The Most Notable New Bars in America, Fall 2016

This season brings a wave of new bars and restaurants around the country serving forward-thinking drinks and embracing the trends of today and tomorrow. Here, our picks for the most notable openings of the summer and fall.

Wm. Mulherin’s Sons Philadelphia

This season brings with it a number of important bar openings, notable not only for their impressive drink lists and the individuals behind them, but also for the industry trends that they embody. Pared-down tropical drinks, Cuban classics, all-out tiki, old Chartreuse and natural wine are, not too surprisingly, all represented here, but so are Middle Eastern-inflected cocktails and quirky theme bars, an old Jerry Thomas haunt and a proliferation restaurants increasingly taking their drinks as seriously as their food (and approaching them from a culinary standpoint, too). Also on the list are a handful of neighborhood bars striving to serve forward-thinking drinks in unpretentious settings, the kinds of places that signal peak cocktail renaissance. And nearly every place on our list has a name-droppable pedigree spanning both the bar and restaurant worlds.

Here, now, our picks for the most notable new and forthcoming bar openings in America from June to December 2016:

San Francisco

Louie’s Gen-Gen Room
What: A 24-seat, reservations-only cocktail bar beneath Liholiho Yacht Club that sports a separate menu, tropical cocktails, a smart selection of wines and an extensive collection of Japanese whisky.
Who: Liholiho chef Ravi Kapur and bar director Yanni Kehagiaras, also of Liholiho and Nopa.
Where: In Tendernob, the border neighborhood located between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill, inside a former grocery store.
When: June 2016
Why it’s important: At Liholiho Yacht Club, Kehagiaras debuted his unique menu of minimalist tropical cocktails (which the San Francisco Chronicle’s Esther Mobley rightly described as “an exercise in tropical restraint”). At Gen-Gen, he offers further proof that complexity and simplicity are not mutually exclusive—and that he is one of the country’s most forward-thinking bartenders.

Louie's Gen-Gen Room

The Morris
What: The long-awaited, beverage-centric restaurant from famed sommelier Paul Einbund.
Who: Paul Einbund (also of Octavia and Frances), and chef Gavin Schmidt.
Where: In the old Slow Club space in Media Gulch (between the Mission and Potrero Hill).
When: October 2016
Why it’s important: Destined to be an immediate wine industry hit, The Morris is home to one of the country’s most notable new wine lists; at over 50 pages long, it’s been years in the making. But Einbund has left no stone unturned, adding an ambitious cocktail program and an extensive collection of old Chartreuse, one of his obsessions.

Los Angeles

Here’s Looking at You
What: Culinary-inspired cocktails that riff from a global menu.
Who: Chef Jonathan Whitener (Animal) and Allan Katz and Danielle Crouch (Caña Rum Bar).
Where: In the former Whiz space (remodeled by Whitener and co-owner Lien Ta) in Koreatown.
When: July 2016
Why it’s important: Another bar that is taking taking the idea of the West Coast cocktail (i.e. seasonal and driven by fresh ingredients) a step further, integrating everything from pickled strawberry to aquafaba. It’s also further evidence of Koreatown’s rise as one of the best drinking neighborhoods in LA. 

San Diego

False Idol
What: An ambitious rum and tiki bar from Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, White Chapel) and Consortium Holdings (Polite Provisions, Noble Experiment), which features custom carvings, an indoor volcano and a floor-to-ceiling waterfall.
Who: One of America’s great tiki scholars, Martin Cate, CH Projects and slew of other tiki-affiliated nerds.
Where: Located behind Craft & Commerce in Little Italy and accessed through a hidden walk-in freezer.
When: September 2016
Why it’s important: The space may be tiny, but this is the biggest tiki bar opening since Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 in New Orleans. The project has no shortage of big guns (Cate, tiki artists Bosko Hrnjak and Ignacio Gonzalez) and rum—more than 200 bottlings to be exact, many of them rare.

Portland

Tusk
What: The latest project from chef Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene’s), which pairs him up with Sam Smith of Philadelphia’s famed Israeli restaurant, Zahav, and star bartender Tyler Stevens, who will be playing with the flavors and ingredients coming out of the kitchen. (And yes, it’s named for the Fleetwood Mac album of the same name.)
Who: Tyler Stevens, a former bartender at Teardrop Lounge and one of Portland’s top talents.
Where: The former Levant space on East Burnside.
When: August 2016
Why it’s important: An excellent example of the growing synergy between kitchen and bar, Stevens is pulling from Middle Eastern-inspired ingredients to make drinks that feel entirely singular, like his Black Gold (fino sherry, gin, lemon, honey, activated charcoal) and Eastern Maid (vodka, almonds, lemon, yogurt, cucumber, rose water).

Tusk PDX

Dame 
What: Dana Frank’s 37-seat love letter to natural wine, with food from Eli Dahlin (Damn the Weather, The Walrus and the Carpenter).
Who: Dana Frank, former wine director at Ava Gene’s and one of the country’s best sommeliers, Jane Smith (The Knock Back) and chef Eli Dahlin.
Where: The former Cocotte space on NE Killingsworth.
When: September 2016
Why it’s important: Dame is the latest in a string of excellent, recent natural wine bar and restaurant openings (The Four Horsemen, Wildair). With the loss of Portland’s Sauvage, it comes at just the right time.

Seattle

Foreign National
What: A 28-seat bar serving modernist takes on tropical cocktails, set in a space that chef Eric Johnson told Seattle Met is meant to evoke a “hole-in-the-wall bar that might exist in Saigon or on the sixth floor of a building in Tokyo.”
Who: Adam Fortuna (Artusi) and the crew behind Seattle’s beloved French-Vietnamese restaurant, Stateside.
Where: Next door to Stateside in Capitol Hill.
When: June 2016
Why it’s important: One of the most ambitious bars to open in Seattle in recent years, Foreign National has the talent and vision to become a nationally important watering hole. It’s menu is also a terrific example of a new generation of ambitious food designed to pair with cocktails.

New Orleans

Café Henri
What: The latest project from the crew behind Cure and Cane & Table.
Who: Neal Bodenheimer, Kirk Estopinal and Nick Detrich
Where: The space formerly occupied by Booty’s Street Food in the Bywater.
When: June 2016
Why it’s important: The theme here is simple comfort food and familiar drinks (Tom Collins, Sherry Cobbler, rum and Coke) that are executed with precision, making it an excellent addition to the growing canon of elevated neighborhood bars, one of the great outcroppings of the craft cocktail renaissance.

Cafe Henri Nola

Detroit

Bad Luck Bar
What: Experimental, high-concept cocktails, not unlike Nightjar in London and The Aviary in Chicago, in a space that seats up to 32 guests.
Who: The Detroit Optimist Society (The Sugar House, Wright & Company, The Peterboro, Café 78 at MOCAD and Honest John’s) and Yani Frye, head bartender at The Sugar House.
Where: The newly renovated Albert Building (formerly the Griswold Building, designed by Albert Kahn in 1929) in Capitol Park.
When: Fall 2016
Why it’s important: Detroit continues to put itself on the national cocktail map and this project, easily the city’s most ambitious to date, is sure to bring Detriot’s revitalization even more attention.

New York

Jupiter Disco
What: A cocktail-centric Brooklyn dance bar that nods to 1980s sci-fi, with an aesthetic inspired by the alien dive bar in Blade Runner.
Who: Al Sotack (The Franklin BarDeath & Co.), Maks Pazuniak (Cure, Maison Premiere).
Where: Way the hell out in Bushwick.
When: October 2016
Why it’s important: This is the latest in a series of bars that are looking to insert a little kitsch and Brooklyn DIY weirdness (TJ Lynch and Toby Maloney’s dance bar is also slated to open in Bushwick in the coming months) into the craft cocktail bar experience. Also, Blade Runner.

BlackTail
What: The second concept from The Dead Rabbit team, styled after the American bars that popped up in Prohibition-era Havana, with an 88-page drinks list and live Cuban jazz.
Who: Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, Jillian Vose and Jesse Vida (head bartender).
Where: The Pier A Harbor House in the Financial District.
When: August 2016
Why it’s important: Will New York ever really embrace the themed craft cocktail bar? If there’s any team that can pull it off, it’s the Dead Rabbit crew. While cities like San Francisco (Whitechapel) and LA (Good Times at Davey Wayne’s) have embraced bars that seek to create a kitschy alternate reality, New York has barely been able to sustain a tiki bar. Ambitious in décor and positioning, but right on trend with our increased fascination with Cuba, this is an escapist bar with the research and smarts to back it up.

Rouge Tomate 2.0
What: The reopening, and relocation, of one of New York’s premiere wine destinations, boasting an even larger wine list of around 800 selections, of which 90 percent will be made from grapes grown organically or biodynamically.
Who: Master sommelier, Loire and chenin blanc fanatic and natural wine evangelist Pascaline Lepeltier.
Where: Chelsea.
When: October 2016
Why it’s important: Even in its previous Upper East Side digs, Rouge Tomate managed to become a wine hangout for the downtown set. In its new, more casual space in Chelsea, it’s poised to be an even bigger draw—with perhaps the largest list of natural wines of any restaurant in the world.

Philadelphia

Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
What: Another neighborhood bar and restaurant that over-delivers on every front: design, cocktails, wine, beer and food. The drinks focus on well-executed classics and their modern riffs, alongside an extensive list of amari, beer and Italian natural wines.
Who: Chef Chris Painter (Il Pittore) and bartender Mike Haggerty.
Where: A 19th-century whiskey blending and bottling facility in Fishtown.
When: April 2016
Why it’s important: Already named one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appétit, the drinks here are progressive enough to land Wm. a spot in the national bar conversation.

Washington, D.C.

ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar
What: Easily the most determined cider-centric bar in America, featuring 20 ciders on tap and more than 100 in bottle.
Who: A bevy of beer experts, including Sam Fitz, who helped open D.C. craft beer bar Churchkey.
Where: Inside an old rowhouse in Shaw, decked out.
When: July 2016
Why it’s important: Also a retail space and working cidery (which has produced a pair of ciders from apples foraged in and around D.C.), ANXO is proof of cider’s ascendance and attendant geekery.

Anxo Cider Washington DC

Charleston, South Carolina

The Living Room and Citrus Club at The Dewberry
What: A new boutique hotel in the old federal building that has been turned into a “midcentury modern fantasy,” as Hanna Raskin calls it, with two distinct bar concepts—the hotel lobby bar, the Living Room (which focuses on dark spirits) and the rooftop bar, the Citrus Club (which serves riffs on tiki classics).
Who: Bar manager Ryan Casey, formerly of McCrady’s and Edmund’s Oast.
Where: The Mendel Rivers Federal Building in Marion Square.
When: July 2016
Why it’s important: One of a slew of excellent new hotel bars (the Caribbean Room at the Pontchartrain in New Orleans, Wm. Mulherin’s in Philadelphia), Casey’s reputation as one of the best bartenders in the country is on full display here in his ability to marry high and low via two complementary drink lists.

The Best Friend Lounge at The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel
What: The return of The Best Friend Lounge, a hidden bar located off the lobby of The Mills House, where Jerry Thomas reportedly once tended bar.
Who: Roger Gelis, formerly of Proof.
Where: The Mills House, built in 1853.
When: July 2016
Why it’s important: Charleston continues to call on its history as one of America’s booziest cities, reminding the world that it’s as relevant now as it was during its heyday as a port city for the trade of rum and Madeira. This is just one of several recent projects that bring the city’s important roots into relief.

Other notable openings and trends: 

The NOLA Hotel Bar Boom
In the past six months, NOLA has seen a boom of fantastic hotel bars, like the Catahoula at the Catahoula Hotel, Hot Tin and the Caribbean Room at the Pontchartrain Hotel, Seaworthy at the Ace Hotel and the forthcoming bars at The Troubadour (Petit Lion, The Troubadour Lounge and The Monkey Board).

Miami Grows Up
Miami, a city that has been derided for being a bit behind the curve when it comes to craft cocktails, has two new notable bars to add to its expanding roster: The Anderson, from The Broken Shaker team, and Sweet Liberty from John Lermayer (The Regent Cocktail Club), Dan Binkiewicz (Blackbird Ordinary), David Martinez and his wife, chef Michelle Bernstein.

McCrady’s Tavern | Charleston, South Carolina
Sean Brock’s McCrady’s reopened in August as McCrady’s Tavern, with a focus on brown spirits, sherry and Madeira.

Westlight | Brooklyn
Williamsburg continues to grow into a neighborhood that can support higher-end projects, with proof by way of Missy Robbins’ Lilia and the Peruvian-inspired Llama Inn. Now, on the roof of the recently opened William Vale Hotel, Westlight offers a menu from chef Andrew Carmellini and drinks from Anne Robinson (PDT, Booker & Dax) alongside some of the best views of the city.

DTO (Daiquiri Time Out) | Galveston, Texas
Named for the bartender handshake, “Daiquiri Time Out” focuses on tropical drinks from bartender Brad Stinger.

Nobie’s | Houston
This fall, Martin Stayer (Coltivare) will debut his new concept, which seeks to “bring new meaning to Texas eating,” according to its website. The cocktail program is still TBD, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Pictured at top: A look inside Wm. Mulherin’s Sons.

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