Owen Thomson joins Cafe Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar

Bar Pilar. (Sean McCormick/For The Washington Post) Bar Pilar. (Sean McCormick/For The Washington Post)

Owen Thomson, the whiz behind the bar at Range, has left the upscale American restaurant to become beverage director at siblings Cafe Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar in Logan Circle. No offense to the neighborhood watering holes, but … why?

“At heart, I’m more of a bar guy than a restaurant guy,” says Thomson, 32, whose resume includes ThinkFoodGroup, the culinary company behind star chef Jose Andres, and Bourbon, the getaway with branches in Adams Morgan and Glover Park.

His picture of a great time, he says, is “someone drinking a well done cocktail next to someone drinking a nice glass of wine next to someone drinking a 24-ounce Tecate.” More than dining rooms, Thomson says, bars encourage strangers to become friends as they bond over liquid pleasures in close proximity.

His revised cocktail list at Bar Pilar includes two Hemingway inspirations, Vieux Carre and Papa Doble, and six original drinks created by Thomson. Most amusing name: Wedding Ring Tan Line, a combination of mescal, coconut milk, citrus juices and pineapple shrub. Thomson says the phrase came to him during a recent trip to a tiki bar, Hale Pele, in Portland, Ore.

Thomson, president of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild, launched his bar career at the original Chef Geoff’s near American University after attending law school at the University of South Carolina. He replaces Jonathan Fein, now the general manager at Cafe Saint- Ex, and works alongside family: His sister, Sara, holds the GM title at Bar Pilar.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.

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Fritz Hahn · November 20, 2013

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