Bruce Kravetz and Mark Hausner have lured Upper West Side crowds into the Tangled Vine for wine and small plates since early 2010. But when they began scanning the neighborhood for more space earlier this year, it was not to erect another shrine to vino. “We looked where there might be an opportunity in terms of a concept that’s unfulfilled,” explains Kravetz. “The trend seems to going toward the cocktails and brown booze. There’s more and more brown booze being consumed at the high-premium and super-premium level.”
So when they landed an address diagonally across the street from their current venue, teaming up with Amir Terem–who held the lease–they drew up plans for a whiskey-centric cocktail bar matched to a meaty menu, bedecking their corner space with white-washed brick walls, walnut-stained tables, and a copper topped bar. And they unveiled the fruits of their labor last Friday, opening Barley & Grain at 421 Amsterdam Avenue.
The whiskey board is sizable: “We opened with more than 100 different Scotches, bourbons, and ryes,” says Kravetz. “We have 14 cocktails right now, and they’ll rotate with the season.” The most popular, he says, is the watermelon bourbon smash, an ambrosial summer sipper that drinks lightly. Beverage manager Jessica Friedman, who also runs the program over at Tangled Vine, supplemented the brown spirits with 12 craft beers on tap plus a number in bottle and a well-edited wine program that’s heavy on American reds.
The partners brought on chef Eli Kahlon–who manned burners at Gordon Ramsay at the London, Oceana, and Balaboosta–to create the food syllabus, and he dialed in on meats to match the weight of the drinks. The menu, says Kravetz, “goes from homemade sausages to a porterhouse for two.” The chef also worked on carrying the barley and grain theme through is dishes, incorporating those ingredients into salads and sides.
And now that the concept is up and running, Kravetz says one thing has surprised them: “We were somewhat concerned that it would be a bit of a man cave, but there’s been enormous attention paid by women coming in and drinking cocktails and whiskey and beer,” he says. “That was a very pleasant surprise for us.”
Hit the next page for more photos of the space.