It’s been so long since I discovered a place I fell in love with so quickly. This out-of-the-way venue has been open for more than a month and its loyal fans already span across several countries. I sometimes use the alley it’s on to escape traffic when I’m going back home, and remember thinking to myself “what a horrible choice of location.” Several suggestions I try it later, Lori and I made our way to the outskirts of Mar Mikhael street behind Al Mandaloun, and were seriously impressed.
It’s hard to describe Dictateur in one word. The venue is divided into several sections, each of which could be a stand-alone venue. A bar area, a lounge area, a diner-style seats area, an outdoor area and even a roof-top like section make the place a bar-restaurant-club-lounge-cafe type of place suitable for so many different times and occasions.
Let’s start off with the outside. It’s an inconspicuous facade which at first glance gives you impression it’s just a one-room bar like any other. The whole is decorated with the place’s trademark signature, a series of numbers separated by forward slashes that represent something in Dictateur. For example, 030 / 004 / 287 is painted on the wall outside. The numbers stand for Badawi street, bike racks, and neighbors, respectively.
Once you go in, you can either go to your left into the bar area, or soldier on forward where two ramps lead to the rooftop area, or the lower outdoor space and lounge under it. Probably the most amusing piece of furniture is a toilet seat transformed into a flower pot, with soil and few blossoms sprouting out of it. This spot is ideal in summer or when the weather’s nice. It’s also quieter than the lower outdoor area, where the dancing happens sometimes, making it perfect for a nice drink and conversation.
The outdoor area is lit with a massive custom-made, do-it-yourself style “chandelier” made of the light-bulbs you find at your mechanic’s, which are hung on the hood as he inspects your car’s motor. Two dozen or so of these lightbulbs are arranged in a circle, lighting up the outdoor area in that yellowish-orange aura you see in the photos.
The lounge area is adjacent to the outdoor section and directly under the rooftop area. It has large and long tables, perfect for a large group, It also has very comfortable couches for two or three people, which is where Lori and I sat on that extremely cold night.
Most lamps, decorations and other items in Dictateur are do-it-yourself stuff, such as three massive lamps made of tape inside the lounge as well as the container-like wooden row of diner-style tables under the ramp that leads to the rooftop area. The XXX / XXX / XXX format is repeated several times, indicating different numbers for different things, such as how many meters of tape were used, for how many lamps. Or, how much alcohol the storage area fits. That, for a slightly OCD-ish person like me when it comes to stuff like that, was divine.
The music was also good. In a place like that, I’d be afraid of listening to soft rock, oldies and other repulsive genres of music. Much to my delight, it was splendid lounge music, with just the right tempo, volume and enough electronic and acoustic elements to please everyone present. It not being radio garbage is also a plus, after all, paying to listen to something you can turn on in your car for free, is a rip-off in my opinion.
The prices are also fair and much cheaper than some of its neighbors. A beer is for 7,000 LBP and you can get a decent salad for as little as 10,000 LBP. My friend Liliane recommends the goat cheese and artichoke salad on Foursquare, which is what I’ll be having next time!
So, all in all, I absolutely adored the place. Definitely one of my favorites, if not the favorite for now. I seriously recommend you try it yourself and understand what I’m really talking about. It’s a nice, down-to-earth place which is still hipster-free and is actually an underground venue, not just cause its cool. Proof? The out-of-the-way venue and low-key publicity which is basically just word of mouth as far as I can tell.
They have a facebook, so please don’t ask me about contact details =P It’s also fully wheelchair accessible =)