Friday, August 7, 2009

Room 11 wine bar preview

Last night Room 11, the new wine bar at 11th and Lamont which opens Monday, had a preview for media and friends. I went over with a friend to take a look, and I'm not a big wine guy, but I'm impressed.

As the owners have said many times in ANC meetings and such, the place is small, about 15 seats inside and maybe 8 tables outside. It's nicely decorated and comfortable.

But the most important part -- the wine. They served about 5 different kinds at the preview, all of which are on the menu: an Argentine red, an Australian chardonnay, a French sauvignon, and a sparkling white. All were very nice and all look to be inexpensive -- a glance at the menu had a whole page of wines, most in the $6-$10 range per glass. They also will have some beer, including two on tap. I asked bartender Dan Searing about how they choose wines, and he said they hope to be a "neighborhood wine bar" and thus chose wines for value: maybe something unusual or something classic.

They had food too, including tasty panini samples, cheeses, olives, and delicious goat cheesecake balls. On the menu, the paninis were all $10 or less, and the rest of the food was that much or cheaper.

The cook, whose name I didn't catch, said he wanted "simple, inexpensive, appealing" food you could eat with one implement, and he thinks of it more as a cafe. He said they may expand to salads and things and they hoped to start serving coffee, scones and the like in the mornings, as there aren't many places that have breakfast around 11th, other than Columbia Heights Coffee (which is usually pretty crowded).

Searing also mentioned they've been thinking about having a happy hour, maybe something like $1 off glasses of wine and some kind of food deals, and had also considered a late-night happy hour. He noted a lot of people in the service industry get off late, and he also sees people with suits and briefcases walking home late at night.

I didn't get a chance to talk much to Paul Ruppert, who also owns Warehouse, but the whole staff has a lot of experience at bars and restaurants. Searing used to be bartender at Temperance Hall (now looking glass) and the other folks have been around too.

I also heard some harrowing stories about delays in permits, like waiting 15 days for the DC government person who gives certificates of occupancy to show up, and months for the man who approves the plumbing. Pretty tough, as they noted they're a small business and it's hard to afford those kinds of things -- especially since they missed a lot of the spring and summer.

I'm curious to see how crowded it gets, as it's a small place with a unique idea, but I'm looking forward to it! There are more photos on My Flickr page, including interior shots and the paninis.


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