Austin Industry Veteran Helms New W. Sixth Bar

Jeff Boley makes the Tapasitas bar an attraction

The revamping of Parind Vora’s Bar Mirabeau into Tapasitas at the end of 2013 was intended to fix a failed concept, and it started with the menu and the bar. The enormous space fronting Vora's distinctive Restaurant Jezebel needed a new face and faster pace: something more in step with the chef's own inclinations toward food.

Boley and crew at Tapasitas (photo Carlos Salazar)

And, just as important, a place where people would think to come for a great drink. When looking around Austin for the right person to launch the new bar concept, the Tapasitas group landed on industry veteran Jeff Boley. The new job would offer the biggest undertaking of his career, but when it comes to cocktails and bar service, Boley has been around the block.

Hailing from San Diego, Jeff Boley came to Austin in 2001 and has been firmly entrenched in the service industry ever since. He had worked for years in kitchens and finally decided that “I actually like smiling,” he said. “Cooks don’t smile.” Having stepped in behind the bar at various catered events, he made his first move to the front of the house accepting a bar position at the former Woodland on South Congress. He was quickly promoted to bar manager and given the task of creating a cocktail menu. Having worked on regular restaurant menu development in the past, Boley was excited about the new medium of drink recipes, and he excelled. But it was joining Rob Pate at Peche where Boley's career really turned the internal corner.

“I really got to delve into the craft cocktail world, especially the pre-Prohibition era of drinks,” Boley says. “Peche has a huge inventory and an amazing resource library. I had access to products and recipes that I hadn't ever been exposed to before. Peche is where my passion for this industry was born.” After the great learning experience at Peche, Boley moved from managing the bar at Shawn Cirkiel's Parkside to taking over the bar at Paggi House. He was then hired away from Austin to consult with a restaurant development team, but soon discovered he missed being behind the bar.

Then along came the opportunity to work at the Midnight Cowboy, a unique concept that attracted national attention with carefully crafted cocktails and an exclusive reservation-only mystique. Boley found the job offer so appealing he traveled back to Austin weekly for over a year to work Friday and Saturdays at Midnight Cowboy. He especially likes the intimacy of manning the craft cocktail cart, rolling into each of the private “rooms” to take orders and delight guests with bitters and easy banter. “From the bar cart I get to mix a drink inches from the guest,” Boley explains. “I give them tastes of spirits they have never heard of and share my education and passion. These experiences usually end in handshakes and hugs.” Even with the opening of Tapasitas, Boley keeps his Saturday nights at the Cowboy: “I love that job.”

The full-time move back to Austin is a pleasure for Boley. “Tapasitas is a great new spot for me. I have the freedom to be as creative and quirky as I want to be. Not too common on West Sixth, but our clientele really loves it and regularly visit us specifically for a good cocktail. I’m happy to see this style of bar gain popularity on this end of the street.”

St. Josh's Loving Cup (photo Carlos Salazar)

Staffing the bar at Tapasitas has really just been a matter of tapping Boley's large group of friends. “I've been able to bring in some truly great talent. Most of my bar staff moonlights with me from some of the best cocktail bars in town and they inspire me to be better on a nightly basis.”

Tapasitas Tapas + Bar

800 West 6th St

512/436-9633

www.tapasitas.com

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Jeff Boley, Tapasitas, Parind Vora, profile, The Woodland, Peche, Parkside, Midnight Cowboy

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