No drink matches the populist power of a solid margarita. Scorned only by the guy no one wants to talk to at parties, the humble marg’s good vibrations manage to resonate equally with suits, coeds and Hawaiian shirt aficionados.
So, it makes sense that with its newest venture the Heavy Restaurant Group looks to lure Wallingford’s more tenured residents and the younger Fremont crowd, at least in part, with the People’s Cocktail.
Last week Pablo y Pablo opened near Gasworks Park on the ground floor of the NorthEdge office building on North 34th Street occupied by Tableau. Having run Barrio for nearly nine years, fancified Mexican fare is already in Heavy’s repertoire and at first sip Pablo feels like the Capitol Hill bar’s chiller sibling with other Latin American and even Spanish influences peppered in. But here the cocktails, including a handful of margarita variants that get top billing on the menu, are a few bucks cheaper than on the Hill.
While a number of Barrio drinks and dishes (including the gently tart carbonated blood orange margarita) made the hop across the lake, Pablo eschews Barrio’s first-date flair for a more laid-back setting. There’s nothing showy about the modern cantina’s comfortably sparse design, with all the exposed piping and ductwork expected from a restaurant buildout in 2017. The glass façade on the building, which bagged designers Perkins + Will a workplace architecture award, allows for tons of natural light—perfect for guzzling indoor ‘rita rounds when it’s too hot on the sidewalk patio.
For an extra buck, the margarita faithful can try subtle spins on Pablo’s traditional house marg, like the less tart papaya and jalapeno version that’s more garden-fresh than heat-seeker’s delight. To be fair, the cocktail list developed by Barrio vet Casey Robison extends well beyond the choose-your-own-adventure margaritas. Although the initial offerings are similarly fit for 70-and-sunny weather, ranging from a pisco punch to other crowd-pleasers like sangria and a blended pineapple daiquiri.
Pablo’s fairly robust tequila and mezcal list is relatively affordable, at least before hitting anejo territory. In more add-ons, an extra dollar will nab you a non-alcoholic complementary chaser or worm salt, Oaxacan chile and orange slice accoutrements to accent the agave hooch.
A couple entrees not doused in enchilada sauce crack the $20 mark, but the after-work brigade will likely plunder the selection of tacos, which mostly fetch $5-$6 a pop. Drenched with enough sweet and spicy cashew “cheese” sauce, the vegan chorizo could (maybe) win over faux meat haters—though regular chorizo’s available, too—and the pleasant-enough pork belly bahn mi packs an inauthentic kick via sriracha aioli.
But don’t sleep on the crunchy-chewy braised pork taquitos (another Barrio carryover), a shareable snack worth keeping for yourself. The mini fried tortilla roll-ups are as texturally satisfying as bar bites get, especially when loaded up with escabeche slaw and guacamole.
Following Leschi’s Meet the Moon (purveyor of the "extra fancy" daiquiri) and G&T slingers Thackeray just blocks away, Pablo y Pablo marks the Heavy group’s third new opening since the start of 2016. With brunch in the works, it has the makings of a fine neighborhood lunch and happy hour spot for small groups, if not a destination joint.
Pablo y Pablo
Currently open for weekday lunch, happy hour and dinner.
1605 N. 34th St., 206-973-3505, pabloypablo.com