Food & Drink The bar tab 

Enjoy the art, but don't flirt with the lady in snaky tendrils

Housed in the former Parchman Stremmel Gallery, Medusa Lounge is the newest addition to the Charles Court collection of eateries and upscale bars.

Developed as an "art bar," an establishment often seen in New York and San Francisco, Medusa Lounge's sophisticated aesthetic is impressive. I recommend taking a quick walk-through before settling in for a drink. Designed under the direction of artist Robert Tatum, who calls it a "late-night art gallery," the space is more akin to a room at the San Antonio Museum of Art than a liquor bar, its high ceilings and large walkways only broken up by the few chairs and couches that are tucked into various corners of the building's two rooms. The front room has a traditional nightspot feel, with warm brown tones, flowing bar and shelf design, a wall of candles, and a plasma screen running animations of jellyfish, while the rear opens into an expansive gallery with local artwork adorning the walls, a multi-tiered performance stage, and a gaudy chandelier that is both terribly inappropriate and strangely cool.

Medusa Lounge & Art parlor

5pm-2am daily
203 N. Presa
Tatum also noted that, in addition to local artwork, visitors can expect live music on the back stage and, soon, a live DJ in the booth located between the two rooms. I didn't witness any live performances during my visit, but the sounds of Nu-Jazz and Trip-Hop filled the air and had me nodding my head in approval.

Although a quick glance over the curvy bar revealed a slim selection of beer and wine, Medusa does serve some imports, including Guinness and a few Mexican beers. Bartender Zane Champion assured me the selection will grow as the owners get a feel for what the patrons want. In the meantime, the strength of Medusa Lounge is its liquor selection. "We want to be known as an upscale liquor bar ... we carry a wide selection of scotches and vodkas," said Champion. The Gran Margarita is a winner, as is the apple martini.

Before leaving, I met the bar's owner, Ruben Herrera, who said he wants everyone to feel welcome at Medusa Lounge. "I don't care what you're wearing, or if you just want to drink water, I just want you to be here."

Herrera said he decided to present local art and enlisted Tatum to carry out his vision because, "For me, it's all about the artists; if you buy that painting off the wall, I don't make any money. It's for the artist." Herrera, 25, also wants to assure citizens that he's in it for the long haul. In a city where a country bar becomes a hip-hop club overnight, Herrera's commitment to sophisticated barflies is refreshing.

- Mario Ochoa



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