Skip to main content

Travel and Cocktails with Westbound’s Head Bartender

westbound eatery and bar los angeles craft cocktails
All the glamor of travel is in the newly opened Westbound. It is as though you’ve stepped into the first class train car in a bygone time of sophistication and service. There’s a reason for that: Westbound is located on the former site of the Santa Fe railway station. Now it’s a hub for incredible food and drinks, old favorites with adventurous twists and new ideas based on global flavors. Head bartender, Dee Ann Quinones, who helped create the drink menu, talks to us about all things cocktails.

First, let’s set the scene: Westbound is all about service and attention to detail. The travel/train theme is incorporated elegantly and with a light hand– it doesn’t smack of a theme park. Westbound has a surprisingly modern feel for such a vintage-inspired design: bold earthy paint colors, rich woods and chocolately leathers, with copper on the bar and Pullman booths at the tables. There’s also a patio outside flanked by olive trees.


Dee Ann Quinones is right at home in Westbound, a world traveler herself, who first met owner Sarah Meade in New York when Quinones was managing Booker and Dax. The two kept in touch and, when it came time to open Westbound in May of this year, Quinones was Mead’s choice for Head Bartender. It’s a natural fit. “Travel is a big theme in my life,” Quinones says. “Right before I came to LA, I was traveling around the world for two months visiting 12 countries. Travel is where most of the inspiration for my cocktails comes from. I’m always trying to replicate the taste and feel of the various food, cultures, colors, and experiences that I have been exposed to. I’ve been to 48 countries in total. We’re lucky to have a travel theme to Westbound, there is always a narrative or story to start from and we’re always on the move.

Once she’s got that inspiration, how does she create a new cocktail? “Usually, I start with a flavor – something I’m looking to explore or take to the next level. Everything is flavor-focused. I like to see how I can make this ‘flavor’ as good as it can be in a cocktail, and translate that to the everyday guest.” The Conductor looks especially intriguing: Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Black Sesame, Tamarind, Egg White, and Lemon. Quinones’ current favorite is The Westbound & Up: Vida Mezcal, Chipotle Honey, Lemon, Orange Bitters, and Lime. “It’s a fantastic mezcal cocktail,” Quinones remarks, made even tastier given Westbound’s commitment to using local and seasonal ingredients.


Food is another important aspect of Westbound and for that Mead turned to Executive Chef Gary Nguyen, formerly of Alma and Mélisse. His menu, too, reflects the global travel aesthetic in a playful, daring way. The small plates include delicious options like Foie ‘n’ Waffle, and the Beet Trifle, which is beet meringue, orange cake, brandy caramel, and spring herb ice cream.

“Pairing food and cocktails are my favorite.” Quinones collaborated with Nguyen to develop drinks that would enhance the dishes. “We don’t have to be limited by wine. Cocktails can take it so much further. Gary (the executive chef) and I work very closely together on flavor profiles and trying to complement existing and new menu items. Our French 75 [Rutte Gin, Lemon, Simple, Bubbles, served in a champagne flute and a lemon twist] pairs perfectly with our beef tartar. The cocktail is light and its acidity does well cutting the richness of the beef.” The menu offers a helping hand, suggesting drink pairings with food, but the extremely friendly, knowledgeable staff is there to help.

So, what does cocktail master Quinones recommend as the perfect choice for summer grilling? Mezcal. Think their Westbound & Up cocktail: “The smokiness of the mezcal is great for the BBQ char; the chipotle honey and lemon give it that tart and spice that you want with a burger.”

This eatery and bar is destined to become a favorite spot among Angelenos. With such a talented staff, dedicated to providing top tier service, unique food and drinks, and a decor that might as well be a time machine to a better era, you won’t want to get off the Westbound train.

Editors' Recommendations

These are the 25 best restaurants in America right now
Eat like royalty at one of the 25 top restaurants in America
Image of quality food

It's a great time to eat. We live in a food-loving nation, with restaurants that touch every section of the vast culinary spectrum. The very best of the bunch can challenge the way we see food and set us up with memories to last a lifetime.

We took some time off from eating out for obvious reasons but now that we're living in a mostly post-pandemic world, it's a great time to support restaurants again. They had a rough go of it in 2020 and 2021, but many of the best survived and they're more excited than ever to have diners return to their floors.

Read more
You need to go to the vodka ice room at this Whistler restaurant this ski season
Champagne bottle sabering and an actual vodka ice room are just a few of the charms at this fantastic spot
The ice room at Bearfoot Bistro.

Bearfoot Bistro had already put on a thoroughly impressive show. The food was delicious, the wine was perfect as could be, and the atmosphere was comfortably refined. They’d even brought my girlfriend and me down to a sprawling wine cellar to saber a bottle of champagne. Great stuff all around.

Then, suddenly, we were whisked from our table, out of the Whistler restaurant and into the hall it shares with the Listel Hotel Whistler. There stood a grinning member of the staff, who opened a closet that contained a rack of massive Canada goose parkas. I asked what was going on and his grin deepened.

Read more
10 tasty retro dishes that deserve a comeback
It's time to bring back the glory days of these delicious culinary treats
retro dishes poised for a comeback pineapple ham

Trends certainly do have a way of circling back around, don't they? And while this may be glaringly obvious in things like fashion and entertainment, certain foods can also find their way back into our lives after decades of mysterious absence. And while some dishes are better off left in the past (we're looking at you, aspic), others never should have left our dinner tables in the first place. Perhaps simply buried underneath the plethora of new Pinterest recipes and TikTok trends, or just forgotten due to nothing more than the passage of time, these dishes are due for a comeback to your table.
Ambrosia salad

If you're lucky enough, you have one surviving relative that still brings this dish to every potluck and family get-together. That relative will likely transport this salad in a Cool Whip container and can tell you every detail about where she was the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Spoiler alert: this salad was on the menu that day, too.

Read more