Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Look: Make Westing, Uptown's Newest Bar

By Ellen Cushing
Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 1:52 PM

Hot on the heels of Bar Dogwood and the new Rudy's Can't Fail, yet another business has opened in Uptown: Make Westing, a new bocce (!) bar founded by East Bay natives Glenn Kaplan and Chris Foott and now occupying the former jewelry store across the street from Rudy's, on the West side of Telegraph. After what appears to be a fairly epic construction process (see cool photos here), the place officially started serving last night; here are our opening-night impressions, as well as some insights from Foott:

The design: Foott said he and his partners — including Matthew Maddy, who's overseen construction and design on bars all across the country — wanted to be respectful to the space while classing it up a little: "We wanted build something that could feel like it'd been there forever," Foott said. "And we wanted to keep the rawness and grittiness but give it a really beautiful veneer." In this case, that means industrial-chic all the way — the bar is salvaged slate, the walls are black and mostly bare, and the whole aesthetic is pretty minimal. There is, of course, a pair of indoor bocce ball courts off to the side of the main room, both of which were consistently full last night. Also worth noting: Make Westing feels significantly more spacious than most bars in the area — always a good thing.

The bocce ball thing: Foott said much of the inspiration for adding bocce courts came from his experiences living and working in England, where "pubs are all about going into somebody's living room." The property has the space for it, and in a crowded market, bocce's a way to stand out: "It's fun, it's different, it's a great drinking game — it makes us a little bit more than just a bar," Foott said.

The clientele: Urbane, friendly early adopters; average age 28 or so, with a few older outliers.

The name: A reference to our boy Jack London, of course.

The menu: a slate of inventive $8 cocktails ($6 during happy hour, which runs a generous three hours, from 4 p.m.-7 p.m.), plus a handful of beers on tap. I tried the Garden Gimlet (gin, cucumber, basil and lime — refreshing and summery) and the Killer Bee Martini (vodka, bärenjäger honey liqueur, lemon — kind of like an alcoholic Luden's cough drop, in a good way), both of which were delicious. According to Foott, the bar menu — which was largely conceived by Caroline Pagel of Sea Salt — aims for "a smattering of esotericism, mixed with accessibility," with a premium put on affordability. "I just want to make fun drinks that people can enjoy — and afford," Foott said.

Full review forthcoming sometime soonish in Last Call; in the meantime, let us know what you think in the comments. Also, just in case our blurry iPhone pic above doesn't fully satisfy, Eater SF has some real photos here.

1741 Telegraph Ave.; 510-251-1400 or MakeWesting.com

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