The Most Notable New Bars in America, Spring/Summer 2018
This season brings with it a slew of notable new openings across the country, with fresh concepts from industry leaders like Don Lee and Dave Arnold, alongside new locations of already beloved bars. Having achieved distinguished status in their home cities, Death & Co., Employees Only and Broken Shaker are opening new outposts, distributing their respective brands of cool to all corners of the country. Notable, too, are the larger trends that these openings embody; with tropical-themed bars emerging in New York, LA and Nashville, a tiki renaissance is in full swing, while sustainability continues to inform the beverage programs at new bars nationwide. From a Bay Area brewer’s long-overdue taproom to a Cuban-inspired joint in New Orleans, here are our picks for the most notable new and forthcoming bar openings this season.
New York The Polynesian What: A sprawling tiki bar from Major Food Group and the man behind Tiki Mondays. Who: Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, Jeff Zalaznick, Brian Miller Where: The Pod Hotel, Times Square When: April Why it’s important: Since the closing of Lani Kai and PKNY more than five years ago, there’s been a dearth of tiki bars in New York. Now, the team behind some of the city’s hardest-hitting restaurants (Carbone, The Grill, Dirty French, ZZ’s Clam Bar) are partnering with Brian Miller, the host of Tiki Mondays, for a Polynesian-inspired bar whose explicit aim is to be the best tiki bar in the world.
Existing Conditions What: A forthcoming bar from two of the industry’s most creative drink-makers. Who: Don Lee (PDT), Dave Arnold (Booker & Dax), Greg Boehm (Cocktail Kingdom) Where: Greenwich Village When: May Why it’s important: Mad geniuses of the cocktail world, Lee and Arnold will team up for a highly anticipated opening meant to showcase a scientific approach to classics.
Frenchette What: A French restaurant from Keith McNally alums, Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, with a drinks program run by two innovators from the cocktail and wine worlds. Who: Sarah Morrissey (Pig Bleecker, Pig Beach, Dutch Kills), Jorge Riera (Wildair, Contra) Where: TriBeCa When: April Why it’s important: One of the most anticipated restaurant openings this season, Frenchette is clearly aiming to have a complete, ambitious beverage program to match Hanson and Nasr’s food. Natural wine, aperitifs and upgraded classic cocktails will take center stage.
Frenchette NYC Frenchette | Photos: Lizzie Munro
Straylight What: An art-world fever dream of a speakeasy beneath an izakaya, serving avant-garde cocktails with a sense of humor. Who: Dorothy Elizabeth (Standby, Detroit) Where: Chinatown When: March Why it’s important: Elizabeth aims to mix her brand of modernist drink-making with Japanese ingredients for what promises to be a thoroughly unique addition to the growing crop of Japanese-style cocktail bars.
Broken Shaker NYC What: The latest outpost of the Miami original located on the roof of the newly opened Freehand Hotel. Who: Elad Zvi, Gabriel Orta Where: Flatiron When: April Why it’s important: Few bars have been able to establish such a uniform identity across so many locations, but following openings in LA and Chicago, Broken Shaker New York will bring its beloved brand of beach vibes to Manhattan.
Chicago Kumiko What: A Japanese-inspired bar with an omakase cocktail menu. Who: Julia Momose (The Oriole, GreenRiver, The Office) Where: West Loop When: Spring Why it’s important: Alongside food from chef Noah Sandoval (Oriole), Kumiko will showcase Momose’s detail-oriented approach with a dealer’s choice menu meant to be unique to each guest.
Mordecai Chicago Mordecai | Photos: Courtesy of Mordecai
Mordecai What: A bi-level cocktail bar bringing elevated drinking options to Wrigleyville. Who: Alex Bachman, Matthias Merges Where: Hotel Zachary, Wrigleyville When: April Why it’s important: The team behind Logan’s Square’s beloved Billy Sunday will bring their elevated sensibility to a neighborhood dominated by high-volume beer bars, with an extensive menu of vintage spirits.
New Orleans Manolito What: A Cuban-inspired bar from two leading New Orleans bartenders. Who: Nick Detrich (Cure, Cane & Table), Chris Hannah (Arnaud’s French 75 Bar) Where: French Quarter When: March Why it’s important: With a roster of drinks inspired by personal experiences at Havana’s Floridita, Manolito pays homage to Cuba’s rich cocktail history as interpreted by two of the Big Easy’s most prominent bar figures.
San Francisco Bon Voyage! What: A new bar from the Trick Dog crew, serving dumplings and cocktails inspired by the tropics. Who: Morgan Schick and Josh Harris of BVHospitality Where: The Mission When: TBD Why it’s important: As only the second standalone bar from the guys behind influential Trick Dog, Bon Voyage will offer a no-holds-barred opportunity to experience the team’s idiosyncratic approach to drinks and experience.
The Rake What: A taproom and brewpub within Admiral Maltings, California’s first craft malthouse. Who: Ron Silberstein (ThirstyBear) and Dave McLean and Curtis Davenport (Magnolia Brewing). Where: Alameda When: January Why it’s important: The taproom looks out onto the brewery’s malting floor, giving visitors a rare peek at this essential part of the beer-making process.
Almanac Beer Co. Barrel House and Taproom What: A new taproom from the beloved Bay Area brewers. Who: Damian Fagan and Jesse Friedman Where: Alameda When: February Why it’s important: The longtime contract brewers have finally opened a brewery of their own with an adjoining taproom allowing Almanac to sell directly to consumers for the first time.
Los Angeles Employees Only What: The LA outpost of the trailblazing Manhattan cocktail bar. Who: Dushan Zaric and Sascha Lyon Where: West Hollywood When: April Why it’s important: With cocktails by original co-founder Dushan Zaric and food by Sascha Lyon (Balthazar, Daniel and Pastis), the highly anticipated opening will represent the sixth iteration of Employee’s Only, alongside locations in New York, Singapore, Miami, Hong Kong and Sydney.
Hotel Figueroa LA Bar Figueroa | Photos: Dylan + Jeni
Hotel Figueroa What: Five forthcoming bar concepts in the Hotel Figueroa space. Who: Dushan Zaric (Employees Only) Where: DTLA When: Summer Why it’s important: With its panoply of drinking destinations, Hotel Figueroa represents a new breed of hotel bar that acts as a 21st century retort to the grand hotel bars of centuries past.
To Be Named Union Station Bar What: A brewpub and cocktail bar in Downtown LA’s deco masterpiece, Union Station. Who: Cedd Moses and Eric Needleman (213 Hospitality), Eric Alperin (The Varnish) Where: DTLA When: June Why it’s important: The team behind some of LA’s most popular bars, including Bar Clacson, Bar Jackalope and Caña Rum Bar, will take over the historic Union Station with Eric Alperin helming the drinks program.
Yet-to-Be-Named Bar from Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni What: A tropical bar at City Market South from the duo behind Scopa and Old Lightning. Who: Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni Where: DTLA When: Summer Why it’s important: Their biggest project to date, Moix and Livigni will bring a fresh take on tiki, taking inspiration from North and South America, and the role these places played in shaping the genre.
San Diego Raised by Wolves What: A combination bar and retail space from San Diego’s most acclaimed bartenders. Who: Anthony Schmidt, Erick Castro Where: Westfield UTC When: April Why it’s important: The team behind Polite Provisions and Noble Experiment will offer a unique retail space alongside a 2,000-square-foot cocktail bar and tasting room with a collection of vintage spirits.
Portland Palomar What: A Cuba-inspired bar from that borrows from Ricky Gomez’s family heritage. Who: Ricky Gomez (Ox, Teardrop Lounge) Where: Division Street When: April Why it’s important: With entire section of the menu dedicated to Daiquiri variations, Gomez, whose parents are from Havana, intends to channel the flavors and colors that he grew up with as he makes a return to Portland from New Orleans.
Palomar Portland Palomar | Photos: Brandon Josie
Deadshot What: A widely acclaimed former pop-up bar goes full brick and mortar. Who: Adam Robinson, with William Priesch and Joel Stocks (Holdfast Dining) Where: Southeast Portland When: Spring Why it’s important: Equipped with a “cocktail lab,” the 52-seat space promises unusual cocktails served alongside an a la carte menu from the chefs behind the wildly popular, reservations-only Holdfast Dining, located next door.
Bar Norman What: A natural wine bar from one of Portland’s top sommeliers. Who: Dana Frank Where: Southeast Portland When: July Why it’s important: The latest project from sommelier Dana Frank, formerly of the acclaimed Ava Gene’s and Dame, will offer a large selection of natural wines for drinking on the spot, or for takeaway.
Enoteca Nostrana What: A new wine bar from Austin Bridges (D.O.C.) and Cathy Whims (Nostrana). Who: Austin Bridges Where: Southeast Portland When: March Why it’s important: With a list consisting of more than 2,000 selections, the European-focused program will expand to include forward-thinking and naturalist bottlings from American producers.
Canard What: Andy Fortgang and Gabe Rucker’s newest addition to the Le Pigeon/Little Bird family. Who: Andy Fortgang Where: Central Eastside When: April Why it’s important: Both larger and more casual than its sister restaurant next door, this all-day wine bar is expected to open beside Le Pigeon this month.
Denver Death & Co. What: The first outpost of the pioneering NYC speakeasy, located in a boutique, 50-room hotel. Who: Alex Day and David Kaplan (Death & Co., The Walker Inn, Normandie Club, Nitecap, Honeycut, Proprietors LLC) and Ravi DiRossi (Death & Co., Amor Y Amargo, Mother of Pearl, Mayahuel) Where: River North Art District When: Spring Why it’s important: The the first expansion of the iconic brand outside of its East Village digs, this opening echoes a trend of establishment cocktail bars moving westward.
American Bonded American Bonded | Photos: Chad Larson
American Bonded What: A whiskey-themed neighborhood cocktail bar serving a menu of American staples alongside “Americana classic” food from J Street Kitchen in a newly renovated space. Who: Sean Kenyon (Williams & Graham, Occidental), Justin Anthony and Lisa Vedovelli Where: River North Art District When: April Why it’s important: After nearly six years of renovations, the long-awaited destination will open with an affordable list of cocktails, with an emphasis on two featured classics, the Mint Julep and the Old-Fashioned.
Nashville The Flamingo What: A Miami-inspired cocktail lounge with a zero-waste program and plant-based food menu, located in a renovated church. Who: Alexis Soler (Old Glory, No. 308), Angela Laino (Good Night Sonny) Where: WeHo When: April Why it’s important: The high-volume bar, which will also be home to a sister coffee shop called The Falcon, will produce only biodegradable and compostable waste.
Pearl Diver What: A “relaxed island lounge” located in a former midcentury garage serving tropical inspired cocktails and bites from Jason Zygmont (The Treehouse) Who: Corey Ladd and Matt Spicher (The Treehouse), Ben Clemons and Jamie White (No. 308) Where: East Nashville When: Spring Why it’s important: Details are still sparse regarding the menu, but judging from the build-out photos, Pearl Diver is going full-custom on glassware, portholes, tropical wallpaper and a yakitori grill. Look for thoughtful touches like dropper bottles with fresh citrus juice in lieu of cut garnishes.
Chopper Tiki What: Nashville’s first tiki bar celebrating island-centric “tastes, flavors and frozen delights.” Who: Andy Mumma (Barista Parlor), Mike Wolf (Husk Nashville) Where: East Nashville When: Spring Why it’s important: The new bar will fill the two spaces last home to Bar Luca and Moto Moda. If their recent pop-up previews are any indication of their brick-and-mortar menu, expect more frozen Jungle Bird riffs, Sassafras-Falarnum Swizzles and a bevy of tiki deep-cuts.
Detroit The Willis Show Bar What: A revamp of the infamous cabaret that was shuttered by police in 1979. Who: Owners Steve Livigni, Sean Patrick, Dave Kwiatkowski (Sugar House, Bad Luck, Wright & Company) and head bartender Dave Martinez Where: Cass Corridor When: May Why it’s important: A star-studded team of hospitality gurus are restoring the historic space to its former glory, complete with a roster of live music, DJs and top-notch cocktails.
Other Notable Openings: Tartine Bar (Los Angeles): A forthcoming bar helmed by Julian Cox and Nick Meyer opening this spring in downtown LA.
Barbette (Los Angeles): A French bar and restaurant, from Brittany Olsen and the team behind The Pikey and Jones.
Holy Ground (New York): A permanent home for Franco Vlasic’s popular barbecue pop-up with a wine list curated by Nathan Lithgow and classic cocktails by Steve Rhea.
Obisbo (San Francisco): The long-awaited rum bar from Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole, Trou Normand), due to open later this season in the Mission.
The Beehive (San Francisco): A new cocktail bar from the team behind The Treasury and White Cap, opening in the former Range space in the Mission.
Verjus (San Francisco): A new wine bar with food from Michael and Lindsay Tusk of Quince and Cotogna.
Bar Crenn (San Francisco): A wine bar adjoining Atelier Crenn, with a focus on biodynamic wine.
The Bar at Hotel Kabuki (San Francisco): The new project from Stephanie Wheeler (Three Dots and a Dash), designed to merge her tiki background with a Japanese-inspired approach.
Nunu (Philadelphia): A forthcoming Japanese bar from the owners of Cheu Noodle Bar and Bing Bing Dim Sum.
Teote (Portland): A new bar focused on agave spirits, boasting one of the largest mezcal collections on the West Coast.
Pink Lady (Seattle): Erik Hakkinen’s forthcoming cocktail program focused on lighter spirits, like eau de vie, gin, pisco, tequila and mezcal.