The Artbar at the Tannery Arts Center has been a cult favorite on the café scene for several years, but owner Ian McRae is hoping to make it much more than that.
He closed it last year for several months, reopening it earlier this year with a whole new menu and a new mission to be a community gathering spot. McRae enlisted chef Antonette Wood from Swing Time Catering to make all of the Artbar’s food. He’s also revamped the alcohol selection, with more craft beers, more local wines and signature cocktails. McRae talked to us about his new menu and artist-themed drinks.
What is your vision for the Artbar?
IAN MCRAE: My overall vision is to make it a community pub for not only the Tannery residents, but the greater Harvey West area. I’ve been doing a lot of outreach with the greater Harvey West area. I’ve knocked on every single door, whether it be residential or business, and given them $5 coupons and menus. Reopening it, we’re really focusing on the food and the drinks and the service. Getting more foot traffic not only benefits my café, but everything else that’s going on here—the theater, the Tannery cultural center, the glass blowers, glass designers and ceramicists. They say sitting is the new smoking. Part of our outreach is you can take a stroll and visit us, get some exercise, get away from your work environment, then walk back.
What about the new menu?
Antonette makes all the food. She makes everything from scratch in her kitchen in Watsonville. She brings food in two to three times a week. All of the pastries, all the soups, all the paninis, all her lemon bars and brownies—they’re all made from scratch. The soups rotate seasonally. Right now we have a butternut apple and goat cheese soup with celery, carrots, apple juice and garlic. It’s served with bread and butter. We also have a chicken noodle soup with fresh spinach, chicken, carrots, onion and pappardelle noodles. We have a great incredible veggie panini with eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, carrot and asparagus, spinach, goat cheese, and vinaigrette on ciabatta bread. We have a three-cheese fromage, which is sharp cheddar, mozzarella, brie, spinach, tomato, pepperoncini, and mustard.
What kind of cocktails are you serving?
My general manager, Matthew Barron, he’s what I like to refer to as a master mixologist. He makes these amazing cocktails. All of our cocktails are made with fermented wine spirits. They’re not distilled spirits. You could have a couple and not feel overindulged. They are all named after different artists. One of them is Van Gogh’s ear. That’s rum, gin, Cappelletti, and blood orange garnished with wormwood and a soaked apple. The apple slice is shaped like Van Gogh’s ear. Woolf’s Moon is very popular. It’s got vodka, fresh raspberry, nigori, and lemon.
1060 River Street Unit 112, Santa Cruz; 234-5356.