At first, it wasn’t easy getting the message across. There can be much in a name, and Kartik Rathore’s meaning was as intentional as the place he founded.
“People always ask us what the name means; early on there was a lot of confusion – are we a bar, are we a book store, are we communists?” he says with a laugh. “But there’s a story behind the name: I was working in a corporate setting, and had the option to either stay in corporate or go back to business school, and I didn’t like either of those options. So I decided I wanted to do something on my own, and that this was my best, and maybe final, opportunity to do it – this was my last stand. So we called it The People’s Last Stand.”
Rathore’s stand was to create one of a handful of cocktail-centric drinking dens in Dallas that features a wide array of mixed drinks both established and new in a 1,400 square-foot ‘upscale comfortable’ environment, whose large windows welcome the after-work relaxation seeker and whose leather sofas and copper bar create a comfortable and attractive environment meant to encourage everyone to stay a little longer.
“It’s the type of place where anyone can come in and be comfortable,” Rathore observes. “It’s an atmosphere that enables us to do the things we do in a relaxed atmosphere – a lot of cocktail bars have a stigma attached to them where they seem a little elite, like you have to know certain things about cocktails and you have to be an experienced drinker to really appreciate it. We try to create an ambiance where everybody feels welcome, and where they should expect more from their bartenders, servers, and me. If they don’t know a whole lot about cocktails, they should feel very comfortable asking anyone.”
There are indeed a lot of drinks to ask about. Made with organic, natural ingredients and juices whenever possible, The People’s Last Stand provides plenty for the cocktail novice and aficionado.
There are the classics – the Sazerac, Pisco Sour, and Tom Collins among them – but the narrow, thick, leather-bound menu can read like a volume of well-constructed prose to the fan of all drinks mixed. Omar Yeefoon of Cedars Social fame originally helped consult for the drink menu, but it is now overseen by Alex Fletcher, and the options vary from bright and vivid to dark and earthy, and all points in between. For example, The Sleepy Hollow involves a roasted pumpkin-infused cognac and salted toffee syrup, while the One Smashed Monk balances chartreuse with Thai basil, lemon juice, orange zest and a little sugar. White Knuckle Paradise incorporates a rye infused with smoked fuji apples, and The People’s Old Fashioned – Rathore’s favorite – provides an enticing draw to the comfortable and familiar with Rittenhouse rye, bitters and orange oil, and a touch of maple syrup.
“People can come here and get exactly what they want, or we can help them to get a little out of their comfort zone,” Rathore says. “There are some customers who will come in and say, ‘I only like vodka drinks.’ Well, we can help to steer them to maybe something with gin that they’ll really enjoy, and then that opens up a whole new avenue. ”
There is no doubt that the drinks are the star at The People’s Last Stand, but the food measures up nicely. Armed with a menu designed by Josh Black (formerly of Campo), the food is accessible, but certainly not run-of-the-mill. Chicken-stuffed avocados, lamb chops, and home-made meatballs are among the plates, and several different flatbreads (margherita included) make for a lighter dish. A Melon salad and a beet salad are available for the lighter eaters. The plate prices linger between $8-$13, and can provide a dose of welcome sustenance amidst the stronger spirits.
“Josh really stepped up our kitchen menu, and it complements the drinks we serve in so many ways – it’s really a unique menu,” Rathore says.
The People’s Last Stand may be Rathore’s own way of escaping the world of corporate consulting, but his escape was certainly well planned and deliberate. While he openly observes the constant learning curve and the continual changes – this is his first stint in the restaurant world – he has found his refuge outside of The Big Four. And he has made it a refuge for anyone else who wishes to find their way through his doors.