New Bar on the Block: Momofuku’s Bar Wayō

The Momofuku Group (you’ve got your choice of any number of David Chang’s outlets, including the Noodle Bars, Ssam, Ko) has opened its latest venture on the ground floor of Pier 17 and of all the spaces there, it’s the most warm and friendly and least corporate feeling (but maybe because it is also the smallest). After you cross South Street and pass along the construction wall on the south side of the pier, Bar Wayō is the first thing you see when you hit the open part of the building – a glass box with planted grasses around the perimeter of a 50-seat patio. But the best part: even after one boozy lunch, you can tell you’re in the hands of pros — and it’s kind of a relief. (Just look at the pic below of the crew at the bar — these guys know what they are doing and they seem to like it.)

It’s a quirky space, and by that I mean small, especially for Pier 17. Once winter sets in, it should be packed – there are no tables, just 27 seats around the bar and a few prime stools along the window facing south. (While we are experiencing this SoCal weather, I recommend getting down there now and sit in the garden, which has table service and is really a much more civilized way to eat outside than on the sidewalks.)

The menu is brief but has the most clever twists on items that should not by rights be on a fancy restaurant menu (the chef is Sam Kang, who was raised on the line at Momofuku Ko, then Noodle Bar, then went to Eleven Madison Park, then back to Ko). They took all the stuff that you sniff at and turned it on its head. For instance, I don’t know what made them think they could get away with serving potato chips in the foil bag, sliced open and drizzled with what I think was ranch dressing and chives, but they do, and you’ll eat them all. There’s an imitation “krab” roll and ambrosia for dessert, which my lunch partner said her mother still makes “without irony” every Easter. (It was also the litmus test for new dates: whatever poor guy asked for seconds was out, since he was clearly trying too hard.) It’s the real deal: canned everything.

But winks aside, the lobster roll with bacon and the beef tartare – make sure you eat the shiso, the leaves of Thai mint on the side — are outrageous.

Of course this is a bar first and foremost, and the Momofuku pedigree allows for special treats, like a custom-created rose cider made in partnership with Shacksbury Cider brewery in Vermont and wacky (to me) sounding cocktails, like the Zombie Elvis – peanut butter-washed rum blend, velvet falernum, domo mix, herbsaint, lime for $17. (If you need more deets on cocktails, Eater does it better than I can here.)

We could dip into the Stephen Ross (he’s an investor)/David Chang debacle around the Trump fundraiser, blah blah blah, but as far as I’m concerned, this is just a solid neighborhood bar, even with the corporate pedigree.

Bar Wayō
89 South Street, Pier 17
Lunch: Tuesday – Sunday | 11:30a – 2:30p
Dinner: Tuesday – Sunday | 4:30p – midnight
Closed on Mondays