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Traveling Gourmet: Bars With Great Food

by Rich Rubin
Bars With Great Food Opening Photo

In this article we’re sure you’ll find something you love in both the edible and potable departments.

Rich Rubin

Sometimes you don’t feel like doing the whole dining routine, but you’re still in the mood for some good food. Or maybe you really feel like heading to a bar rather than a restaurant, but that always-ravenous husband wants to eat. Luckily, we’ve found some wonderful bars for you that serve great food—far beyond “bar snacks” into a level of bar cuisine that’s admirable. So, enjoy a cocktail or draft beer and nosh on something delicious while you do it. We’re sure you’ll find something you love in both the edible and potable departments.

I know you love the Strip, but trust me, you’ll be glad you ventured to southwest Vegas for Born and Raised, a hopping bar in this very local hangout neighborhood. With a lounge-y feel, eclectic assortment of furniture, and a spacious patio, you have a great choice of seating areas, with sports fans gravitating toward the large wall of TV screens showing your favorite game. Settle in with a cocktail, perhaps a cucumber mojito or a Smokin’ Mary, a Bloody Mary made with mezcal in a glass rimmed with Tajin (a chile/lime/sea salt seasoning). You’ll also find a fantastic array of Mules, with takeoffs on the Moscow Mule including Mexican (mezcal), Kentucky (bourbon), and Irish (Jameson’s) mixed with the traditional lime juice and ginger beer. Sliders are the go-to choice for food, with sixteen selections ranging from prime rib, turkey/bacon, and chicken katsu to Beyond burgers, fish ‘n’ chips, and Cubano. With two sliders in each order (and the prices incredibly reasonable), I suggest a selection to be shared. Or you might prefer salads, wraps, a “build-a-burger,” miso corn, or tuna poke. One unusual thing here is the 24/7 breakfast offerings, from Loco Moco and breakfast burritos to their famous Hendertucky Toast, a decadent French Toast concoction with “fruity pebbles,” whipped cream, and berries. If that isn’t indulgent enough for you, do the fried chicken and donut sandwich, made even more sinful with bacon, pepper jack cheese, and whiskey syrup. Hey, this is Las Vegas. You’re allowed. 7260 S. Cimarron Rd., Las Vegas, Nevada. Tel: 702-685-0258. www.bornandraisedlv.com/las-vegas

Bars with great food - Strangeloves


There’s an immediate comfort and familiarity to the look of Strangelove’s (brick walls, wood tables and large barrels holding plants). At this Philadelphia beer bar devoted to craft brews, take a chair at the long bar or one of the tables. Peruse the astonishing selection of beverages on tap, from cider and IPA to lager, porter, pilsner, and stout. You’ll be so impressed with the beers you might forget to look at the food menu, but don’t do that, because there are some wonderful edibles on offer too, from buffalo cauliflower, bright orange and nicely spicy, to the Crabby Sammy, a sandwich of crab cakes with a jalapeño aioli. The smoked tempeh banh mi is a perpetual favorite, with a soy/chili glaze and spiced vegan mayo making this the perfect dish for your vegan friends, vibrant, piquant, and soothing all at once. Salads come from smoked salmon or catfish/arugula to a Russian kale salad with beets, farro, pecans, and apples. You can get the traditional Philly cheesesteak here, but you can also get a ZLT, a spin on the traditional BLT featuring smoked zucchini instead of bacon. It’s friendly, fun, and the perfect place to take a group whose culinary tastes run the gamut, as there’s truly something for everyone here. 216 S. 11th St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tel: 215-873-0404. www.strangelovesbeerbar.com

Great bar food - Truss and Twine

Truss & Twine

It was actually this place that made me think about writing this column, with its appealing setting, large U-shaped bar at the center, and tables scattered around the perimeter where people enjoy cookery that got me rethinking the idea of “bar snacks.” Look above the bar at about a million bottles: this is definitely a place to have drinks. Look at the end of the bar, where a large bowl of olives and vinegar/oil cruets sit, and that clues you in that you can also have some great stuff to eat here (not surprisingly, since it’s run by the people who own next-door Workshop Kitchen, one of the most interesting and creative restaurants in Palm Springs). Have a classic cocktail, arranged by era, with such options as an Old Fashioned from the “classic” age, Hanky Panky (gin, vermouth, Fermet Branca) representing Prohibition, and originals like a Game Changer (gin, lime, cucumber, sugar, onion brine, and celery bitters, and yes, it’s much better than it sounds!). For food, I start with a Beet Variation: red and gold beets, topped with crunchy sea beans scattered across a plated dusted in paprika. There’s more to this lovely dish: you’ll also find beet crisps, dots of hazelnut butter, and tiny “beet pearls” more precious than the real thing. Another winner is the ricotta toast, with a medley of apples and figs, a drizzle of lavender honey, and a scattering of Thai basil. The feeling here is casual but sophisticated, obviously a hip go-to spot, but still really friendly. I’ve never thought of bar food the same way after my sojourn in Truss & Twine. 800 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, California. Tel: 760-699-7294. www.trussandtwine.com

Bars With Great Food - Small Batch

Small Batch

So my niece and I are in St. Louis at the same time. She’s a vegetarian. She and her husband are whiskey connoisseurs. Where to go? Like the answer to a prayer, we discover Small Batch, a whiskey bar that serves brilliant vegetarian food. Step inside, and you can still see the bar’s origins as a Model T showroom in St. Louis’ erstwhile “auto row,” from the soaring ceilings (there’s now an area of balcony seating) to the vintage black and white tile. The drinks list is creative and extensive (it’s 15 pages long, after all), but the real star here is whiskey, with over 140 offered. You can find your favorite or discover something new in their various whiskey flights of three tastes like Whiskey 101, Anywhere but Kentucky, or Multigrain. Then there’s the food, which spans the globe, from pad thai loaded with vegetables to pasta carbonara with mushroom “bacon,” cured eggs, and parmesan. Their yellow Thai curry is a winner, as is the sauerbraten, made of pickled and marinated seitan with brussels sprouts sauerkraut and the ever-wonderful spaetzle. There’s much to love here, from the concept (a whiskey bar/vegetarian eatery? In a former Model T showroom? In St. Louis?) to the execution, a combination of global and local favorites easily adapted to the vegetarian palate. You don’t have to be the uncle of a whiskey-loving vegetarian to love Small Batch, you just have to love great food and drink. 3001 Locust St., St. Louis, Missouri. Tel: 314-380-2040. www.smallbatchstl.com

Great bar food - Death & Co

Death & Co

At Death & Co, in the lobby of the Ramble Hotel, there’s a comfy, clubby feel, like it’s a secret that everyone but you already knows about. Well, we’re going to change that because you really must pay a visit for both their creative cocktails and their delicious bar snacks, both of which spin off the classic recipes in unexpected and pleasing ways. Have a seat on one of the couches or padded chairs beneath huge chandeliers or on a stool at the mirrored bar. Order a cocktail such as an espresso martini, Good Enough Gatsby (rye, pear brandy, and amaro), or Outrigger (bourbon, chartreuse, passionfruit, vanilla, bitters). Then check out the food offerings, which range from asparagus in a light tempura coating, with a sweet/spicy tikka masala aioli, to banh mi rolls filled with smoked tofu and pickled vegetables and accompanied by a peanut dipping sauce. Grilled cheese oozes with melted Brie for an unusual spinoff on this classic, while Mac & Cheese Carbonara is rich with egg yolks and pecorino. For dessert, try their take on grasshopper pie, this minty delight swathed in a dark chocolate shell, a dusting of salt livening the flavors. It’s easy to see why everyone in town loves this place: the cocktails are fun, the food is great, the atmosphere is warm and friendly, the service perfect. What more could you ask? 1280 25th St., Denver, Colorado. Tel: 720-330-2660. www.deathandcompany.com

Bars with great food - Crimson and Rye

Crimson and Rye

This cozy spot in New York’s Midtown Lipstick Building lobby attracts a mix of young professionals and tourists to the comfy environs, where a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bar, metallic red lights dangling from an elaborate wooden overhang, and comfy seating give a warm, clubby feel to the space. Food choices abound, with a standout being the chorizo flatbread, the minced sausage complemented by sweet/spicy pickled cherry pepper, with arugula and shaved manchego cheese adding to the panoply of flavors. Soft pretzels are livened by both your choice of dipping sauces: cheese/Pilsner fondue or whole-grain mustard. Fish-lovers will go for the tuna tartare, while pulled pork sliders, mac & cheese, and tacos (pulled pork or ahi tuna) are prepared with the care you’d expect from a Charlie Palmer establishment. To wash down (or replace) the culinary offerings, try one of their ever-changing cocktails, created in house, or one of the always-available Crimson Classics. Among the latter, the Crimson and Rye, a mixture of rye, gin, cynar, cherry heering, and orange blossom, is so good it deserves to carry the bar’s name, while another great choice is a Fallen Rose (basil-infused pisco, créme de violette, cardamom syrup, lime, and egg white). You might also do a rye, bourbon, or scotch flight allowing you to taste several small batch favorites. Stop in for one of their intriguing specials, from Monday night’s Buck-a-Shuck for oyster lovers (with happy hour all night) to Friday’s Negroni Night, with five different Negronis featured for only $10 each. 198 E. 54th St., New York, New York. Tel: 212-687- 6692. www.crimsonandrye.com

You may also like:   Traveling Gourmet — My Favorite Food Stories

And Also:   Eat Me! + Drink Me! 

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