Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel — the James Beard Award-winning former chef-owner of Oxheart and the bartender-entrepreneur behind Anvil Bar & Refuge, The Pastry War, and The Nightingale Room — have announced that their new joint venture, Better Luck Tomorrow, will officially open to the public on Wednesday.
Located in the former home of Dry Creek Cafe at the corner of Yale Street and W 6th in The Heights, Better Luck Tomorrow aims to be a neighborhood bar with food, although the respective resumes of its owners gives it a higher profile than most new spots. The bar held a four-day soft opening over the weekend to preview its menu and work on any kinks in service.
Comparisons with Heugel's other bars are inevitable, but BLT sets itself apart in a few significant ways. Visually, the back bar's neon accents give it a fun, retro vibe that's an immediate contrast with Anvil's more austere interior. Like Anvil after its recent remodel, BLT features a brass bar top (with about a dozen seats) and a few standing tables. However, BLT's smaller interior means most of the seating is outside, either at picnic tables or on chairs around a common table.
Service involves ordering at the bar (first time visitors will have to swipe a driver's license to join the private club). Food comes out via runners, who also refill water. The absence of servers means that BLT, like the recently opened Heights Bier Garten, definitely qualifies as a bar with food rather than a restaurant with cocktails.
After five years of serving tasting menus at Oxheart, BLT gives Yu and chef Matt Boesen (a former Oxheart cook who comes to BLT from Hunky Dory) the chance to display a more casual, playful side. Those who appreciated Oxheart's vegetable-oriented cuisine will find several options, including charred spring squashes, peas with celery, mint, and horseradish, and a flatbread topped with yogurt-marinated cucumbers. A patty melt, dubbed the "party melt," substitues for a burger, and the necesscity of offering something fried leads to the Crispy Chicken.
Rather than give in to the current trend and serve a fried chicken sandwich, the chefs took their inspiration from Hot Star, a restaurant in Taiwan that serves a thin pounded chicken cutlet that's coasted in a thin batter of sweet potato flour. Like bone-in fried chicken, diners simply pick up the whole piece and eat it — no utensils required, except to eat the pickled cabbage that's served on the side.
The duo show a similar sense of whimsy with the Not a Pizza, which looks like a classic pie but is a Chinese-style scallion pancake topped with burrata and anchovy-garlic bagna cauda (seen below at top right).
Apr 30, 2017 at 3:17pm PDT
As for the cocktails, bar manager Alex Negranza and operations manager Terry Williams created a menu that incorporates some seasonal elements into classic cocktails. For example, the bar's version of a Pimm's Cup comes with a shot of strawberry syrup and is garnished with a strawberry. The "Mistakenly Named" references the disputed creation story of the classic Manhattan cocktail. Rockets fan (and tequila drinkers) will want to check out the Sleepy Floyd.
One way to stretch out the time between going back to the bar to order more food or drinks is to choose wine over cocktails. Created by Justin Vann, Yu's partner in the downtown bar Public Services, the 14-bottle list mostly features selections in the $50 to 60 range, about half of which are also available by the glass.
BLT's neighborhood is already a growing culinary destination, but its combination of high quality cocktails, serving food until midnight, and its low-key atmosphere will set it apart from its neighbors on White Oak and nearby spots on Washington Avenue. Yu and Heugel may only want to open a neighborhood spot, but interested diners and drinkers from across the city will probably be heading to Better Luck Tomorrow soon.