter!) We liked how the vanilla notes of the rum sweetened the sugary soda, making it taste a bit like Coca Cola Vanilla, and the drinks were not that strong. It was a fine sip, and the cocktail’s $5 pricetag was remarkable.

Looking around the bar, other patrons drank bottled beer or water. It seemed that all the usual, standby brands of beer were available by the bottle. After our rum and cokes, my friend switched to bottled water. Notably, it was not Dasani brand (thank goodness), and they said it was good-tasting water.

On this occasion, I kept it simple and ordered a cranberry vodka ($4.75) next. The bartender asked if I wanted to make it a tall, and I said sure. Served in a larger version of the same glass I just had, the red cocktail had a shot of vodka (don’t know which one), ice, and a lot of cranberry juice from the soda gun. This one came with a regular plastic straw — the one that’s all white with two retro red stripes. Not too heavy on the ice and with overwhelming cranberry juiciness, this was a good vodka cranberry.

For the purpose of a thorough review, I also ordered some shots. The Bullet did not have an official shot list, so I asked the bartender to make me two pretty shots. In no time at all, she plopped a pair of four-and-a-half-ounce glasses on the bar. The first shot was a pale pink drink called The Princess, poured halfway up the shot glass. The Princess ($4.25) was fruity, sweet, and delicious without any boozy burn. The second shot was called liquid marijuana ($5.75) and interestingly, it wasn’t green. Aquamarine in color, the shot was pineapple juice forward and had a thin white layer of foam on top.

The front of The Silver Bullet Bar in Urbana, Illinois.
Alyssa Buckley

Overall, The Bullet has good enough drinks: cheap, not too strong, and served quickly. The prominent display of non-alcoholic beverages was great for my friend who was the designated-driver, but it was helpful for ordering cocktails, too: just pick a juice or soda for the mixer to some liquor, tada. Patrons can order drinks at the bar or from a server taking orders at tables. Though drinks aren’t the main draw for The Silver Bullet Bar, the beverages are alright if you enjoy drinking simply.

At 9 p.m., live entertainment begins and so does the cover charge. As with any place, treat people with respect. The ambiance here is casual, friendly, and unique in that there’s nowhere else in Champaign-Urbana like it. In terms of parking, there are spots in front of the building (the side facing away from Huaraches Moroleon). The bar takes card payment, and there are not one but two ATMs inside the bar: one over by the bathrooms and one in the back corner beyond the stage.

The Silver Bullet Bar
1401 E Washington Ave
W-Th 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
F+Sa 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

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