So much has been going on in the past two days it's tough to know where to begin, but since most of my dining experiences begin at the bar...
Well, it's going to be an integral part of the dining experience. I don't know about you, but like to dine at the bar now more than in the dining room and Ben and Jen have the same outlook.
As Ben told me, "More and more when we were dining out, we were dining at the bar. We just enjoyed sitting at the bar. You get more direct contact with the staff. When you sit in the dining room it's almost more of a special occasion."
The dining room is good if you want a little private time. But I get what he's saying. You are much more a part of the restaurant while at the bar. You get to experience the restaurant and see what it's all about . I know when I dined at the bar at When Pigs Fly, Ben would come out and interact with the customers (not just me) and it was such an inclusive experience. He was telling me about some restaurants they visited where they'd see these little snacks behind the bar like house cured cornichon with a Dijon mustard so when you come to the bar at Thistle Pig you might find a fun little snack like smoked salami sticks for a buck. Pickles, rilette, sweet and salty tidbits to go with your drink. Have a meat slicer at the bar for charcuterie on the spot.
So the bar will be 11-13 seats and the whole restaurant 56 or so. They were originally going to do a raw bar, but nixed the idea so there could be extra seats. The bar will be on the right side of the restaurant now with the dining room on the left where there will be a big common table and benches for seating. And here's a fun idea--a few bar seats in the kitchen so you can come right where the action is and chat to the folks making your food.
Since Jen is such a wonderful bartender, too, anyone behind that bar will get personalized service. I've watched her work at the Wentworth when people have come back to the bar on an annual vacation and she remembered them, right down to their favorite drink! So the design of the restaurant fits the hospitality philosophy--inclusion, interaction, and guests experiencing the restaurant as much from the inside as possible--with a cozy dining room and a community table, lots of bar seating and even seating in the kitchen to see all the action.
I'll have more on the look of the bar as it progresses! I might even be finished today...
In other news
Wine and booze reps are already stopping by--what's going to be on the all important drink list?
Rachel Forrest is the food writer and restaurant critic for The Portsmouth Herald, Seacoast Online and many other publications. She is the co-author of Maine Classics with James Beard Award winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier.