Snuggled next door to Crane Alley is Downtown Urbana’s newest bar, Blackbird. Back at the end of June, the folks who created Crane Alley and the Canopy Club formed the new bar/music venue that boasts a variety of great features. I first stopped by in August when I was touring a few of Urbana’s patios and really enjoyed the atmosphere and cocktails so we decided to head back for more.
If you already know where Crane Alley is, you can’t miss Blackbird. Just to the right of the metal archway that forms the entrance to their outdoor seating, you’ll find that Blackbird runs the length of that alleyway as well. Since the building is longer than it is wide, you’ll find the stage up front by the entrance with the windows as its backdrop. Also, right at the entrance is a line of gaming machines. High-top tables then line one side of the room with the bar flanking the opposite side. Towards the rear of the building exit doors empty visitors out to their large outdoor beer garden that joins up with Crane Alley’s. There, while the weather is nice, you’ll find plenty of seating, a ping pong table, and bags. And it’s dog friendly! If you’re into board games, they have those inside by the bar too.
As one can surmise from its name and logo, Blackbird hosts weekly entertainment such as Nuvo Disco Wednesdays, Live Bands Thursdays, and Jazz Happy Hour Fridays. And the best part is there’s never a cover charge. A couple of the times I’ve been there, we’ve hit up their Jazz Happy Hour Fridays with New Orleans Jazz Machine. What a talented group of musicians!
I’m also a big fan of the signature cocktails. The Black Raspberry Sour ($6) is one of my favorites because of how much I love black raspberry flavor. I convinced my friend to order one of those as well. Served in a Collins glass you can see a layered cocktail with the black raspberry liqueur and bourbon at the bottom and the white soda/sour on top. Be sure to stir! I tasted mostly the black raspberry and the sour. There was a fair bit of soda as well, so it wasn't a very strong drink. It went down way too easy and all too quickly I was ready for round two.
My husband ordered the Red Mahoney ($6) for his first round as it was a new one that’s been added to their list. This concoction consisted of Pimm’s, lemonade, ginger beer, and muddled cherry. I don't like Pimm’s so I wouldn’t be a good judge, but he thought it was okay. He asked the bartender to go heavier on the Pimm’s but said he also could have stood to have more ginger beer than lemonade because he likes it a bit spicier. They have a decent beer and liquor menu, though no taps, and four different wines to choose from (two reds and two whites).
For round two, the guys ordered off the beer menu: a Stone Ruination 2.0 ($6) and Guinness Dry Stout ($5). I ordered the Peppered Punch ($6) and this became my new favorite. It has some spice to it from the habanero lime and black peppercorn, but it’s really subtle, and I liked that you could see the little flecks of black pepper floating on top. Pineapple, vodka, and soda round out the rest of this cocktail and it's served in a rocks glass with ice. Sometimes drinks with pineapple can be too sweet or fruity, but this was expertly balanced and wasn’t over the top like you’d expect from something like a tiki cocktail that uses pineapple. It was a bit more sour than sweet, which I prefer. They also have a pretty solid Irish Mule ($6).
Head to their Facebook page and give them a ‘like.’ You’ll be updated on all of the upcoming events and any new drink and happy hour specials. And I really love that they play host to local musicians and all with a free cover! Blackbird is also open to private parties and rental and guess who you can get to cater — Crane Alley. Yum!
Blackbird is located at 119 West Main Street, Urbana and is open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
All photos by Bobbie Bonebrake.