Thanks again for all of the excellent suggestions at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1007452. We ended up at Brick and Mortar, and it was pretty great overall, though there were a couple of service and consistency issues and I'd be interested to know if anyone had similar experiences.
Five of us were there when they opened, and we said that we had more people coming shortly but ordered drinks and wings to start off. Two more friends joined us about five minutes after we ordered, before the drinks and wings arrived. The server took their drink orders, but never brought them water glasses (even after we asked for them, twice). She also only brought four plates for the wings, and we had to ask for cutlery (of which we only got five sets).
The wings were *delicious* and covered in some kind of mustardy sauce. The first round of drinks was also excellent: the table ordered two Sister Marys, one citrus martini and one extra-dirty martini; I went to the bar directly to consult with one of the bartenders, a lovely guy with glasses and a good way with words, who asked me a few questions and ended up making me the best lion's tail I've ever had. I believe that he made the full round of drinks for the table, not just my drink.
One more friend arrived after the wings were mostly done, and she had a bit of a hard time getting the server's attention. (I should note that it was still early and only a couple of tables were full - most people were sitting at the bar.) The rest of us ordered mains and a second round of drinks; we all ended up getting burgers, which were delicious and substantial. Once the mains were delivered the service seemed to be more consistent. Another server was helping out by this point, and she made a huge difference.
The second round of cocktails was not as good, with everyone saying that their drinks were very sweet this time. We asked the server and she confirmed that a different bartender had made them this time, though she didn't indicate which one specifically (and I appreciated that she didn't name-and-shame her colleague). Three of my friends ordered third cocktails and asked that the first bartender make them again; I did not order a third, but was brought one. I really hadn't wanted one - my stomach doesn't love alcohol, so two drinks over the course of the night is what I can usually manage - but I think the server got confused because I was part of the conversation about how the second round wasn't as good as the first. The third round was excellent again, so I decided to sip mine instead of sending it back. We did get all charged for the second round, but I hadn't expect a comp because we hadn't spoken to the server about it until we were ordering our next round.
We were there for another hour or so after this; there was another round of drinks (they requested the first bartender again, and were happy). We left at about 8:00 so we put in a solid three hours, but we were eating and drinking throughout and we never felt rushed. By the time we left it was filling up, but there were still a couple of empty tables even then. The music seemed louder earlier in the evening, but it was never so bad that we couldn't talk to the people near us.
We really enjoyed the night overall, and I would like to go back but sit at the bar. Service-wise, I fully understand that larger groups are harder work for servers, especially when the group gradually increases like ours did at the start, but it still seemed a bit messy to me - for example, the additional water glasses we asked for twice and never got. The second server who started helping out seemed a lot more on top of us, so it might be that our primary server felt overwhelmed by the numbers.
The drinks were more of a concern. The cocktails there are small and not cheap; they charge for quality, and I'm very happy to pay for that that, but if that's the model (and a big part of how they advertise themselves) then I need to know that the quality will be consistent. For one bartender to have made a full round of drinks that much sweeter than another bartender did tells me that the consistency isn't where it needs to be. I have of course had experiences where one bartender is better than another at the same venue, but I've never had it happen that two bartenders in a night have made me a drink and one version is delicious while the other one is verging on undrinkable (which my second one was by the time I hit the bottom of the glass - the sugar had settled and it tasted like lolly water). If our first round of drinks had been made by the second-round bartender I'd have suggested that we leave and walk over to Green Street instead, because no one would have wanted to keep paying those prices for such average cocktails. Has anyone else run into this here?