Perfect complements

Perfect complements
Perfect complements

Whether you’re after a bottle of Budweiser or a $150 shot of single-malt scotch, Tradewinds is the perfect low-key hideaway for an after-work cocktail or a quiet dinner.

Tucked inside the MCM Eleganté Hotel, this little-known nautical bar is reminiscent of a high-end port tavern, furnished with overstuffed leather sofas, Cuban and Caribbean artwork from the 1930s and 1940s and dim lighting. And just across the hall from Tradewinds is Hemingway’s, the hotel restaurant that offers an interesting menu of Southeast Texas fare. 

And the two establishments complement each other perfectly.

According to food and beverage director Steve McGaha, often travelers’ only experience of Southeast Texas happens inside the hotel.

“Hemingway’s is here and Tradewinds is here for the captive audience in the hotel so that they have a good memory of the hotel and a good memory of Beaumont,” McGaha said. “For some people, their first impression, their last impression — their only impression — is this hotel.”

With over 200 labels to choose from behind the bar, Tradewinds serves more brands than any bar between Houston and New Orleans, McGaha said. Guests can experience everything from South American wines stored in the climate-controlled wine cellar to a variety of single-malt scotches from the highlands and lowlands of Scotland.

“We have people who come from all over the world, so we like to have things from all over the world. That’s what our guests want,” said McGaha.”We have everything. You can come in and order a Budweiser or a glass of cabernet, and then we have single-malt scotches from the highlands and lowlands of Scotland that are $150 a shot. We have a bottle of Louis (XIII Cognac) that’s $325 a shot. We’re not a nightclub. This is a business bar, but it’s also a bar where people can just sit and talk.”

Guests can also order food from the hotel restaurant just across the hall, and Hemingway’s offers a very interesting menu that McGaha said has evolved to accommodate what hotel guests want.

“Hemingway did a lot of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida and Cuba, so the original menu when we opened up 11 years ago was sort of a Key West, conch fritter kind of menu, and that was nice, but it wasn’t really what people wanted,” McGaha said. “What we found was that when people who were traveling all over the world stayed here, what they wanted to eat was stuff from here,” McGaha said. “They wanted good old American fare and Cajun food; they wanted to have gumbo and ettouffe.”

A popular item on the menu is the shrimp and crab tater tots, a signature appetizer made with lump crabmeat, bay shrimp made to order – and the combination is terrific.

The Pasta Hemingway is an excellent dish with an Italian flare that features penne pasta with shrimp and crab, basil and tomato sauce.

“We make everything here. Everything is homemade at the hotel,” McGaha said.

But one traveler in particular is a big fan of the chicken and sausage gumbo.

“During a concert he did for the bishop a couple years ago, Harry Connick Jr. kept saying on stage that he loved the gumbo at the Eleganté,” McGaha laughed. “He’s from New Orleans, so he knows gumbo.”

While we didn’t get around to sampling a $325 shot of Louis, we can certainly recommend those shrimp and crab tater tots.