Barrel owners Matt Weiss and Mike Schuster are a week away from expanding in their Capitol Hill neighborhood by opening a midcentury-style wine bar with a few 21st century touches.
The Eastern is scheduled to start pouring on Tuesday, July 30, at 360 7th Street SE. The anticipated summer arrival occupies a corner of the mixed-use complex dubbed 700 Penn.
The new project is a departure from the D.C. natives’ dark, wood-lined bourbon bar that opened a couple blocks away five years ago. Weiss also runs decades-old watering hole Union Pub nearby, as well as the dimly-lit McClellan’s Retreat in Dupont Circle and Truxton Inn in Bloomingdale.
“It’s brighter than what we’re used to at our places by far,” Weiss says.
Floor-to-ceiling windows and glowing brass fixtures hovering above will shine light on 40 wines, all offered by the glass and bottle. Prices by the glass start at $9 for a Portuguese Vinho Verde and balloons to $40 for a Cabernet Sauvignon from Heitz Cellars.
“We wanted to make it as available and unpretentious as possible,” Weiss says of the selection.
An 2015 Chateau Musar from Lebanon is a “cult favorite” of general manager Robert Morin, who worked alongside fellow sommelier and bar manager Daphne McDermott at the Partisan.
Barrel chef Walfer Hernandez is also manning the menu at the Eastern, pairing drinks with an assortment of charcuterie, cheese, dips, salads, seafood, and sandwiches.
Along with the expected throwbacks (a martini and Old Fashioned), the bar will introduce the neighborhood to lesser-known classics like a Kalimotxo, a mixture of red wine and Coca-Cola popular in the Basque region of Spain. The Eastern’s is made with Mexican cola.
“You don’t see that in a lot of places,” says McDermot, who also stirred drinks at The Dabney and Zaytinya.
The short beer list includes a 750-ml. bottle of Miller High Life for $10 — dubbed “Champagne service.”
“Even thought this is more of a grown-up little sister and we may be more sophisticated, we still have to bring our cheekiness into it,” Weiss says.
And thanks to the Weiss’s deep-rooted partnerships with bourbon brands, the bar houses a vast collection of the brown spirits. Big spenders can request a rare pour of its 23-year Pappy Van Winkle.
Rows of wine bottles double as wall art, lining the perimeter of a 1,500-square-foot space that seats 50 people inside and another 20 on the patio.
The detail-oriented look, framed with a hunter green paint job and illuminated with glowing orbs of light, makes patrons feel like they’re drinking in Mad Men protagonist Don Draper’s office. Co-owner Schuster is also partner at the immaculately-designed Maydan in Shaw.
“It fits the aesthetic of today’s cool, hip wine bar with the classiness of yesteryear’s proper cocktails,” Weiss says.
To create a throwback vibe, the partners commissioned a New York-based artist and furniture designer to paint a pastel-colored abstract series on wood that would fit in at the Hirshhorn. Geometric patterns found across the bar’s black-and-white tiles, pillows, and banquettes inspired her artwork. The pop art theme is even present in the bathrooms, which are covered in funky red, white, and black wallpaper.
Weiss hopes to capitalize on the existing fan base he’s amassed over the years and gain a new group of regulars.
“Here there’s just solid, good people,” he says. “They go out multiple times a week and love exploring new places. If you treat them right they are very good to their businesses.”
In addition to tenants, the huge 700 Penn complex also has a Samsung office and an incoming fast-casual place, Eat Brgz.
The Eastern will open daily at 4 p.m. to start, with plans to do weekend brunch starting in September.