It wasn't until 20 minutes after leaving Bar Dune that I realized the place was supposed to have a Southwest theme.
A menu of tequila cocktails, tacos, and rice bowls with black beans and guacamole should've given it away. And then there's the name, which seems meant to evoke the desert as much as Frank Herbert's sci-fi masterpiece, to which the tinted alien landscapes that the bar shares on its Instagram seem to allude.
But the new venture from Sizzle Pie's Matthew Jacobson doesn't commit to either theme. Instead, it seems content to settle into standard fancy-bar territory—dimly lit, nice-smelling, urbane but not uninviting. There's a forbidding, moon-shaped black architectural adornment above the bar, and the walls are streaked with orange-and-black sunsets that could be found on an alien planet. But it hardly feels I'd been sucked into a stargate.
There's one thing Bar Dune has going for it—grasshoppers.
Chapulines have been enjoyed in Oaxaca for generations, but entomophagy is still niche in the States, and any bar serving bugs is begging for attention. They're served here with avocado, corn tortillas and ribbons of mild cheese, all of which were too dry to offset the crunch of the bugs. They were best on their own—about an inch long, rolled in tajín—and would've been preferable as a bar snack à la carte.
Bar Dune is more about the cocktails, which are served in cute ceramic glasses. The Life After Paris is a deft fusion of tiki and Toulouse-Lautrec based on pineapple rum, absinthe and Amaro. Less sippable was the Moonchild, a radioactive-green, Midori-centric concoction with a thick, cudlike texture.
The Dune name drop seems to be a marker of sophistication rather than anything else, suggesting refinement and a bit of fun by alluding to one of the thickest and knottiest of the sci-fi genre's great works. But sci-fi and upscale sipping aren't entirely made for each other. Call me when Bar Flash Gordon opens.
DRINK: Bar Dune, 638 E Burnside St., 503-236-6464, bardune.com. 11:30-2:30 am daily.