There’s life again inside the former home of Jayne’s Gastropub on 30th Street, where absinthe bar and bistro Wormwood opens on Thursday, December 2 with the aim of continuing its legacy of hospitality and old world charm. New proprietor Amar Harrag fell in love with the space when he lived in University Heights and tells Eater that he’s keen on making sure this restaurant is approachable for the community in hopes that it’ll become equally embraced by the neighborhood. Its design, inspired by vintage Paris, includes a secret garden space beyond its brick-walled patio that will host special events.
Though he’s immersed himself in mezcal in recent years — Harrag also owns Tahona and Oculto 477 in Old Town — he’s also been doing a deep dive into absinthe on visits to his native Antibes, a town on the French Riviera. With an emphasis on education, including classes and a book club, Wormwood will have a collection of quality absinthe ranging from hard-to-find French bottles to others made in New Orleans, Harlem, and even San Diego — Barrio Logan’s ReBru has just begun distilling the spirit.
From oysters with absinthe foam to scallops in absinthe butter, the menu is based in French technique but doesn’t limit itself to a single cuisine. Wormwood’s three chefs worked together at Bracero and Addison, and executive chef Danny Romero and his brother Dante are from Mexicali while chef Janina Garay is a native of Tijuana, so Baja influences abound. Harrag’s Algerian heritage is also reflected in a dish of mussels and merguez, a North African sausage.
Acknowledging that absinthe might not be for everyone, Harrag says they’ve built a robust wine list and made sure the cocktails are based on a wide range of spirits.
Wormwood, 4677 30th Street, University Heights, dinner service Wednesday through Sunday with weekend brunch launching early next year.