Hard Water
The bar at Hard Water (left) and a glass of Willett whiskey, courtesy of Virginia Miller

Tucked in between piers on the Embarcadero lies a new outpost for New Orleans cuisine--and a holy grail for bourbon lovers.

It?s called Hard Water, and it is Charles Phan?s restaurant destination du jour. This time, the chef behind The Slanted Door is putting an upscale spin on Southern comfort food and crustaceans.

A raw bar overflows with fresh crab, crawfish and oysters. Off the short menu we salivated over the cornmeal-crusted alligator and the rich braised rabbit with buttermilk dumplings.

A concise but lush cocktail menu features favorites like the mint julep, though bartender Erik Adkins also puts playful twists on classics by, for example, adding smoked maple syrup to his Whiskey Smash. The bourbon selection itself is impressive, with plenty of hard-to-find American whiskeys (e.g., the entire Pappy Van Winkle line).

Once again, Phan teamed up with architect Olle Lundberg to design an intimate space that?s decidedly more SF than NOLA. Behind a marble-top horseshoe bar spans a gleaming wall of all the whiskeys. Overhead hangs a giant buoy (from one of Lundberg?s boats) that has been converted into a light fixture.

Pull up a seat by the large picture windows that look out over the bustling Embarcadero and get transported to the Big Easy.

Pier 3 at the Embarcadero; 415-392-3021 or hardwaterbar.com

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