- Griffin Swartzell
- Cocktails here are well made, even if we disagree on a favorite.
On First Friday, art patrons typically pack the alley that hosts The Modbo and S.P.Q.R. But this month was quieter, and not for want of art. Rather, many hangers-around took their conversational din to Shame & Regret, the bar that occupies the former 15C space across the way.
The biggest change aside from the smoke-free atmosphere: Shame & Regret has added massive tinted windows to the space, helping it feel significantly less cramped, yet still intimate. It remains moody and dark inside, made more dim by dark woods and leather booth seats. Co-owner Matt Baumgartner, former GM at The Rabbit Hole, declared intent to make his bar feel like a confessional, and while I’m not Catholic enough to speak to that, it lines up with Hollywood imagery. Our only complaint: The small booths and four-tops are really tight to cram our party of four into — mind those elbows and knees.
Heading right to the starring cocktails, we throw in for a Red Flag, a mix of Sheep Dip whisky, angostura bitters and Cynar shaken and served neat in a Nick & Nora glass. Cynar, an amaro, gets some of its flavor from artichokes, and that subtle savoriness works its way into the drink’s bitter, spiced complexity alongside honey notes and a cigar box flavor. Our one quibble: It should be double-strained to keep the ice chips out. We also order a Walk of Shame, which mixes Vida mezcal with Plantation pineapple rum and velvet falernum, and our party’s divided on the drink. We can’t really taste the pineapple or the falernum spice bouquet. The mezcal’s earthy smoke dominates, supported by a mild rum funk, full-flavored sans burn. My dining companions enjoy it thoroughly; I don’t.
Location Details Shame and Regret
We don’t expect much from the bar’s diminutive kitchen, so the flatly creamy and faintly savory croquettes full of ham and English cheddar, served four to a plate atop spring greens with a sweet gastrique, come as no surprise. Then the mezcal shrimp cocktail arrives, and we reevaluate. It’s served in a margarita glass rimmed with Tajín, a tart and tomato-y sauce with prominent mezcal and small shrimp that more resembles ceviche, great with accompanying blue corn tortilla chips. When we finish the shrimp, we drink down what’s left gleefully as a Bloody Maria-like concoction.
We’re further impressed by a chicken rigatoni dish, sized to be a fine entrée, baked with a rich, spicy red sauce and plenty of cheese. We’d be happy to get pasta this good at most Italian places around. Lastly, the sole soup, a roasted garlic bisque, sips richly creamy and garlicky, laudably expressing its ingredients.
For our part, we made no memories worthy of shame or regret — we’d have had to drink much more to achieve either. Rather than evocative of debauchery, this swank new drink spot smacked more of sophistication, worthy to anchor Arts Alley.