Bullard may be located in a hotel, but it’s not yo mama’s hotel restaurant. The Tex-Mex-inspired shrine to meat is a chef-forward destination even for locals. Top Chef alum Doug Adams’ first restaurant opened in 2019 following a celebrated run at highly-lauded Imperial, a pioneer in the nouveau hotel restaurant scene which was headed by Adams’ mentor Vitaliy Paley. Named after Adams’ hometown, the upscale smokehouse joint has been weathering the pandemic with “hot n ready” and “reheat ready” service, slinging a slew of mouthwatering rotating specials that switch up weekly.
On the bar side of the operation, the cocktail menu underwent a full refresh a month and a half ago by former lead bartender Lindsay Baker. Stalwarts like the Bullard Michelada and Margarita haven’t gone anywhere, and are now joined by popular Texan quencher “Ranch Water,” a “Cactus Cooler,” and more. Cocktail standards are also on the menu to represent Abigail Hall, the hotel’s currently shuttered bar.
With a fitting name for this era, the “Lost My Marbles” swirls together Hendricks Gin, Ancho Verde liqueur, strawberry, lime, and celery bitters. The menu acknowledges that it may sound a little weird, but it tastes great! Baker built the drink (it’s her fave on the menu, if that sells ya) around the Ancho Verde, and it shows. The poblano-flavored liqueur is definitely the star here. A pleasant waft of spice hits your nose on the cocktail’s way to your mouth, followed by a warmth that awakens your tastebuds.
Baker describes the kitchen as the hook of Bullard with the bar being the accessory, so she very much draws her inspiration from the food. “Chili peppers, crushed and dried, are ever-present in our kitchen, so I tried to utilize [the liqueur] to mirror that. The strawberry keeps it feeling a little lighter and brighter. I think cocktail menus in the winter tend to go a little dense and a little more spirit-forward, but there’s no reason in my mind not to have those bright summer flavors, especially right now.”
I am unashamed to say that my Taco Bell consumption isn’t restricted to drunken nights. Any other Sausage Breakfast Crunchwrap enthusiasts out there? The Bell may be hot garbage, but it’s lovable garbage, okay?! Anyway, when I saw that Bullard was doing their version of a Crunchwrap, I pre-ordered immediately. My sincere apologies, readers… this menu item was a special that was only available for two days last week. If you’re really jonesing for one, keep a sharp eye on Bullard’s ‘gram, because this is the third time it has popped up and I’m almost positive the fan favorite will return again.
Baker, now general manager, has a gentle message for cocktails to-go consumers: “The transition from glassware to to-go packaging has presented a couple challenges more on the guest perception side,” she says. “When we deliver something in a glass and it’s iced or it’s in a cocktail glass that’s appropriately sized, there’s no question or concern on volume. But when we’re sending home in to-go packaging, it doesn’t translate, it doesn’t necessarily always look like the price tag is associated with.”
I must admit, I did narrowly squint at a few of the drinks I picked up in the beginning of my Cocktail To-Go Club venture—they’re charging that much for that amount?? But my first-look skepticism was soon quelled. Baker is absolutely right that with the proper amount of ice and drink ware, the packaged drinks are transformed into the cocktails we used to know and love from nights out. Remember this isn’t a beer or even a glass of wine; volume is going to look different. An unseen amount of skill and premium ingredients go into these liquid masterpieces, so suffice to say, you’re getting your money’s worth. Also worth taking into account is the added cost of packaging that establishments have cutting into their already thin margins.
Bullard’s historic Woodlark Hotel home is set to re-open to guests on April 1, but the restaurant will remain takeout focused. “Buy cocktails from us, buy cocktails from anywhere you get takeout,” Baker urges. “It’s a huge lifeline right now for restaurants and that added revenue is just beyond, beyond vital. Plus, it’s fun for us.”
Bullard, 813 SW Alder, (503) 222-1670, bullardpdx.com