Pavle Milic has never been to Paris. Ironic, considering how often guests at FnB’s new bar room tell him the quaint space reminds them of those in Europe and, specifically, in the French capital.
When he does go, he knows he’ll need to make a few touristy stops, including taking an obligatory photo in front of the Eiffel Tower. His bucket-list destination, however, will be far away in the 19th Arrondissement, to a little bistro called Le Baratin. He first noticed it in the pages of Gourmet magazine.
“The September issue of ’06, I want to say. It was a Paris issue,” Milic remembers. “Inside the magazine, on page 122, there was a picture of a restaurant. And it had this badass, old-school mosaic tile floor. The bar was dark, European cherry wood, sitting below mid-century globe lighting.
“And then in the corner, behind some of the chairs, there was a picture of a dashing, debonair French guy with a big head of white hair and a killer grin. And I said to myself, ‘Man, if I ever have a place of my own, I want it to feel like that picture.’ Not like that restaurant, but like that picture, because there was a certain timeless quality about it that was pretty freaking cool.”
Milic would continue to look at the magazine regularly over the following years. He and Charleen Badman, FnB’s chef and co-owner, would often flip open to that page while cooking and planning their restaurant.
“It was kind of a muse,” Milic says. “Eventually, Charleen and I will get around to visiting that place.”
In the meantime, Milic has his hands full with this ambitious little bar that, as he humbly states, complements Badman’s fresh, local and often organic vegetable-driven menu infused with techniques and flavors from around the globe. But he’s being modest—the wine list, over the years, has become a destination in its own right. Milic rightfully gets much of the credit for advancing the reputation of Arizona-grown wines and the winemakers behind them, championing the state’s terroir way before most forward-thinking sommeliers and drinkers were ready to.
At FnBar, as the little room next to the main restaurant has been nicknamed, the wine list travels well beyond the borders of our fair state. Every month, the list changes locales, from wine-producing regions in Austria and Spain, to those in France, spending a week in the Loire Valley.
Everywhere the wine goes, so does the short cocktail list, assembled by Travis Nass, a mixology consultant and one of the Valley’s best-known barmen. At each stop, he’ll create drinks inspired by the region.
When highlighting the Loire Valley, for example, he made the Sable, a cocktail made with cognac, orange bitters and an almond syrup, inspired by the shortbread cookies of the region. For Oregon, wishing to evoke its evergreen nature, he fashioned the Portlandia Pine Top out of pine liqueur and an herbal French aperitif called Génépy.
The space isn’t only for drinking and eating, however. Milic’s passion for juice, as he calls it, has slowly transformed the local restaurateur into a local wine god. In fact, he teaches a monthly wine class aptly named Sunday School.
“We try to be user friendly to most people,” Milic says. “And by that I mean we like to focus on stories rather than pedantic minutiae like oak treatment and pH levels. We really just try to get a little perspective about that region, and give our selection a human element that we can all grab onto.
“And that’s part of the reason we love wine,” he adds. “That we can travel without a passport and learn something about other cultures and foods.”