Fans of expertly-made drinks with high-end bar bites have a new reason to trek to Sunset Hill. Last night, the highly anticipated cocktail bar Baker’s opened up on 32nd Avenue, right across the street from neighborhood mainstay Ristorante Picolinos. Among the drinks from accomplished bartender Brian Claudio Smith are Argentinian gin and tonics, a julep with Old Forester’s bourbon (for those who want to get in the Kentucky Derby moon), and a concoction called Signals From Above made with Spanish sherry and ginger beer. There will also be wine and beer from local makers.
But an extensive list of small plates may be the main draw for many, since Matt Janke of Matt’s in the Market and Lecosho fame contributed to the menu. Those looking for something a little more substantial than the usual bar snacks will find lamb meatballs flavored with an anchovy-olive braise, beef tartare with currant, and manila clams with Calabrian chile and Thai basil.
Beyond thoughtful drink and food pairings, Smith — who named his place after writer, cocktail icon, and Ernest Hemingway drinking buddy Charles H. Baker, Jr. — wants to create a community gathering space. Part of that is accomplished with the intimate interior design (from Mallet Design Build), a gut renovation of the old cafe Walter’s, with seating for 20, candlelight, antique tapestries, and an open kitchen. It also means engaging with customers, encouraging them to ask about the ingredients in each drink, and even sharing recipes, says Smith.
In early summer, the outdoor patio will be open, featuring a garden for herbs that will be used in the food and cocktails. And those who want to take home a bottle of the wine or some of the aperitives from the menu can do so, since Baker’s has a retail area.