320 Fifth Street

Pictured is 320 Fifth Street’s easygoing atmosphere. Ali Berry tends the bar and checks out a customer. The view here is from the stage, where bands and songwriters showcase a variety of genres, including blues, jazz, hiphop, country and anything else. (Photo by Jack Hammett)

 

A patron in the seat over had to have his say: Ali Berry is “the best bartender in Laurel.”

Ever the modest Laurelite, Berry downplayed the praise. “I just kind of fell into it,” she said.

General manager James Mahalak laid it on after Berry left the room. “So far, I haven’t tasted anything from her that wasn’t delicious.”

The four employees at 320 Fifth Street spent months putting the place together themselves just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The pandemic was, of course, a bane to most but a boon for some, as it gave the 320 crew a little extra time to prepare to open. Mahalak said that a couple of weeks of soft openings in December helped them find their footing. The employees opened the eatery to just a few patrons for food samplings in late January and went from there.

You can find a patty melt anywhere, Mahalak said, “but you won’t find one like ours.”

“Elevated” is the key word here. The menu has a focus on high-quality bar food with whole ingredients. The patron in the seat over spoke up again: “That hot dog shocked me! Man.” The quarter-pound all-beef frank can be served with chili, slaw or other pickings. 

The bar touted an easygoing atmosphere Friday, with soft blues playing through the overhead speakers. Bob Ross murmured on the TV above the bar — re-runs of the painter’s program are the typical fare.

“Our motto is ‘Everybody, be cool.’ Our clientele are easygoing people,” Mahalak said.

In fact, any agitated patron should make his or her way to the end of the bar and chill out with Bob Ross for a while. They could also enjoy the live music, which makes 320 a haven for artists needing gigs during a pandemic.

Complementing all of this is Berry’s from-scratch drinks. For example, she makes her own simple syrup used in cocktails and picks her mint fresh off the vine. She hopes to get a garden and a grow light up and running in the near future.

Mahalak said the bar hasn’t had its grand opening yet, but that’s tentatively scheduled for March 20, a fitting date.

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