The highly anticipated Natural Wine Bar Slug opens in Oakland with a glittering disco ball and DJ booth


A little over a year has passed since the debut of natural wine spot, Snail Bar, but now chef Andres Giraldo Florez’s popular business doubles down: Say hello to its new sister bar, Slug.

Launching in downtown Oakland Friday, July 22 Slug is a new natural wine bar from the Snail Bar team, sharing the same DNA and principles as the original, while doing things its own way. It’s not entirely Snail Bar 2.0, though Slug is learning from the bar’s year of activity. There’s the added musical element (more on that later), and notably Florez hands over the reins, so to speak, to chef Spencer Horovitz, acting in his first executive chef role after some time at Itria, AL’s Place. , the Progress and a brief stint at the restaurant in Meadowood. “I’m only human; The snail bar is my baby and I’ve always wanted to cook there, I can’t do things by halves,” says Florez. “I’m not a person with a lot of ego, so I thought I might as well give someone else the opportunity, let them do their thing.”

There is, of course, the same dedication to natural and organic wines, with partner Jake Michahelles handling the selections, but at Slug there will be more California wines from small producers, with name check marks Michahelles such as Purity Wines, Everything is Okay, Château Fiasco and Gearhead Wines as examples. For Snail Bar, Florez built and designed the space himself, but that changed with this new project; for Slug, Florez takes a more collaborative approach and works with local artists such as Gabe Kasor. “Slug’s aesthetic was driven by everyone we’ve met through Snail Bar over the past year, then using the bones that were already there and bringing in a little more Oakland, a little more youth in space than there was before,” says Florez.

Located on the ground floor of the Lionel J. Wilson Triangle Building in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Slug may seem reminiscent of Snail Bar, but in case you’re confused, there’s an instant reminder that you’re somewhere new. : The high ceilings give way to a disco ball, which serves as an instant, shiny, twinkling reminder of her glamorous little sister status – complete with music. A major difference between the two bars is the inclusion of a DJ booth at Slug, and Florez enlists Oakland’s Lower Grand Radio to help with that end of the equation. “Music has always been a big part of my life and I thought if we could tie together three things that we love – food, wine and music – that’s sort of an obvious achievement,” says Florez. .

For food, Horovitz will work with Florez to create dishes in the same vein as those found at the Snail Bar, but using elements from Horovitz’s culinary past and childhood, telling his own story. Some dishes will be carried over from the original, such as blood sausages and ham and cheese, but Snail Bar fans, take note: the wine bar’s popular snail dish won’t be served at Slug, and it’s a deliberate decision by Florez and Horovitz. “I think that keeps us from diluting the brand a bit,” says Horovitz. “We want Snail Bar to be special and have its own thing and you can feel a bit of Snail Bar in the room, but be organic and its own thing.”

The plates still retain much of Florez’s impeccable style, but under Horovitz there are elements of both chefs’ tastes. The two talked about the collaborative nature of their relationship and how it’s been helpful for them to agree on food, immediately come up with dish ideas and share an appreciation for vegetables and fruits. season. There are lovely oysters, crudo, peach salad and the aforementioned blood sausage and sandwich on the menu. One dish that shines is the cucumber salad, which was originally designed as a crudité, but has been upgraded. Citing diners’ newfound appreciation for seafood, such as canned fish, Horovitz takes Japanese tarako, a seasoned egg, and combines it with eggs in an aioli seasoned with garlic, ginger and shio koji. of Shared Cultures, giving a layer of “umami”. , ocean flavor” with cucumbers. He then stirs in lightly kombu-poached potatoes, Meyer lemon, garlic, and bay leaf, then mixes everything in a vinaigrette made with shio koji, shiro dashi, lemon juice, and includes chickpeas and trout eggs.

Horovitz has spent time at fine dining restaurants in San Francisco and Napa, but he aims to make Slug very local, working with the likes of Oakland-based pop-up De La Creamery. The local ice cream brand will create flavors for the bar, such as fresh cream ice cream placed on top of sticky miso caramel pudding on the first menu.

Horovitz is already looking to the future, with plans to incorporate more seafood into the menu, such as geoduck, as well as a plan for “to-go snacks” that customers can munch on after the kitchen closes. This last bit of food is a nice attention to detail, especially since the team also aims to be a late-night spot designed for the hospitality industry. With its close proximity to BART, Slug is an easy place to stop after a shift at a restaurant, which Florez appreciates given the limited late-night seating in the Bay Area. “We offer another option, after 10 p.m. you can always come to a place like this, enjoy a nice white pudding and have a glass of nice natural wine or champagne,” says Florez. “I wish it was there for me when I was in the industry growing up. I feel like we’re bringing something that this region desperately needs, and something that’s made by the industry. for industry.

Slug (102 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland) opens Friday, July 22 and will be open Thursday through Monday, 5 p.m. to midnight. The kitchen will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a limited menu between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.

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