It didn’t take long for Disco Era-channeling bar the Golden Cadillac to go the way of polyester suits (perhaps because people would rather leave the sugary cocktails the place highlighted on its menu firmly in the past), but its specter remains at Boilermaker (13 First Avenue), the new beer and whiskey-centric drinks den that opened in its place.
Sure, the neon lighting has been stripped away — the place is now shrouded in darkness — but the bar remains, a hulking centerpiece that resembles the grill of a car, although it’s been painted over and subdued. Collections of beer cans hang on exposed brick walls, and drinkers can crowd into booths or perch at a high center counter (also a holdover from the Golden Cadillac days). The night we stopped in, most people were sitting at the bar, and as the night wore on, they seemed to meld into one party, buying each other — and the bartenders — shots.
That should be no surprise — much of the Golden Cadillac team remains in tact here; Greg Boehm and James Tune co-own this spot as they did the last, Don Lee is still behind the bar, and Miguel Trinidad is still in the kitchen. But the team also brought on Erick Castro, who owns San Diego’s Polite Provisions, as a managing partner for this project.
If design details and personnel are reminders of the previous concept, though, the menu couldn’t be more different. Boilermaker takes its cues from a different era, the late 19th and early 20th century, when dockworkers would hunker down in bars for a post-shift beer and a shot, usually whiskey. (If you’ve noticed that tradition being revived around town, by the way, you’re not wrong — Nitecap opened with a beer-and-shot pairing list, and a number of bars have added cheeky twists on the simple match-up to their menus.)
That means the spirits list skews brown, and the 12-deep tap list, long on craft beer from all over the country, is as thoughtful as the cocktail menu. There are boilermakers on the board, of course, each of which is vaguely themed: Narragansett lager and Ancient Age bourbon form the All-American, Tecate and Cabeza Blanco tequila make up the Machete in Space. You can also buy a bucket of boilermakers for $45, which nets you a six-pack of Miller High Life and six shots of Buffalo Trace (and that is, incidentally, closest to the drink combo we always order at a dive bar).
Castro and Lee both boast impressive cocktail credentials, though, so composed drinks should not be overlooked. Our favorite of the night was the ‘Blood Of My Enemies,’ a boozy, bitter sipper made with rum, Amaro Montenegro, and Punt e Mes. The ‘Ninth Wonder,’ a combination of tequila, lime, Ancho Reyes, and Créme de Cacao, made a good place to start. Boilermaker also pours a quartet of cocktails on tap; in addition to a pair of highballs, you’ll find a Zombie and the ‘Full Windsor,’ made with Scotch, Calvados, and sweet vermouth.
Trinidad put together a menu inspired by Corner Bistro and In-n-Out Burger, so you can pair your drinks to burgers, wings, and a trio of fried sides.
This place seems best for a nightcap, though, so perhaps the food is moot.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said Erick Castro left his post at Polite Provisions for this project. That is incorrect — he is the owner.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 24, 2014