Happy Accidents, located at 3225 Central NE, is the brainchild of Kate Gerwin and Blaze Montana. The duo have been bar consultants for the last 12 years and have built bars around the United States for clients.
The name Happy Accidents was inspired by painter Bob Ross who was the creator and host of “The Joy of Painting,” an instructional television program that aired on PBS from the early 1980s to the mid-’90s.
“My grandma was a school bus driver and an art teacher and she loves to cook,” Gerwin said. “And everyday, kind of when I was growing up, I remember her always watching Bob Ross and him always, you know, just being this like soft-spoken, very kind person. And, you know, one of the things that he kind of always said was ‘We don’t make mistakes. We have happy accidents.’ And his philosophy behind that was kind of like turning mistakes into better opportunities.
“And I think Happy Accidents is us turning all of our learned knowledge, all of the mistakes we’ve made, all the things that we’ve learned into a bar that we hope was a happy little accident.”
The velvety, floral fabric used for a seating area, vibrant and colorful artwork, artificial turf-covered ceiling and dangling monkey light fixtures create an ambiance of happiness.
Gerwin and Montana single-handedly built most of the interior décor of Happy Accidents with the help of Gerwin’s 14-year-old daughter, who created long-tassel lamp shades to dim lighting to a level that is comfortable for people who suffer from light sensitivity. The turf above not only curves and swirls in a pleasing pattern similar to that of a golf course viewed from above, but it also doubles as a sound buffer.
“I searched that fabric down and then I found it,” Gerwin said of the floral fabric covering the booth in a seating area. “It was really expensive, out of my budget, and I spent like two months looking for it. And the monkeys I found in Hong Kong and bought them. The glassware I’ve been collecting for over 10 years.
“Most of the tables we made ourselves. We did the bar tops ourselves. I painted the ‘Get Happy’ wall. I did the bodies in the back on the walls. Blaze built all the booths. We did the pink epoxy floors in the back ourselves. And we literally didn’t contract anyone out. We did all of the redo.”
The attention to detail also is reflected in Happy Accidents plateware and glassware. It is reflective of antique dinnerware found at a grandmother’s table.
“I have this weird thing about like the energy and for one, I think as a society, we create, re-create too many things and throw too many things out,” Gerwin said. “Like I’m all about thrifting. I feel like we put too little value in old things … And those kinds of objects have a lot of love and intention and they remind people of good moments.”
Gerwin and Montana previously worked together as bartenders at the now shuttered Imbibe Cigar Bar in Nob Hill. Gerwin, who is an award-winning bartender, also tended bar at Casa Vieja in Corrales and served as a consultant on the television show “Bar Rescue.”
While living in Albuquerque she ran in the same circle as Adrienne Miller. Miller later moved on to run one of the most high-volume cocktail bars in New Orleans, as well as work at the prestigious Silver Lyan cocktail bar in Washington, D.C.
“She was a great bartender, but she loves to cook,” Gerwin said of Miller. “And everybody always said to her ‘Why don’t you cook, like why aren’t you in the kitchen? You’re always trying to feed people, you’re always trying to do this.’ ”
Miller began staging in restaurants about a couple years ago. She worked for chefs and came to the realization that she did no longer wanted to bartend and wanted to open her own restaurant. Gerwin gave her the opportunity at Happy Accidents to become head chef.
The food menu complements Happy Accidents eclectic atmosphere. It has fusions of creations with a variety of influences including New Orleans cuisine. The Gumbo Wontons were born from Miller’s grandfather’s gumbo recipe. The Pork Yakamein and the Vegetarian Yakamein is a New Orleans classic creole broth soup with an Asian twist of noodles and New Mexican additions of calabacitas in the vegetarian version and red chile roasted pork in the protein offering. Patrons can also enjoy Grit Tots, Chorizo Lettuce Wraps, and several sammies made either with fried green tomato, fried corn or fried chicken.
The cocktail offerings pair with the food menu and currently have plenty of offerings for vodka, gin and whiskey drinkers. Agave spirits are coming soon.
Happy Accidents prides itself in its highballs that are crisp and effervescent. They can be ordered solo or muddled with fruits, herbs, botanicals and more. The bar has numerous signature cocktails that will satisfy guests who prefer something with a drier flavor profile to patrons who favor something sweet.
“We like to spoil people on just really good drinks and good environment, and try and treat people with respect and make them welcome into our space, and get them what they want and within our means and hope that they have a great experience,” Gerwin said. “And I think our cocktails kind of reflect that. We’re not trying to like recreate the whole system here. We’re just trying to do like really good, fun, accessible food and drinks.”