all photos: Jeff Martin
In a city filled with people who like to complain (or, as like to call it “have opinions about anyone’s opinions”), the ONLY thing you ever hear when Bar Pilar is brought up (aside from “The food is delicious” and, around our office, “God, I miss that photobooth”) is “I JUST WISH THAT PLACE WAS BIGGER.” And, to anyone who’s braved the crowds there after 6pm on any given night, you know what they’re talking about.
So-in the best news of your eating/drinking year thus far-Bar Pilar is PRETTY CLOSE to finishing up their expansion (no date set yet, but it should be ready to rumble within a month).
If you missed our initial, overly excited story about this topic about a year a go-let us recap: the restaurant is adding a second floor dining room with 48 new seats, designed by neighborhood firm Studio Smith (led by Bill Smith who, as a regular at the restaurant, really knows and loves the place, and therefore made a perfect choice), and also, expanding the kitchen substantially (Justin Bittner, who is one of our favorite local chefs, operated out of a teeny 4 burner kitchen in the back), so one can’t help but look forward to what he comes up with once given a little extra room to stretch his culinary wings, although according to him,“The menus will not change. The new kitchen will allow our team to expand upon current creativity and serve several more diners during dinner.”
Yesterday afternoon we got a chance to stop by for a hard hat tour of the space in progress led by Bittner, Smith and Jonathan Fain, who is the GM of the bar operations there, stepping away from his Cafe Saint-Ex duties for now. And here is what we saw:
The downstairs area is getting a substantial face-lift, with new artwork, sadly-the loss of our beloved photobooth (the front of it will serve as a decoration for one of the bathrooms now, we learned) and a new, streamlined cocktail menu by Jonathan Fain who cites Cuba and its flavors as a very strong influence for the summer offerings.
In fact, one of the most exciting things to happen downstairs is the injection of the known and loved Fain whimsy (after all, he is the man that brought us the Poptails @ Saint-ex) who has been busy making old books into cocktail menus, reading up on Hemingway’s drinking habits, learning how to cut glass so as to serve a perfect CUBA LIBRE in vintage Coke bottles with the top cut off and mixing all of his own bitters….
so-plenty to look forward to on that end:
Once you head upstairs through the newly built (and currently in the process of being stained) staircase, even in the state of construction, it is easy to see just how great that upstairs dining experience will be.
A mermaid guides the entrance and murals by Beth Benson, whose style we’ve come to know and recognize through her work at both Pilar and Saint-Ex, adorn the walls on one side and old refinished doors finish up the paneling (intended to be reminiscent of an old library, according to Smith) on the other.
Chef Bittner has been actively working on the actual construction portion of the job but took a minute to assure us that the menu upstairs, while sticking to what he is stylistically known for, will expand and include more traditional appetizers and entrees, as opposed to the downstairs’ “only small plates” concept and the dining room will stay open TILL 1:30AM making it officially our soon-to-be-most-favorite late night spot to eat on 14th street.
The cocktail menu upstairs, served from a 7-seat bar, is going to be expanded significantly from the downstairs streamlined menu, with Fain obviously being super excited about his new playground. “This is going to be the place where you come to hide from the chaos and dance music of 14th street on a weekend.”
Frankly, we’d like to put our (pretty permanent) reservation in now.