After an impressive seven-year run behind the bar at the Strip Club Meat & Fish, where he was repeatedly recognized for his intriguing concoctions, divine tonics, and quick boyish smile, Dan Oskey is ready for something new. When Hola Arepa opens its brick and mortar location this summer, Oskey will be slinging drinks behind the bar.
"The commute will be nice," Oskey told us when we spoke to him by phone. "It's really close to my house." Although the short drive isn't the only thing that lured this Best Bartender, flavor creator for Joia Sodas, and co-owner of Easy & Oskey bitters to Hola Arepa. Oskey and Hola Arepa's co-owner Birk Stefan Grudem have been friends for close to nine years now. The two met when Oskey signed on as bar manager at Longfellow Grill in 2005.
"He was the first person I met, actually. He was 19... little punk," said Oskey. "We had a lot of fun." The two developed distinctive and innovative cocktails, just as the craft movement began to cast an eye back towards the classics.
Grudem would then go on to work at the famed Town Talk Diner as well as Bradstreet Craftshouse before leaving the bartending business to start his own food truck with his co-owner and fiancée, Christina Nguyen.
For St. Paul fans of Oskey, his time isn't up yet at the Strip Club. He will be there for the next couple of weeks as Hola Arepa ramps up. Strip Club co-owner Tim Niver has expressed his support for the move, saying that Oskey is leaving one family for another.
As for what Oskey will be working on behind the new bar, he said they have a ton of ideas, many of which include Latin American spirits like rum, cachaça, and pisco. Oskey is still involved with farming a plot of land outside Mahtomedi, and he said he might even bring some of his farming skills to the new restaurant site in the form of a rooftop garden.
Hola Arepa remains on target for an early summer opening. Said Oskey, "When you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen."