It's easy to walk by the entrance of Santé Bar and not anticipate the swanky atmosphere that awaits beyond the front door.

Once your eyes adjust to the low lighting, a narrow, dark bar lined with large, striking art emerges. Behind the classic wooden bar is an exceptionally friendly staff tending to a well-appointed selection of liquor and housemade shrubs and syrups, which feature prominently in owner Veronique Lafont's craft cocktail creations.

(Justin Katigbak)
(Justin Katigbak)

The crowd can range from first dates to after-work happy-hour groups, and it feels equally as suited to pre-theater cocktails as it does for an all-evening catch-up with friends. Guests can lounge at either high-top tables or cozy booths, or perch right at the bar. It's an intimate space but not cramped.

A small stage at the front of the bar gets a heavy rotation of DJs and singer-songwriters, depending on the occasion, and the sound system kicks out higher than expected quality and volume for the space. On the Thursday of my visit, a guitar-and-keyboard duo sang soulful ballads and slowed-down pop songs. The bar has also played host to queer dance parties like TheyThemHer's Prince tribute night. It's a bit of a squeeze around tables for a proper dance floor, but that's not so bad if you want to get closer to someone on the floor.

(Justin Katigbak)
(Justin Katigbak)

Bread-heavy hummus, cheese and meat plates (starting at $6) are there to soak up the alcohol but not overshadow Lafont's signature cocktails. Try the Swanky ($10) for a unique summer gin drink with grapefruit and rosemary notes, or discover your newest brunch-inspired obsession—the Brown ($12), a bacon-infused bourbon cocktail. The Squeeze ($11), enticing for its combo of gin, mint and cucumber syrup, lime and egg whites, becomes an unsatisfying combination of flavors once combined over rocks.

(Justin Katigbak)
(Justin Katigbak)

I'm a sucker for a vintage vibe and romantic lighting, so Sante makes for a welcome refuge from the hustle of the Park Blocks during Fleet Week. And if you're looking for something beyond drag bingo and Jell-O shots, it's also a refreshing shift from the standard westside LGBTQ bar experience. SYLVIA RODEMEYER.

DRINK: Santé Bar, 411 NW Park Ave., 971-404-8216. 4-9 pm Monday-Tuesday, 4-10 pm Wednesday-Thursday, 4 pm-midnight Friday-Saturday. Happy hour Monday-Friday 4:30-6:30 pm, Saturday 10:30-midnight. $1 off well drinks, house wine and starters.