‘Like Christmas Exploded’: Festive Holiday Takeover Returns to BarBacoa in Summit

Staffers have turned the Mexican smokehouse-slash-taqueria into a winter wonderland featuring special drinks, daily deals and lots of fun decor.

BarBacoa's Christmas Cantina is decorated for the holidays
Owner Dylan Baker closes BarBacoa the day after Thanksgiving so staffers can decorate together. Photo courtesy of Mason Levinson for Summit House

At BarBacoa, there’s no shortage of holiday spirit.

Dylan Baker, owner of the Summit restaurant (and its next-door neighbor, Summit House), turned his Mexican smokehouse into a Christmas Cantina for the month of December. Back for a second year, the redecorated restaurant features colorful string lights, holiday specials and themed cocktails.

“We wanted to make it look like Christmas exploded,” said Baker, who closes the restaurant after Thanksgiving so he and his staff can decorate together.

Patrons can sip drinks that include a house-made mulled cider, Cantina Cocoa (with a hint of cayenne pepper), Season’s Greetings (Lunazul Anejo tequila, Sagamore Rye whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse liqueur, spiced maple syrup, cherry bitters) and more. The Christmas Cantina runs through December 31.

You owned Summit House prior to opening BarBacoa. What was the inspiration for opening another restaurant next door?
Dylan Baker
: Summit House is fine-dining New American [cuisine], and when the space became available next door, I thought the town could use a really great Mexican restaurant. Two things I have always loved are Mexican and barbecue, so we put those two things together.

We make almost everything from scratch, including our soft corn tortillas and guacamole. If it doesn’t excite you, why bother doing it? It’s been a lot of fun bringing something new to town.

What’s it like balancing both restaurants?
It’s easy that they are next door [to each other], but definitely a lot more work! We have been so fortunate to have a really great staff and team. People have been with me for a long time, and we have a great core management group. There’s no way we could do anything without them.

Where did the idea for BarBacoa’s Christmas Cantina originate?
It came from the mind of my bar manager, Bobby Frascella. Every year we do some holiday cocktails at both places, and he brought to my attention this concept of a Christmas takeover. Last year, we pulled it off very quickly, but this year we had some more time.

What goes into decorating BarBacoa for Christmas?
It is all so much fun. The whole team gets involved in the decorating; all the staff comes in. We closed down a little early on the Monday after Thanksgiving, and we had pizza and beers and a big decorating party.

Did you do anything different for this year’s takeover?
BarBacoa has a music theme going on, and I personally love a wide range of music. We play anything from the Grateful Dead to ’90s hip hop. Our general manager, Rob Shabat, made a garland out of old cassette tapes and CDs. This season we’re turning the music up a little bit louder and playing things you don’t usually hear in most restaurants.

What specials are available during the Christmas Cantina?
Everything is homemade and fresh-squeezed. We do a frozen margarita called the Feliz Navidad, which is a cranberry and winter spice margarita. My favorite is the Dominic the Donkey; it’s a mezcal mule. We also started an advent calendar where we do a special every day. We have done half-priced tequila flights, 50 percent off draft beer and more.

What is your favorite part about the Christmas Cantina, and will you continue doing it in the future?
Yes! It’s become a great family tradition for people around the holidays. It is definitely a restaurant-family tradition for us as well. Hanging up the string lights and getting everybody into it is so much fun.

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