The Dawson's opening menu includes hake with octopus agrodolce, celery root, artichoke and herbs.
Photo: Martha Williams
“We’re a restaurant, but we see no separation between food and cocktails,” says Clint Rogers, the general manager of the Dawson (730 W Grand Ave). “We’re about pairing food with cocktails and beer and beer is as much of a focus as the cocktails.”
Billy Lawless, restaurateur of The Gage and Henri, assembled a dream team for the Dawson, which he co-owns with Branko Palikuca and which opened over the weekend in West Town. In the kitchen, there's Rene De Leon, most recently of Alinea and Next. Rogers, late of Henri, oversees the beverage program. Annemarie Sagoi, formerly of the Charleston, where she dreamed up the bar's innovative Jell-O shot program, manages the bar program.
Together, they've opened one of the most anticipated restaurants of the fall, which features a menu rooted in American classics and comfort dishes, with Asian and Latin flavors and ingredients and that works in concert with the drink list. Dishes include oyster po'boys, a trio of smoked beef tongue sliders and chicken fried New York strip steak. The drink menu skews toward dark spirits, with cocktails like Small Axe, made with El Dorado 12-year rum, Appleton VX rum, Smith and Cross rum, Falernum, lime, bitters and a Nardini Amaro float, and there's also a daily shot of house-infused bourbon and a soda program.
Rogers said that when you order, servers will recommend dishes based on which cocktails you’ve ordered and vice versa, so you get a drink and dish that complement each other or offer a contrast in flavors. That could mean getting a Waldorf salad made with grilled radicchio paired with Vander Mill Totally Roasted Cider.
“Annemarie and I started putting together the cocktail menu before we tasted all the food,” he said. “Now as the food menu has been rolled out, we’ve been tweaking the cocktails, and we got rid of half of our initial cocktail menu. Only a couple are made with one dish in mind, and most are made with the chef’s flavor palate in mind.”
We stopped by last week for an early look at the space.