The Transformers

When is a bar not a bar? Well, we'll tell you.

Change is good — especially when something goes from good to better. That's the case with some of the city's hottest bars and nightclubs, which transform from gourmet eateries and artsy coffee shops to swanky, see-and-be-seen lounges, art galleries, and high-energy dance clubs after the sun goes down.

Beauty Shop — Hip Restaurant to Rehab Center

The brainchild of restaurateur Karen Blockman Carrier, the Beauty Shop offers pampering for the belly and the inner dancing queen. On most nights, patrons sip wine and dine on gorgeously crafted plates of eclectic American fare, such as striped bass or BLTA sandwiches (that's a BLT with added avocado). But every Monday night during their "Rehab" event, DJ Steve Anne spins retro tunes as the former-beauty-shop-turned-restaurant transforms into a hipster dance club. 966 S. Cooper (272-7111).

Blues City Café — BBQ Joint to Juke Joint

Boasting "the best meal on Beale," Blues City serves award-winning Memphis 'cue, Southern-fried catfish, and homemade tamales to tourists during the daylight hours. But at night, those same tourists come back to dance their meal off to raw chitlin circuit-style blues in the café's band box. 138 Beale (526-3637).

The Cove — Nautical Cocktail Bar to Artist Studio

On most nights, patrons sip gourmet hand-mixed cocktails (like the Cove's famous classic recipe Sazerac), at the ship-shaped bar inside this Broad Avenue Art District dive. But each Tuesday, the place transforms into an art studio complete with posed live models. Local artists or aspiring art students show up with pads, pencils, and charcoal. But unlike most art studios, participants can always take a cocktail and oyster break. 2559 Broad (730-0719).

Dish — Tapas Bar to Karaoke Club

Stop into this Cooper-Young lounge for small plates of pork dumplings, edamame hummus, or flash-fried oysters in the early evening. But stick around for late-night fun on Wednesday and Sunday nights when loyal patrons deliver some of the best karaoke song choices in the city (a combination of 1980s rock and over-the-top showtunes). Added bonus — Bud Light on draft is only $1 per glass on karaoke nights. 948 S. Cooper (276-0002).

Hi-Tone — Rock Club to Sunday Brunch Spot

On any given night, punks and hipsters pack this tiny Midtown rock club to chug Pabst Blue Ribbon and watch bands like Mouse Rocket or Those Darlins. But on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., many of those same hipsters sit across from families with children for some of the best brunch in Midtown. They even offer a tofu scramble for vegetarians. 1913 Poplar Ave. (278-8663).

Quetzal — Coffeehouse to Lush Lounge

Serving sandwiches on ciabatta, generous gourmet salads, cleverly named coffee drinks, and lick-your-lips dessert, Quetzel serves as an artsy coffeehouse and café by day. But the place magically transforms into a see-and-be-seen lounge on weekend nights during their Red Room events. Red lights emit a sultry glow over the whole place while hip-hop mash-ups and innovative cocktails give the downtown coffeehouse a sexy New York vibe. 668 Union Ave. (521-8388).

The Silly Goose — Depression-Era Speakeasy to Hip Downtown Lounge

These tough economic times are enough to drive a person to drink. Luckily, this new downtown bar offers throwback Depression-era cocktails for only $1 during their Monday-night happy hour. Every other night of the week, the Silly Goose functions as a swanky downtown lounge with specials on wine, beer, Bloody Marys, and appetizers on alternating nights. 100 Peabody Place, Suite 190 (435-6917).

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