Sophie Bolich

Pufferfish Could Be Permanent Fixture At Hotel Metro

The popular tiki bar opened in the hotel for a summer residency, but may extend its stay.

By - Jul 7th, 2022 04:51 pm
Pufferfish rooftop bar at Hotel Metro. Photo by Sophie Bolich.

Pufferfish rooftop bar at Hotel Metro. Photo by Sophie Bolich.

Pufferfish, the tiki bar concept and latest occupant of Hotel Metro‘s rooftop space, may be extending its stay indefinitely.

The bar got its start in 2020 as a temporary patio behind Lost Whale, then popped up again in March at MARN Art + Culture Hub in the Historic Third Ward. Its latest venture was to take up a summer residency atop Hotel Metro. But things have been going so well, co-owner Daniel Beres said, they’re considering making it permanent.

Beres and co-owners JC Cunningham and Tripper Duval had been looking for a brick and mortar space to settle the bar since 2021 due to its early success at Lost Whale, which Beres and Cunningham also own. The residency at the hotel was to be a trial run to see if the teams melded well, with the ultimate goal being a long-term partnership, Beres said.

“They’re fantastic here,” he said. “They’ve been nothing but wonderful to work with and accommodating.”

Cunningham is the one that came up with the bar’s tiki theme and unique name. His world travels and particular interest in tiki bars have made him an authority on tropical drinks, Beres said.

Pufferfish are typically relegated to a background role in tiki and tropical concepts, Beres said, but Cunningham has grown particularly fond of them.

“The more you dive in on what a pufferfish is, what it does and the fact that it’s always been around in the tropical concept, he just fell in love with it,” Beres said.

When Cunningham saw the first drafts of a pufferfish logo, he knew that he had landed on the perfect name for their bar.

The bar offers a myriad of signature cocktails that riff on classic tiki drinks, incorporating fresh flavor profiles and local ingredients, and toning down the cloying sweetness of the fruit-forward drinks.

‘When people come up here, everyone thinks every single drink is going to be rum,” Beres said. “And we wanted to give a little bit of variety.”

The bar’s namesake drink, Pufferfish, is a gin-based cocktail with passionfruit, lemon, falernum, bitters and orgeat, a syrup made from almonds, sugar, and rose or orange water.

Orgeat is quintessential ingredient in Mai Tais and other tiki drinks, but the team at Pufferfish puts their own spin on the syrup, using day-old baked goods from Stone Creek Coffee that would otherwise be discarded.

“You get this beautiful almond flavor but also this really cool buttery texture and just a bunch of added notes that you wouldn’t get from just making standard almond orgeat,” Beres said.

The other drinks include The Ship Captain: Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum, almond orgeat, lemon, salt and Bittercube All Day aromatic bitters, $13 and Tequila Shortage (by bartender Ty MacLellan): Los Magos Sotol, Dos Hombres mezcal, falernum, strawberry syrup, orgeat, lime and pineapple, $15.

The bar also serves frozen drinks including piña colada, strawberry daiquiri and boozy snow cones.

The bar is already exceeding expectations for visitors, Beres said. The initial rooftop pop-up on June 10 drew more than 500 people between 4 p.m. and midnight, with a line out the door for five hours straight. The official residency opening was a similar story, Beres said.

With its strict symmetry and maximalist detail, Hotel Metro’s Art Deco style may seem an unlikely match for the laid-back vibe of a beachside bar, but both styles, en vogue in the mid-1900s, share similar elements that make it a perfect fit.

“It melded really well,” Beres said.

For now, all proceeds are going toward renovations for the space. Some changes will be more notable, like a bar expansion and updated furniture, but Beres said there will be more subtle changes from week to week.

“Keep on coming back throughout the summer and just have fun seeing how the space develops,” he said.

The team is working to expand food options. There are talks of adding a grill space on the roof, Beres said, but that would likely have to wait until next summer.

Pufferfish is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturdays from 2 p.m. to midnight and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.

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