On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Mike Sammons joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss How to Survive on Land and Sea, the new wine bar he's opening later this summer in the East End. As one of the founders of Midtown staples 13 Celsius and Mongoose versus Cobra, Sammons has built a devoted following among local wine and spirits enthusiasts.
Sammons has been fairly tight-lipped about his new project, but he's ready to share some details. How to Survive will resemble 13 Celsius to a certain extent in that it will serve wine, beer, and cider both for on-premises and to-go, but the service aspect will be diminished. Sammons cites his inspiration from both the vinotecas of Tuscany and the casual taverns of Eastern Austria known as Heuriger.
In that spirit, patrons will need to walk up to the central bar to purchase wines by-the-glass or bottle, rather than receiving full service as they do at 13 Celsius. In exchange for accepting less service, Sammons will be able to keep his prices lower; most of the bottles will cost less than $50.
Asked to elaborate a little on his overall philosophy, Sammons provides an expansive answer.
When we opened 13, wine was intimidating. A lot of people didn't really know what to order, how to order, or even what they liked. If a sommelier in a restaurant explained that they would love this Burgundy, they did, because they assumed it was good. But things have changed drastically in this town over the last decade. People do know what they're doing. You've got to give people credit now. You can't just put a 50-page wine list and expect them to be intimidated into buying the most expensive thing on the menu.
What I want to do is embrace the fact that era is over. You have 22-year-olds looking through your wine list and selecting great value wines, because they know what they're doing. They know what areas of the world to look at for the best deal. Nobody wants to spend $400 on a bottle of wine all the time. I know I don't. I think it's a little insane to do so when there's so much available for $50 or under. What it takes is someone to say I know enough about wine culture to know where to find the best value for the buck. That's really the focus of this wine program.
The conversation touches on a number of other topics, including How to Survive's beer program and what sort of food it will serve. Sammons also reveals plans to open a small pasta restaurant in an adjacent space but declines to provide details like the name or who the chef will be. Consider that TBA.
Prior to Sammons joining the show, Sandler and Avondale Food & Wine owner Mary Clarkson discuss the news of the week. Their topics include Bar 5015 closing to become a new project from the owners of the Turkey Leg Hut, downtown food hall Understory beginning its soft opening, and Gelazzi suddenly closing in The Heights.
Keeping the news section short allows them to dive into the restaurants of the week. The hosts discuss their recent meals at two restaurants that have opened recently in River Oaks District: MAD, the new Spanish restaurant from BCN chef Luis Roger and owner Ignacio Torras, and Loch Bar, the casual seafood tavern from Baltimore's Atlas Restaurant Group.