Mockingbird Station certainly isn't the first place people think of when they ponder craft cocktails. While Uptown and specifically McKinney Avenue is home to a cluster of the city's finest drinking establishments (The Standard Pour, Private Social and Tate's are all located within mere blocks of one another), there are noteworthy drinks to be found tucked into a small, sleek space on the second level of Mockingbird Station, near the Angelika and longstanding Irish pub Trinity Hall. While its out-of-the-way location is known more as a shopping destination than a hot nightlife scene, it also lacks the boisterous crowds and long bar lines that sometimes swarm its competitors. Eater spoke to The People's Last Stand owner Kartik Rathore about the challenges and triumphs of his cocktail bar's first year in business.
How's the first year of business at People's been?
First year's been good. We've learned a lot from some of the other places around town, and we have grown quite a bit since we opened. We've taken a lot more chances with the cocktails we put out and we've also improved our food program to accompany our great cocktail program. The last year has certainly been a growing year and a learning year, but we're starting to hit our stride and I think we're heading into 2013 real strong.
How did bringing in chef Josh Black [formerly of Campo] to run the food side of things affect the bar?
Josh was only there as a consultant—he still is consulting, he's in all the time but he isn't full-time with us anymore. But what Josh was able to do was to allow us to take shape in the kitchen with the limited resources we were working with. When we came up with our food menu initially it was very very basic, working with the parameters that we had which were basically nothing. So when Josh came in he helped us get some equipment and showed us what the possibilities were with that, and as a result of that food sales have doubled. We're certainly getting a lot more recognition now for our food than we were before and we're very very proud of that.
Has the tucked away location presented any problems for you guys?
If we had to do this whole thing over again, we wouldn't pick Mockingbird Station. It wasn't the right location for what we're trying to do. Our relationship with our landlord and some of the things we've tried to do hasn't been great over the course of the year, but overall--we get better month to month and overall things are improving. We are dealing with some hurdles with our location but they are bringing in some new tenants with Mockingbird Taproom, Herrera's and Smashburger and there's also talk of bringing another restaurant in, and that is gonna help drive foot traffic and make Mockingbird Station more of a nightlife destination. When they come to us and say they're thinking of bringing in this bar, we're all for it. We're not worried about the competition, we're more concerned with letting people know that Mockingbird Station is a good destination, there's a lot going on there, and although it really hasn't shown over this past year we know there's a lot of potential moving forward and we think we can be a big part of what Mockingbird Station is trying to create.
You guys have hosted all sorts of events this year, from the Tiki nights to the election parties—do you have anything new and exciting coming up?
We do. The first one is a holiday cocktail class that's going to be held on the 12th of December and what it is, we're going to have some bartenders teach some of our customers how to make three holiday cocktails, like a starter, a punchbowl and a creamy dessert drink. As people get ready for the holiday season and having people over, this will hopefully help them have the perfect cocktail party. And then starting this week we're going to have a live jazz trio every Thursday. I know Amsterdam Bar and a couple of other places used to do it, but I think we're one of the few places around town that are doing live jazz now.
What can we expect from the new cocktail menu that's in the works?
Basically when we designed it, we looked at two things. First we try to see what other places around town and around the country are doing and seeing what we can come up with to put our original spin on it. Then also, probably 70 percent of our customers that come in don't really order off the menu, they just ask one of our bartenders to come up with something for them, and some of the things we've come up with really push the envelope. We're trying to push the boundaries on what people like. We have a lot of people that come in and say they stick to vodka or gin or something clear, and we sort of steer them to try something else, and 90% of the time they're really happy with what we do and they're excited that they've been introduced to a liquor or spirit that they used to avoid.