Every January, our Imbibe 75 Issue highlights the people, places and flavors we’re most excited to watch in the year, and as always, this year’s list is filled with notable destinations, including our picks for Coffee Bar of the Year, Cocktail Bar of the Year, Wine Bar of the Year and Beer Bar of the Year. Here’s a peek at some of these spots, and we encourage you to pick up a print issue to explore the full Imbibe 75 list for 2017.
Beer Bar of the Year: Prairie Brewpub, Tulsa, OK
When Prairie Brewpub first opened its doors last May, it wasn’t just the debut of a new bar in Tulsa—it was an announcement to the beer world that Oklahoma was ready to rumble. Built on the reputation (and beer) of Prairie Artisan Ales—the Tulsa brewery founded in 2012 by Chase and Colin Healey, known for its sours and other edgy brews—the pub was a two-year project taken on by the Healeys, along with Josh Royal, Paul Sorentino, Bill Grant and Ryan Stack. “Prairie really put Oklahoma on the map for craft beer,” Stack says. “The pub, plus a new brewery in Oklahoma City and a tasting room, just solidifies us as a state, as far as brewing goes.”
Located in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District—a former warehouse region near downtown, now home to a burgeoning bar-and-restaurant scene—Prairie Brewpub occupies an expansive space that was a Model T dealership in the 1920s, and retains the original floors, pillars and fireplace. But to dispel any doubt as to what kind of place this is, a massive oak foeder stands behind the curved bar, the 22 taps pierced in its side dispensing a range of beers (along with a couple of draft wines). “We try to keep 10 or 11 taps designated for our beers, and the others are stuff we think is cool and exciting,” Stack says. Prairie standards like Twice as Weiss, Bomb imperial stout and Coffee Okie brown ale occupy the house side of the tap list, while the “cool and exciting” taps may pour beers from Mikkeller, Colorado’s Avery and Sweden’s Omnipollo. A small on-site brewery fired up in the fall—the first batch was a dry-hopped version of the brewery’s popular Prairie Vous Français saison—and with brews coming in from other regional places like American Solera (a side-project from Chase Healey, also based in Tulsa and focusing on oak-aged beers) and Oklahoma City’s Roughtail, Prairie Brewpub is making sure Oklahoma factors into conversations about beer’s future. —Paul Clarke
Wine Bar of the Year: N7, New Orleans
Given the authenticity at play right next door, it’s amazing that husband-and-wife duo Aaron Walker and Yuki Yamaguchi still leave home to travel to France every year. Their new wine bar and restaurant, N7, occupies an old tire shop adjacent to their New Orleans home, and the place feels like it’s been plucked from an old Marseilles movie set and planted right in the heart of the Bywater.
And while the atmosphere, “can-to-table” seafood and Japanese-inflected French dishes (such as fried soft-shell crab with squid ink and eggplant purée) are big draws, it’s N7’s natural-wine program that’s most transcendent. “We opened N7 as a wine bar that would also have food,” says Walker. “What many of our wines have in common is that they’re small-yield and fermented with natural yeasts instead of commercial yeasts.”
Walker, a documentary filmmaker, and Yamaguchi, who ran the local favorite Yuki Izakaya on Frenchmen Street until its closure in October, take an open-minded approach to the wine list. French labels dominate the list—go-to regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux are peppered with offerings from lesser-known producers—but eclectic wines from Rioja, Germany’s Rheingau and Chile’s Maule Valley join the lineup. There’s even a selection of sakés and shochus, a nod to Yamaguchi’s Japanese heritage.
The wine list reflects the inviting nature of N7 at large, a culmination of Walker and Yamaguchi’s admiration for French culture infused with Southern hospitality (and a touch of Asian flavor). At N7, thanks to an adopted European mindset, good wine is ingrained naturally, without fanfare or distraction. It’s there to blow your mind or, simply, to accompany a hearty bowl of mussels steamed with saké and garlic—your choice. —Mark Stock
Bad Hunter, Chicago
How does “sessionable” translate to cocktails and wine at Chicago’s chic new Bad Hunter? “We’re using fortified wines and lower-ABV spirits as the base for the cocktails and then bringing in higher-ABV spirits for structure, complexity and as a way to give the feel of a satisfying cocktail without all the booze,” says bar manager Josh Fossitt. “It’s about wine that comes from a good place and that’s terroir-driven with a long, complicated, beautiful story and history, but at the end of the day we just want to open and drink” adds beverage manager Michael McAvena of the wine list. “it’s about wine that’s chuggable.” —Emma Janzen
Contra Coffee, Los Angeles
Angelenos greet Contra Coffee like kids running for an ice-cream truck. Contra’s pressurized, nitro coffees and teas are draft-ready and silky-smooth, and they’re often blended with other flavors and ingredients, producing creative options like Dirty Horchata and Jasmine Matcha Tonic. Contra sources coffee from Old Town Roasting in nearby Tustin, and most sales happen via a mobile taproom they operate at farmer’s markets, events and offices. Founders Paul Del Mundo and Julie Nguyen often dream up the inventive blends between trips from headquarters in Santa Ana to elsewhere in L.A., Orange County and San Diego. “Research and development is what we pride ourselves on,” Del Mundo says. “I’m particularly proud of our Channel Orange, a layered drink of coffee and orange cream soda. But if you ask me again tomorrow, you might hear a different answer.”—Mark Stock
Dame, Portland, OR
From the peacock-and-gold décor to the veggie-forward menu and the natural-wine list with an expansive aperitif selection, everything about Dame is of-the-moment, which made it Portland’s dining-scene darling within six months of opening. “I realize natural wines are getting a lot of play right now, which I think is interesting and great for the winemakers. But they’re also the first wines that I fell in love with,” says co-owner and sommelier Dana Frank, formerly of Ava Gene’s. In the hands of Frank and fellow industry vet Jane Smith, Dame coalesces into a space that is exquisitely beautiful while eschewing pretension in favor of hospitality. “We wanted it to feel feminine because obviously we are two women doing this project, but we didn’t want it to feel girly, like a couple of dudes couldn’t roll in for dinner and wine,” says Frank. Read more about the wine list here. —Penelope Bass
Juipter Disco, Brooklyn
Blade Runner and the Star Wars cantina have resonated through pop culture for decades, and now that dystopic sci-fi aesthetic has a Brooklyn bar to call home. Jupiter Disco opened in Bushwick late last year, helmed by two cocktail veterans—Al Sotack, formerly of The Franklin and Death & Co., and Maks Pazuniak, from Cure and Maison Premiere. Between the ’70s nightlife vibe, the ever-transforming menu and the sci-fi–styled decor of a faded future, the bar promises to lend fresh fuel to Brooklyn’s cocktail fire. “We wanted a timeless quality, like the bar had always been here,” Sotack says. “It’s both historic and futuristic, like an outdated vision of the future.”—Paul Clarke
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