Nowadays big-name bartenders, a unique theme, and compelling cocktail menu are de rigeur in any well-done bar. So what about Westbound, which recently opened in Downtown’s One Santa Fe complex, will turn heads? Besides a bar program run by Dee Ann Quinones (Booker & Dax in New York) and an elevated bar food menu by chef Gary Nguyen (Mélisse, Alma), that is?
Hospitality is actually built into this bar, to the point where it seems like every aspect of it had you in mind. “It’s very important to make a something that has a little something for everyone because it makes for a great place to go back to,” says head bartender Quinones. Owner Sarah Meade traveled the world hitting up all the best watering holes and took the best parts of them to incorporate in her venue.
The result is a thoughtful drink destination with features that will speak to every regular bar-goer.
Smartphone charging station next to purse hooks
There’s a USB port for you to plug in your cord and even a shelf where your phone can relax while it rejuvenates. So genius. I’m amazed no one thought of this sooner.
A current trend in cocktail menus is all about describing flavor profiles rather than listing esoteric ingredients to impress other bartenders. Westbound chose a different route: to educate its guests. If you don’t want to ask the server what a certain ingredient is, just flip to the back of the menu for the glossary which covers aquavit to tamarind.
Food prep area front and center
For those who love watching chefs work, they now can do that while sitting at the bar. Here, the chef’s prep station is set up in the center of the bar so you get to watch your cocktail being made alongside your beef tartare and gravlax cones.
Elevated bar food
With a resume that includes cooking at Mélisse, Chef Nguyen wanted to go beyond standard bar food to create an evolving culinary experience. The foie and waffles is an ode to the comfort food favorite chicken and waffles while the Tim Tam dessert is a deconstructed version of the beloved Australian cookie.
The Coffee ‘tini You Always Wanted
Not only is the Espresso Martini made with real espresso, but it’s served in these handy coffee cups/cocktail coupes for those who can’t make up their minds of how to approach it.
Brownies at Last Call
Taking a cue from Employee Only’s last call chicken soup, Westbound offers brownie bites topped with meringue to guests who make it to closing time. “1 a.m., on the bar side of things, is when we start to figure out we’re almost finished with our service,” explains Quinones. “So we start getting into our own zone while making sure the guests are taken care of at that time. It’s our nod to the guests before their experience is over.” The brownie, which is a hybrid of recipes by Meade, Nguyen and sous chef Taylor Persh and is not at all “funny,’ is not on the regular menu so if you really want it you gotta stick around.