When Justin Ross first opened Justin's Cafe in 2010, he was a pioneer to Navy Yard. Now, as he prepares to open The Big Stick, he's a seasoned business owner there.
As a result, he's learned a few things. For one thing — location is everything. Even though Justin's Cafe isn't far from Nats Stadium, it still has to compete with bars that have opened up even closer to the location. So Ross knew when The Big Stick space opened at 20 M St. SE, he had to jump on it.
Ross also has learned he needs to differentiate the place from the burger and American craft beer-focused competitors out there. So The Big Stick will serve sausages instead of burgers, and emphasize European lagers and pilsners over hoppy American brews (though they'll still have some of those available). The menu will also offer some more hard-to-find dishes like raclette, the cheesy European dish.
The Big Stick takes some of its design inspiration from ski lodges. A lounge area with a fireplace is one example. Designer Allison Cooke of CORE didn't get too literal with the comparison, though, since the restaurant will be busiest during the summer months. Baseball also works its way into the design theme of the 2,200 square food restaurant, including a sculpture made of baseball bat pieces, and a pitching machine worked into another. The Big Stick is designed to be bar-centric, with tons of televisions and big windows. Blonde, light-colored woods also keep the feel from being too wintery.
Above all, Ross wants The Big Stick to be a comfortable place to hang out, where a woman seated alone at the bar can have a great time. "One thing about Justin's Cafe is that we've had people become friends because of here, dated, or gotten married; all of that," he said. "I think it's a good sign of the place, and I want that to be reflected in our buildout [for The Big Stick]."
The Big Stick will aim to open in the first or second week of December. Ideally, Ross wants things to be up and running smoothly before the Washington Capitals play the Winter Classic at the stadium January 1.