Before the coronavirus crisis shut down the majority of its business, Shaw wine bar Maxwell Park was about to start offering a reconfigured food menu that reflected owner Brent Kroll’s partnership with Albi owner Michael Rafidi, a former Eater D.C. Chef of the Year. That adjustment had to wait until today, when Maxwell Park debuts a contact-free, grab-and-go option that features Middle Eastern-leaning dips and sandwiches from Rafidi.
From 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday, Maxwell Park is open for pickup orders that have been placed ahead of time via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The one-page menu designed by Rafidi, the former Arroz and Requin chef who now has his own wood-burning restaurant Middle Eastern food, includes 8-ounce containers of labneh soft serve, burnt eggplant with tahini, cheese, charcuterie, and a truffled grilled cheese sandwich.
“I’m never going to tell him what to cook, but I said it should be a menu where people can eat it on the spot or put in their fridge,” Kroll says.
Along with the new to-go bites, Maxwell Park continues to sell its entire 1,000-bottle list at a 30-percent discount. The 3-year-old bar, which in 2019 won a local restaurant association award for “Wine Program of the Year,” has been making deliveries throughout the dine-in ban.
“We’ve sold [everything from] 50-year-old Barolo to entry-level rosé,” Kroll says.
Thursday deliveries on drinks and food are free with a $100 minimum. Maxwell Park is also selling washable, hospital-grade face masks made in Italy with antibacterial fabric.
While Kroll expects to rely on a grab-and-go business model, he’s also making preparations to open Maxwell Park’s small patio with restricted seating as soon as the bar is allowed. D.C. Mayor Muriel Boswer is expected to decide Wednesday whether D.C. restaurants can begin the first stage of reopening Friday, May 29. Recommendations call for outdoor service only and limited seating.
Should it get the green, Maxwell Park plans to open its patio at 2 p.m. on Friday. The space will adhere to 6-foot distancing guidelines. That would leave room for four tables of two to four people, so that would put capacity at a 16-person max. Sit-down hours will be the same its grab-and-go operation. A Navy Yard location of Maxwell, which opened next-door to Albi at the beginning of March, can fit three patio tables, Kroll says. Outdoor service there would likely begin a week after the patio in Shaw is allowed to open.
Wines on the patio would only be sold by the bottle. Bathrooms and tables would be sanitized after each use, and patrons will have a paper trail: Maxwell plans to log customers’ names and information to comply with contact tracing protocols. Guests and staff will be required to wear masks and gloves, and all payment will be non-contact.
“We’re doing everything that’s required, plus a couple extra things,” Kroll says.
While Kroll’s 19-person staff has been furloughed, he says Maxwell Park has raised $20,000 to support them. He’s also distributed free CSA boxes.Funds have flowed in from a GoFundMe campaign and Venmo donations from a free Friday night quarantine-themed wine class.
Kroll says his goal is to get his staff back to work in June.
“People are moving out of the area and leaving the hospitality business,” Kroll says. “If we can’t get our squad back ... that’s not a situation we want to face.”