Take the best elements of a dive bar--strong drinks and a loyal following--add classy decor and valet parking, and you get Bistango in Irvine. Tucked away among the commercial office buildings on Von Karman Avenue, Bistango is a restaurant and bar that caters to an older crowd but seems to welcome anyone looking for a drink and a good time.
The bar is situated to the far right of the open space, away from the main dining area, leaving those eating their meal in peace. The bar top appears to be solid granite, which fits perfectly with that Maserati you passed in the parking lot. There's even a live piano player singing tunes that add to Bistango's relaxing atmosphere. This is the kind of place you visit after work if you want to unwind, not if you're looking for a party.
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Bistango's popular bartender, Steve, is the type who will remember your name and your favorite drink. Every person leaving the bar stopped to thank to him, and each time he walked to the end of the bar to say his goodbyes and addressed them by name.
I asked him for his speciality and he delievered with the off-the-menu Pumpkin Spice Martini. Made with high-end vodka, pumpkin syrup, cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and served in a cinnamon-rimmed martini glass, this is a drink to be savored.
Steve's Pumpkin Spice Martini tastes like a creamy slice of pumpkin pie without being cloyingly sweet. The drink is strong, as it should be for $8.75, but the cinnamon and cream smooth out the vodka's bite and make it more like sipping a dessert.
Bistango may not be the next trendy bar for those in their 20s or 30s, but the Grey Goose flows and the staff is friendly. What more could you really want?