Smile Politely

Gallery Art Bar is a dazzling new spot in Downtown Urbana

A bartender at Gallery Art Bar serves a mocktail to a white patron on the left. Two other bartenders discuss drinks behind the bar, and in the background an artist hangs her painting on the wall.
Alyssa Buckley

Downtown Urbana is glowing up with the opening of Gallery Art Bar on Main Street beside Encanto Restaurant. The new eccentric bar opens this Wednesday, and on Thursday night, there will be a grand opening dance party. Gallery Art Bar is an inclusive space that celebrates both dazzling drinks and art. According to the bar’s Instagram, it’s a place to “experience wonder collectively.”

The interior of Gallery Art Bar has low tables on the right and bar seating on the left. Pendant lights are in shades of pink and purple.
Alyssa Buckley

Colorful pendant lights hang over the bar, digital decor splashes white walls, and there’s a drink for everyone on the menu. Thoughtfully created by Katie Carrillo and bar manager Anastasia, the bar’s mixed drinks have options to be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

Inside Gallery Art Bar, there is a tall table with a single. On the wall, there is a large painting with a digital projection of red, yellow, and orange art.
Alyssa Buckley

On Friday, I visited Gallery for its soft opening. I loved the whole immersive experience: the art, lights, music, the sound of bartenders shaking cocktails, the taste of the drinks. And even more, the buzz that comes from reimagining an old spot. What was once Nola Rock Bar — and before that Blackbird — is now a radiant sensory destination with aesthetic drinks for all.

Alyssa Buckley

In addition to bar seating, there are blue velvet couches, tufted banquettes, and comfy armless chairs down the long space.

The back patio of Gallery Art Bar has a mural and bright blue concrete floors.
Alyssa Buckley

Gallery’s patio has a bright mural along the fence and floor designed by Harsh and Carlie Upchurch, which is still in process. The second-floor “mural depicts a bright and playful interpretation of personal or collective transformation through self-reflection, nature preservation, and self-expression.” You can read Debra’s interview with Upchurch about her art and this mural here.

Fresh sage leaves are in a pint glass on the bar at Gallery Art Bar in Urbana.
Alyssa Buckley

Since the menu is curated, it’s small: one kombucha, one beer, a short list of wine, and six mixed drinks. Desserts by BakeLab will be available at Gallery later this year, likely in November.

Alyssa Buckley

The coolest part of the menu is that all of the mixed drinks can be prepared as non-alcoholic or alcoholic. This is the first place I’ve ever seen with a menu like this, celebrating fun drinks without excluding those who prefer not to drink alcohol.

Two drinks on a wooden table inside Gallery Art Bar in Urbana, Illinois.
Alyssa Buckley

I ordered some of the new bar’s bespoke bevvies: the non-alcoholic daily ritual ($7) and an alcoholic radical acceptance ($12). The daily ritual could have been made with gin for an additional $5, and likewise, the radical acceptance could omit the mezcal for $5 less. I loved the pretty details and heavy weight of the glassware. The daily ritual mocktail was totally delicious. The made-in-house brown sugar sage syrup was the prominent flavor, and I really loved how the sweetness balanced the Cloud Mountain kombucha.

The radical acceptance cocktail was a delightful concoction of blood orange mezcal, burlesque bitters, a syrup of hibiscus-ginger-pink peppercorn, fresh lime juice, and sliced hot peppers. The complexity of the bitters tasted nice with the herby syrup and squeeze of lime. Because the hot peppers (from Sustainable Student Farm) steeped in the cocktail as I sipped, the peppery heat concentrated for delicious, stingingly spicy final sips. I absolutely loved this cocktail, and since I hardly noticed the mezcal, the drink has got to be good without it, too.

A coffee cocktail at Gallery Art Bar
Alyssa Buckley

In addition, I ordered a cafe cocktail: the Blanket Fort ($7, non-alcoholic). The hot drink had espresso, that same brown sugar-sage syrup, bitters, and milk (with an oat milk alternative). The mocktail was served hot, and it was a cozy little drink that put a little pep in my night.

On a table, there is a clear vase with fresh cut flowers. There is a blue velvet couch with art hanging above it.
Alyssa Buckley

Each month, Gallery Art Bar will feature an artist, and this month, it’s Bailee Poggendorf, who recently moved from Danville back to C-U to study farming at the U of I. Her paintings decorate the walls and are available for purchase.

An illuminated red sign reading "Gallery" inside Gallery Art Bar in Downtown Urbana.
Alyssa Buckley

If you want to visit the new Gallery Art Bar, check out Thursday’s grand opening. Gallery will host a JEMM show with a dance party where everyone is welcome. What’s more: the bar will host patio shows for two nights of PYGMALION weekend: DJ Medusa and DJ Belly at 10 p.m. next Friday, September 22nd and an outdoor soundscape show starting at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

For the most current updates, follow Gallery Art Bar on Instagram — or just wander into the new Main Street bar in Downtown Urbana.

Gallery Art Bar
119 W Main St
W+Th 5 to 11 p.m.
F 5 p.m. to midnight
Saturday noon to midnight

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

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