One of the country's most beautiful and ambitious new cocktail bars is located in one of the least likely settings: a sprawling outdoor Westfield shopping center.
Raised by Wolves is what happens when a speakeasy meets suburbia. It's a joint retail store and cocktail bar in San Diego, and the latest venture from CH Projects. Besides being entirely unique, Raised by Wolves is aesthetically stunning, wholly transportive and wildly ambitious. "This is an anomaly, especially in the United States, because of legal issues," Chris Patino, partner and director of spirits, says. He's referring to the fact that the project requires a combination of on- and off-premise licenses, though it's already a deviation from the norm considering it's located in a mall.
Though reservations are encouraged, especially on weekends, Raised by Wolves aims to take advantage of its habitat and lure in the constant supply of foot traffic. And by staying open late, the bar hopes to become a suburban industry hub, the place where staff from all of the neighboring shops go after their shifts are over.
"The hope is that maybe you're getting your Apple fixed across the way, and you come in here and grab a cocktail and maybe read a book," Patino says. It sure beats a generic beer at the ubiquitous chain restaurants that typically occupy such malls.
When you first enter Raised by Wolves, you'll find a painstakingly curated cocktail and spirits store in the style of an ornate 18th- or 19th-century apothecary: Think marble floors and large wooden cabinets with glass cases and mirrored backings. You can shop from an assortment of vintage liquors and handpicked private labels offered alongside cocktail tools, glassware, bitters and books before checking out at a vintage cash register.
To access the actual bar, you'll go behind a hidden fireplace entrance, sit on a chair atop a rotating platform, and then find yourself delivered to a hidden wondrous world from designer Paul Basile.
You'll immediately spot the tiered white fountain, the likes of which you'd typically see in well-manicured countryside estate, resting in the center of a marble circular bar, all beneath an enormous stained glass gazebo with color-changing light displays. The space is filled with velvet-adorned side booths, high-backed wooden chairs, stocked bookshelves and vintage furniture.
Photo: Jake Emen
As for the drinks, partner and bar director Erick Castro lets his creative instincts run free, with a compelling assortment of cocktails befitting the atmosphere. "Every single drink has something weird," Castro says. "The sky is the limit here, and a lot of it is being able to cut loose."
Drinks are separated into categories, such as Stirred and Direct, Cool and Refreshing, and Rich and Creamy, with names intriguing enough to spark your interest (the Pelvic Sorcery, the Trap Queen, Redneck Riviera). Expect thoughtful takes on classics, as well as entirely new and unexpected flavor combinations, all alongside draft cocktails, punches, half a dozen suggested boilermakers and even vintage cocktails incorporating rare liquor for a drink that'll set you back a few hundred bucks.
When it comes to summing up this see-it-to-believe-it bar, Castro says it best, "It's just [about] having fun in here."
Jake Emen is a food, drink and travel journalist living in San Diego. Follow his adventures on Twitter at @ManTalkFood.
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