Typically, when a restaurant closes "for renovations," it means "closed forever."
Don't throw the Washington Ave Drinkery into that group. The space is actually undergoing renovations that will transform it into a new concept called The Heights Lodge Gastropub.
Co-owner Jason Torres tells CultureMap that, as a neighborhood resident, he and his wife are tired of driving to The Heights or Montrose to find good restaurants. He wanted to "build a place we could come and eat . . . other than Max's Wine Dive, we don't eat on Washington . . . a lot of the places are corporate-y."
Torres is bullish on Washington, despite the wave of recent shutterings that includes burger joint The Chopping Block.
Torres is bullish on Washington, despite the wave of recent shutterings that includes burger joint The Chopping Block (sporting a large For Lease sign out front). "There's so much room for growth, so much opportunity," he says.
Recognizing the need for a restaurant to cater to residents, he contacted the owner of the Drinkery with a proposal to convert it into a "modern, rustic" restaurant that serves what Torres describes as "American Revival food." That means a focus on comfort classics like mac and cheese.
Heights Lodge will be "a little more mature" than the bars on Washington, he says. "The 21-year olds are not what we're going for." Instead, the restaurant will be "modern, functional and casual" while still being unpretentious.
Inside, reclaimed wood has been used throughout, and there's a new marble bar top. A large patio behind the restaurant, away from Washington, will be decorated with lights and umbrellas.
Torres promises to serve "great food" based primarily around local, organic ingredients. Towards that end, he has tapped chefs Kris Radusch and Fernando Gallegos to design the menu; Radusch is a Houston native who worked at the Las Vegas outpost of Vic & Anthony's steakhouse and Gallegos has held a variety of senior positions in the Cordua restaurant group.
Heights Lodge will also host occasional, one-night pop-ups for chefs like Radusch to show off their skills and win local fans. Torres says he's already reached out to other chefs and found there's a lot of interest in participating.
The drinking aspect of a gastropub hasn't been ignored. Heights Lodge will have 25 beer taps and a full menu of craft cocktails. Torres promises artisanal ingredients (high end tonic water, for example) along with small batch vodkas and "an amazing whiskey selection."
Does two restaurants make a trend? A neighborhood resident opens a restaurant to serve well-executed comfort food to maturing locals is also the recipe for Midtown newcomer Cook & Collins. Will Heights Lodge get off to a similarly promising start? Find out when it opens on Feb. 7.