The Eastern — a new wine bar not-so-creatively named after its digs in the Eastern Market neighborhood — is set to open July 30, just in time for Hill staffers to sneak out of August workdays a little early to snag a deal at happy hour.
“Midcentury modern” is the vibe, with a large front window that lights gold accents and deep green walls. The Eastern might offer a different atmosphere than its whiskey-soaked sister bar, Barrel, just across the street, but owners Matthew Weiss and Mike Schuster insist they want the mood to be “unpretentious and fun.”
This is the second shared enterprise for the duo, who own a combined nine establishments around the District. Weiss knows the Hill well — he’s owned Union Pub since the nineties, when it was better known as Red River Grill. And much like its predecessors, you can put your pinkies down in this place, which will open its doors every day at 4 p.m.
Capitol Hill is hardly short on watering holes. Pubs? Check. Lounges: covered. The neighborhood can even boast a saloon and a speakeasy. But until now, the California-inspired Sonoma is just about the only Hill establishment that has billed itself as a refuge for grape-lovers.
The wine-forward mission of the Eastern comes with a tradeoff in the food department, with a menu that focuses mostly on olive-sized appetites and “shareable” plates. But you could definitely make dinner work here in a pinch. Weiss and Schuster are as good as their unpretentious word, offering a pesto chicken sandwich on ciabatta, for example.
The wine itself is categorized by “style” rather than “color,” says Robert Morin, general manager and one of the restaurants two sommeliers. Categories include “If you like pinot noir” and “If you like adventure.” (If you want to know what “adventure” looks like, it’s a 2016 Pullus pinot grigio from Slovenia.)
The other sommelier is Daphne McDermott, who comes from the Dabney in Shaw. For the wine-averse, there’s beer. There’s also a short list of cocktails, including something called the “Strawberry Feelz 4ever. 4ever ever? 4ever, ever?” (Hibiscus is involved.)
Sandwiched between Sephora and Orangetheory Fitness, the Eastern is a good spot to flaunt your new bronzer, flex the triceps you just toned lifting a couple of 10-pound dumbbells, or — better yet — just drink wine.