There are a number of reasons an established restaurant decides to update its bar area, whether to shine a brighter light on a buzzy beverage program, offer an exclusive experience for VIPs, or simply just to give the people what they want. Here are six examples of just that, from a cozy salon at Café du Pays, to a dog-friendly outdoor bar at Short Path Distillery. A boozy excuse to revisit a standby spot? Don’t mind if we do.
Apertivo bar at Sportello
Though the name of chef Barbara Lynch’s casual, Italian pasta house translates to “counter service,” Sportello has actually never had a bar where guests could dine and watch bartenders pour the wine and make the spritzes. That changed earlier this month, with a new, six-seat bar built into a space formerly occupied by the restaurant’s bakery. Custom-built with reclaimed wood by Lighthouse Woodworks (which also made the tables for Menton), the new bar at Sportello is first-come, first-serve for seating, but guests can request to sit there for lunch or dinner. The full menu is available, and the drink list by bar director Ashley Waugh (a former general manager at No. 9 Park) focuses on classic aperitivi like an Aperol Spritz, and an Italian Greyhound (Punt e Mes and grapefruit); and Italian spirits.
348 Congress St., Boston, 617-737-1234, sportelloboston.com.
Bar à Vins 1855 at La Voile
A well-known name in French dining has opened a totally separate, wine-focused bar upstairs from its Newbury Street location. The La Voile owners took over the former Roost Bistro space, and unveiled Bar à Vins 1855 in early February, says Jérôme Bergère. The longtime maitre d’ at La Voile Newbury, Bergère is actually at the helm in the kitchen at Bar à Vins, getting back to his culinary roots. His menu features wine-friendly snacks like a duo of cheeses and meats; bone marrow; salade Niçoise with a poached egg; and more. There are also grilled meat and fish entrees, such as salmon with leek fondue and beurre blanc; and beef skirt steak with béarnaise; and desserts, like a refreshing red fruit salad with Champagne. It all pairs with more than 45 options of “exquisite” wines by-the-glass, Bergère says. Bar à Vins, located directly above La Voile, is open nightly from 5-9 p.m., and it does accept reservations.
259 Newbury St., Boston, 617-587-4222, lavoilerestaurants.com.
COMB (Craigie on Main Bar)
After 10 years in Central Square, acclaimed chef Tony Maws has plenty of new ideas. Among the new-decade updates is a new identity for the Craigie on Main bar—now known as COMB. The casual room is open nightly with a la carte bistro fare like a Turkish-spiced stew of Maine mussels and garbanzo beans; heritage pork rillettes; and squid-ink mafalde pasta with ham and mushroom ragout, plus a monthly-rotating burger special, and Sunday night Buffalo-soaked snacks. As Maws previously told Boston, “You have to achieve a level of consistency while creating new experiences that make things refreshed.” COMB is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5:30 p.m.-midnight.
853 Main St., Cambridge, 617-497-5511, craigieonmain.com.
Fenix Speakeasy at Nahita
A glittering new restaurant is even more swanky than we anticipated: Nahita, which opened in the fall near Park Square, has a VIP speakeasy called Fenix tucked inside. The exclusive venue has its own menu of shareable bites, like spicy king crab tacos; baby corn elotes with cotija cheese and lime aioli; and spiced meatballs and pita bread. The 12-seat bar is stocked with premium spirits to make Fenix’s specialty cocktails, like Hi-Tea, with quinquina, hibiscus-infused Scotch, and singani orange bitters ($18). Fenix is open Thursday-Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight; inquire with the host at the door to get an invite. The speakeasy can also be booked for private events.
100 Arlington St., Boston, 617-457-8130, nahitarestaurant.com.
Patio Bar at Short Path Distillery
A couple years into making small-batch rums, gins, and more in Everett, Short Path Distillery took over a neighboring lot outside and unveiled a warm-weather patio. Now, that space is covered, heated, and home to a second bar. The outdoor bar is dog-friendly, unlike the indoor tasting room, and it is staffed every Saturday from 3 until at least 8 p.m. to serve up libations like Early Riser (Autumn Gin, orange, cranberry, bitters, tonic); and the Santilli Smash with whiskey. Short Path is open Wednesday-Thursday from 5-11 p.m., Fridays from 2-11 p.m., Saturdays noon-11 p.m., and Sundays noon-6 p.m.
71 Kelvin St., Everett, 857-417-2396, shortpathdistillery.com.
The Salon at Café du Pays
The two-floor bistro at 233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave. is unique, with a darker, moodier dining room and a small, chic bar upstairs, and the lively kitchen, sunny windows, and extra seating down below. While dining at Café du Pays is comfortable and unfussy, there’s still a big appetite for more casual dining, says co-owner John Kessen—so the crew just revamped the downstairs room into a cozy, eclectic, lounge-style Salon where guests can walk in for a cocktail or wine, snacks, or even a full meal. “For years, people are wanting more and more to dine at the bar in restaurants. We wanted to offer a space that’s a lower barrier to entry,” Kessen says. Chef Dan Amighi’s full menu is available downstairs, but he’s also making rotating “Salon Snack” specials, like a non-vegan version of his oreilles de crisse (fried pork snacks), Montreal-spiced beef pastries, and more. The Salon opens Tuesday-Sunday at 4 p.m.
233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave. Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-314-7297, cafedupays.com.
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