In some cases, tracking bartenders' whereabouts is a bit like playing Whack-a-Mole. But when Ben Perri announced he was leaving Zig Zag Cafe after more than five years, discerning drinkers took notice (and showed up in force for Perri's last night behind the bar on September 21). His popularity is due, obviously, to his facility for cocktails, but Perri is also a supremely swell guy, hospitable in the fashion of an old-school barkeep.
His next adventure was a bit of a mystery. But starting October 8, Perry can be found Eastlake, tending bar at Babirusa. He's a longtime friend of Rene Gutierrez, who opened Babirusa and neighboring Blind Pig Bistro with Charles Walpole.
When Gutierrez heard Perri was departing the storied Zig Zag, he approached his friend and offered "a place to hang out for a while," while Perri considers his long-term plans. "He's definitely going to put his mark on our cocktail program," says Gutierrez, but cautions that this little bar in a former teriyaki shop isn't morphing into Zig Zag 2.0 any time soon.
Perri says he wanted to move to a neighborhood bar after the hubub of Zig Zag, and is looking forward to working with fellow barman and Babirusa partner Ben Sherwood. He plans to spend a few months getting acquainted with the neighborhood before making any significant changes.
The other big news from Gutierrez: Blind Pig is changing its menu format.
Right now diners sit down, ogle the lineup scrawled on the irregularly shaped chalkboard, and order what they want. Sometimes people just go ahead and order the whole menu (an option listed on the board). Quite often, actually. So as of October 17 chef Charles Walpole and crew will do nothing but tasting menus on Friday and Saturday nights.
"On weekends more and more people come in don't even look at the menu—they just order the whole thing," says Gutierrez. He and Walpole ultimately want Blind Pig Bistro to be a tasting menu restaurant (and connected to Babirusa). This brings them one step closer to that goal, plus enforces a bit of sanity in the tiny kitchen on weekends.
Tasting menus will run in the neighborhood of $50 for eight courses, including one dessert or cheese course. The rest of the week, it's a la carte business as usual (though you can still ask for a tasting menu). The guys are playing around with wine pairings, too.