Recently, I found myself rather comically trying to locate a new bar I’d heard of in downtown Orlando.
I couldn’t quite remember the name but I knew that it had “Loan Office” in it. And I knew that it was a sister bar to another place with “Shoe Repair” in its name. It’s pretty difficult to do a Google search for those businesses if what you want is a drink. They’re fine if you need financial help or if your footwear is worn.
Even funnier is that I was pretty sure that the Loan Office bar was on West Pine Street, which meant that it was probably confined to one block of buildings before the railroad tracks — putting a bar beyond there didn’t seem like a reasonable business plan.
But walking along the block,my friend and I couldn’t spot the bar. We asked someone outside another bar if he knew where the bar called Something Loan Company was, but he looked at us like we were crazy.
I knew where the shoe repair bar was, so we walked the block and a half there to, oh,yeah, now I remember, Hanson’s Shoe Repair. Hanson’s is a speakeasy kind of place, so you’re not supposed to know it’s a bar, even though there was a bouncer out front talking to another employee. And neither looked like cobblers. I politely asked where the loan company was, and it seemed to throw them both for a minute. “You mean Herman’s?” one of them asked.
Oh yeah, that’s it, Herman’s.
And indeed, just as I had remembered, Herman’s Loan Office is on West Pine Street. But it’s hard to see from the street. You walk just past Tanqueray’s at the corner of Orange Avenue and look to your left across a small parking lot. There’s Herman’s.
My friend and I approached the front door, which is actually a back door — more on that in a moment — and the doorman walked ahead of us to unlock it for us. Herman’s is not a speakeasy, but apparently they don’t want just anyone walking in.
Few had walked in ahead of us, but the evening was still young at the hour we arrived, which was before 10 p.m. We were greeted by the bartender who asked us what we wanted. I thought I’d engage him and test his cocktail acumen. I told him I liked negronis but was in the mood to try something new. I asked what he would recommend. He said he made a pretty good negroni. So apparently he wasn’t in the mood to get creative.
But eventually he recommended a Cobble Hill, a sort of variation on a theme of Manhattan that includes rye and cucumber. The vegetable was almost a deal killer, but the bartender convinced me to give it a try.
And it was delicious. Refreshing and sippable. I can see why the Cobble Hill is sometimes called the summertime Manhattan. And look at the calendar — summer’s almost here. I’ll be sipping a few more of these.
There isn’t much to recommend in the way of Herman’s decor. It’s actually a tad dank. But there’s a certain allure to its inner sanctumness, and the old timey vault door, which may or may not be original, is a nice touch.
If you want to get technical, Herman’s is actually in the rear of a building that fronts Church Street. And, according to the bartender inside, there actually was a business called Herman’s Loan Office at that address. Or at least the address on Church Street. If you go out front, you’ll see a tiled entryway with, supposedly, the original loan company’s name. (Seen at top.)
But for the record, Herman’s Loan Office, the bar, is located at 22 W. Pine St., Orlando. It is open evenings, Tuesday through Saturday, beginning at 8 p.m. except Fridays when it opens at 5 p.m., because people often need a loan after work on Fridays. The phone number is 407-649-0000. (That’s actually the number for V Group Concepts, which owns Herman’s and a few other bars in downtown Orlando, including the Native, which is where you’ll find the tiled entry with Herman’s name on it.) The bar’s website is not currently functional, and, curiously, the V Group’s website doesn’t even list it.