Chewing the Fat
Austin's John Montoya Brings a Touch of Austin to Albuquerque
The District Bar and Grill's owner on Wi-Fi, food and “flair” bartenders
By Rachel Heisler
With full-service bars both inside and on the patio, free Wi-Fi access and a funky, global menu, The District (115 Fourth NW), promises to shake up the city's lunch, dinner and late-night scenes. The menu, created by Chef Jeff Cordova, looks creative and approachable, with Jamaican steak frites salad, slow-roasted pork carnitas and pan-seared potstickers but no hamburgers.
What is The District's goal?
We're trying to create a comfortable atmosphere where tourists and people from Albuquerque can enjoy themselves. It's nice place, but it's going to have a very comfortable feel.
You moved from Austin to New Mexico two years ago?
My family is from Taos, and I thought it would be interesting to come here. I saw Albuquerque as what Austin was in 1989. Downtown [Austin] was just starting off and what I see in Albuquerque is pretty much all the variables that made things work for Austin. We're taking a chance on the city, and I know we can make it work.
Are you worried about competition from other Downtown bars?
We're basically looking for a synergy. If the Downtown area—restaurants, bars, retail and of course housing—if that all melds together then we have a community and we have something that we can offer to people who are coming through the city. That synergy is very important, so the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.
When is opening day, and what will your hours be?
Opening day is Feb. 24. We'll be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
What events are planned for opening night?
Well, it's Fat Tuesday, so aside from just the general grand opening, we'll, of course, have beads. Tuesday we'll open at 6 p.m. with a limited menu, and we'll be offering our hot and cold tapas. Wednesday will really be the beginning of our full menu. The patio bar outside will be offering all of our frozen drinks. Our bartenders are flair bartenders, so you won't just be ordering a beer and popping a cap.
What is flair bartending?
Flair is a style of bartending. About every 30 minutes is an actual routine. I hate to use Coyote Ugly or Cocktails as a basis for that, but it's probably the only thing people will equate ... it's pretty much the same thing. Particular types of drinks ordered will get a particular style of service.
Where did you find these types of bartenders?
They're being trained in Austin.
I noticed you don't have a hamburger on your menu ...
That was a conscious decision. What we're trying to do is set ourselves apart as far as the menu is concerned. Burgers and fare such as that is a mainstay, what we're trying to do is find a customer base that will appreciate the kind of menu we're offering. We really want to attract somebody who is looking for something different, something that is heartfelt in the way that is presented and the way that it is prepared.
The District is looking for acoustic and jazz musicians to perform at the club. If you're interested contact John at 243-0003.
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