NEW BUFFALO — The Hummingbird Lounge, a stylish and approachable cocktail bar set in a charming old Victorian House at 9 South Barton St. in New Buffalo, opened on April 1 blocks from the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.
Owner/operator Ben Smock was born and raised in Davison, Mich., and graduated from The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University. He fell in love with the cocktail culture while consulting with the National Restaurant Association Show on Star of the Bar, a nationwide cocktail competition.
“I’ve had the unique opportunity to visit the best cocktail bars in the US, and to interact with talented bartenders at the top of their craft. Those experiences advised the creation of Hummingbird Lounge, where we will celebrate cocktail culture in a very thoughtful way,” he said.
The Hummingbird Lounge beverage program is a sophisticated, seasonal celebration of cocktails and wine, plus a few craft beers. Classic bar techniques are mixed with an affinity for great ingredients to deliver good times.
The beverage menu includes a collection of seasonal sours, served up in a “bird bath” style cocktail glass, along with an expanding list of tall drinks & highballs, perfect for patio season. For the aged spirits enthusiast, a curated list of whiskey and rums are made available. A tidy wine cellar and short list of local craft beers completes the lineup. Proper glassware, fresh juices, quality ice, expeditious service, and thoughtful presentations are classy, yet playful.
The food menu is a locally-sourced assortment of upscale bar snacks, lighter fare, and tasty tacos. Heading up the kitchen is Chef Shane Graybeal who hails from Sable Kitchen & Bar and BIN 36 in Chicago, and brings with him more than 21 years of culinary experience. Graybeal completed his professional culinary education at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, S.C.
“I’m excited to celebrate all the bountiful produce that grows in Southwest Michigan, and to connect with local farmers,” he said.
The outdoor garden and deck at the Hummingbird Lounge features a nature-inspired garden honoring the architectural heritage of the Victorian-age house with color inspired by hummingbirds and plantings (including passionfruit vine, black-eyed susan, clamatis and sweet autumn vines) that are bold and attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Planting zones are designed to make guests feel cozy and settled in.
A portion of the outdoor garden can be reserved for private parties up to 40 guests.
An “On the Fly” downstairs area has a dedicated bar with carry-out option of cocktails and a garage door that rolls up in warm weather. It can accommodate up to about 24 people and can be rented for private events.
Upstairs is “The Loft” which can handle private events of up to 32 people.
The upper level of the main Victorian building also offers private event rooms – one for 6-8 people and anther for 10-12 – cperfect for small gatherings for birthdays, anniversaries, showers, etc.
“This heritage building had some architectural bones that fit well with our concept of The Hummingbird Lounge. Southwest Michigan is on a hummingbird’s migratory flight pattern, and they thrive here in summer months when the gardens are in full bloom,” explained designer and business partner Sara Domdey.
Victorian architecture is traditionally respective and reverent of nature and the designer wanted the elements of the rehab to reflect a hand-crafted, human touch. The use of rich neutral tones allows the bright colors of freshly squeezed drinks and seasonal dishes to be the pops of color. Once planted, the bold colors in the outdoor garden will be attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
Hummingbird Lounge is running a “Cocktails for a Cause” program year-round where the restaurant partners with a local charity and donates a dollar for each featured cocktail sold. This quarter they are donating to “Veterans helping Veterans of SW MI” (vetshelpswmi.org) – an advocate organization for homeless and displaced vets that assists veterans and their families.
The featured cocktail is called “Letters from Home” which is a Hemingway Daquiri.
Hours of operation are 4 to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (later on Friday and Saturday). A children’s menu available until 8 p.m., then the lounge transitions to adults only. Parking is on Barton Street and in Fifth Third Bank lot.
Reservations are accepted on website for parties of eight or more based on availability. More information is available at hbirdlounge.com.