Woburn’s Baldwin & Sons Lands on Esquire 2017 Best Bars

The library lounge above Ran Duan's essential Baldwin Bar is the only Massachusetts winner this year.

Baldwin & Sons Trading Co.

Baldwin & Sons Trading Co. / Photo by Raul Zelaya

Ran Duan made a Colonial mansion in Woburn a drink-lover’s destination when he transformed a bar driven by scorpion bowls into a retro-modern tiki lounge, at his parents’ Chinese restaurant, Sichuan Garden II. The national media took notice, especially after Duan represented the U.S. in a couple global drink-making competitions. Today, Duan’s newest venture, an indulgent but elegant library on the mansion’s second floor, earns his latest praise.

The Baldwin & Sons Trading Co. has landed on Esquire’s 2017 list of Best Bars in America. Writes Bostonian Luke O’Neil, a regular contributor to the magazine:

Picture the best Chinese-takeout restaurant you’ve been to: dumplings and thick-cut bacon in garlic, ginger, and Sichuan peppers. Now put that inside a New England Colonial mansion built in 1661. When you tack on one of the best cocktail bars in Massachusetts, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches… Cocktails come in meticulously stage-dressed vessels: brown and bitter recipes in flasks served in cigar boxes, or a glass egg filled with Aperol, absinthe, and grapefruit served on a bed of flowers.

Baldwin & Sons is the only Massachusetts representative on the latest list. It joins the pantheon of Boston-area Esquire Hall of Fame bars, like the Hawthorne, State Park, Drink, Eastern Standard, and the legendary Croke Park/Whitey’s.

Elsewhere on this year’s list of 24 is the Magdalenae Room, tucked inside Providence’s Dean Hotel.

“With its cloistered hum and crepuscular lighting and high-backed booths, this discreet refuge… welcomes you with a sort of film-noir nod that conveys, ‘Don’t worry, we won’t tell a soul,'” writes Esquire correspondent Jeff Gordinier.

The 45-seat Baldwin & Sons Trading Co. is open Thursday-Sunday, and the 24-seat Baldwin Bar is open nightly. Reservations are highly encouraged, because Esquire writers and the like keep taking the seats.

But don’t worry—Duan isn’t done. He’s still developing a rum bar, headed for his parents’ other Sichuan Garden restaurant in Brookline.

The Baldwin & Sons Trading Co., 2 Alfred St., second floor, Woburn, 781-935-8488, thebaldwinbar.com.

sichuan garden II

Ran Duan at the Baldwin Bar in Woburn. / Photo by Alex Lau for “Behind the Bar at Sichuan Garden II”