So what do you do for a sequel when you own two of the best beloved dive bars in town? Go a bit upscale. That’s the latest move for Phil and Kourtney Wright, who have owned The Sportsman (hey, Nerf Herder has immortalized it!) and Whiskey Richards and have now opened Bar 29 & Kitchen in the old Hungry Cat space.
“We felt like we were missing a little bit of our audience and saw what was going on around town,” Phil explains. “We had the day drinkers and the late evening crowd, but we were missing something for the folks from 6 to 10.” He also had a soft spot for the location itself. “I was driving down Anapamu one rainy night and looked into Hungry Cat, and there were two people at the bar,” he recalls, “and I thought, ‘That’s just like the James Dean painting.’” That pop-culture take on Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” was something that stuck with him.
There will always be 29 cocktails on the list that will vary seasonally (some tiki things for summer are in the cards). Kourtney stresses, “The drinks will be very user-friendly; we’re not going to use some obscure fruit from wherever.” Phil dives in, saying, “My wife and Cevins [McCullah, the bar manager] like to put a spin on things, but a lot of my friends say I drink like an old man, so I need some young minds around to keep some balance.” Think everything from a classic New Orleans Vieux Carré to the Lady Kourtney (gin, applejack, lemon, hibiscus syrup, and egg white).
Phil also stresses that the spot has “turned into more of a restaurant and bar than we thought. We take a lot of pride in it. It took us three and a half weeks to decide how to season the fries — there’s a lot of thought in what we do.” They bill the menu “new American” so they can cook whatever they think will pair well with the cocktails. “The food has to have really strong flavors,” Kourtney points out. “It’s also meant for sharing — you should bring all your friends and sit around the table.” Expect everything from a take on poutine to meatballs to more vegan-friendly options, like the current farro with butternut squash and Brussels sprouts.
As for the name, it’s not an address, unless you’re trying to find the spot on the periodic table. Twenty-nine is the atomic number for copper, as the original Hungry Cat bar was made of that element, but now the stunning back bar is, too.