The iconic theme song to “Cheers” had it right: Sometimes you DO want to go where everybody knows your name.
Chastity Bustos is hoping Whiptail is that place.
Bustos, who opened Whiptail in Rio Rancho in December, says she saw a need in Rio Rancho and northwest Albuquerque for more locally owned restaurants that feel like home.
“When you come in, we want to know your name, we want to know about you,” Bustos said. “We are a member of a community, and we want to be an upstanding member of the community and give back and be a place where people can come to relax.”
Bustos and her husband opened their first restaurant, Philly Steaks, on Juan Tabo and Menaul four years ago. They have lived in New Mexico for more than two decades and in Rio Rancho for 16 years. Bustos wants to use that experience and knowledge of Rio Rancho and surrounding neighborhoods to turn Whiptail into the place to go in the area for top notch food and drinks.
“We have a relaxed atmosphere so you don’t have to dress up to come in to see us, but you get the fancier drinks and you get the more quality drinks, the more quality food,” Bustos said. “Really, hospitality is our number-one focus because you can go anywhere and get customer service that’s just a ‘Hi, how are you?’”
While the goal is to please the customers, Whiptail is also set up so mixologists and cooks can think outside the box and have input on the menu.
“We are evolving so you won’t see the same menu months on months on months,” Bustos said. “There’s going to be something new coming all the time. And that’s because we really create a culture of creativity from the bartenders to the cooks to the chef. I don’t tell them what goes on the menu. They have free reign to create something, and it goes before a panel of multiple members of the team.”
The menu includes several eye-catching and mouth-watering items. Some of Bustos’ favorite food items include Donna’s Meatballs, which are an ode to Bustos’ grandmother who passed away last year, mac and cheese with pork belly and the Potatas Bravas, which are smashed Peewee Potatoes served with traditional Brava Sauce, honey aioli and chives.
Whiptail also serves a special brunch menu every Sunday, which is highlighted by a tasty Cubano sandwich, chicken and waffles, and breakfast Bao buns.
The drink menu is equally impressive, offering local beer, wines and cocktails that turn heads. The Jennifer Rose is a cocktail made up of fresh blackberries, strawberries, Rose Water, lemon juice, Wheatley Vodka and mint. It is served with a bubble solution that customers can pop before they enjoy their drink.
“The bubble solution is kind of a vapor that we do,” said head mixologist Juztin Lynn. “The whole bar is going to be kind of like a science lab. It’s flaming, color changing or bubbles or all kinds of fun things. We use a vegan bubble solution. It’s like sugar water after everything. And then we do a very smoker underneath that drink. We do fresh bubble berry syrup. We do lemon juice and rosewater and then it adds up to a pretty sweet, pretty delicious Martini.”
The Jennifer Rose isn’t the only star cocktail, though. Whiptail offers a variety of upscale drinks and a decent price, including a Gummy martini made with gummy bear syrup, and smoked drinks.
Whiptail prides itself on making everything in-house and serving local products. Bustos also has an eye on using products that affect the community, and the world, in a positive manner.
“I like to incorporate as much local as possible,” Bustos said. “That’s why our beers are only local beers. I don’t want to use regular names, but you can go get a regular beer anywhere else. I happen to think New Mexico does a wonderful job with our beer, and I’m all about helping other local people succeed, grow, get bigger and get some recognition. Our liquors, most of them have some kind of story or background. Our Oceans vodka sources its many botanicals off of the coast of Hawaii, like 3,000 meters down, and it gives back to the ocean reserves. It serves the gray whale goods back to the gray whale preservation. Some of our alcohols are produced by female distillers and we are female entrepreneurs, local entrepreneurs. Just something that gives back instead of just takes.”
Less than a year after opening, it appears Bustos is on track to turn Whiptail into an upscale neighborhood bar that is more than just a place to eat and drink. For Bustos, Whiptail can help its guests forget about their troubles.
“In the community, I think that we get disconnected in our own lives, and we forget that we’re all running the same race, you know, called life,” Bustos said. “And just to have a place where you don’t have to stress to come in here. You can just come in here and relax and let us deal with everything else. And if you’re having a crappy day, then you know hopefully you leave here with a smile and, if you’re having a great day, then I hope you’re floating on cloud nine when you leave here. We want to put positivity out in the world because I think it’s it’s severely lacking right now.”