A cathedral-like milk glass window sets a dramatic tone for the bar at A Rake’s Progress, one of the new restaurants in the LINE hotel in Washington, D.C. “I’ve always enjoyed old buildings, being from Baltimore, but this space has a grandness and elegance to it that inspired the direction for the bar from the beginning,” says beverage director and partner Corey Polyoka. “The large window was always at home in a church, and it was beckoning to be reimagined as a back bar. Getting service started under the ‘Golden Hour’ light in that grand space makes our approach to drinks feel important and significant in a new way.”
Housed in a 110-year-old former church in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, the LINE has three restaurants, two bars and a coffee shop in addition to guest rooms. At A Rake’s Progress, the dining room occupies the area that was formerly used as balcony seating in the main sanctuary of the church, says Sana Keefer, The LINE’s global brand director. “We attempted to incorporate as many existing design elements into the space as we could,” she adds. “Specifically, we restored existing plaster moldings, the existing milk glass windows, the stone stairs and wood handrails leading up to the restaurant and all of the pendant lighting fixtures were original to the church and restored. We also repurposed the original pipes from the church organ to create the main chandelier in the space.”
Making sure the bar and restaurant spoke to the history of Washington, D.C., was a priority. The design team worked with a number of Mid-Atlantic furniture vendors and companies to orchestrate the modern look. “Our dining and bar tables were all fabricated in Baltimore, as were the library ladders at the bar. The millwork for the bar was fabricated in Pennsylvania and all of the soapstone used throughout the restaurant was sourced from a quarry in Albarene, Virginia, outside of Charlottesville,” says Keefer.
Establishing a clear regional personality was also a goal for the bar program, and Corey Polyoka (who formerly ran the bar at James Beard Award–nominated Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore) highlights ingredients from the region throughout the recipes. “Creating the program here was unique because we could have locals, people from around the world and guests staying with us for a few days instead of a few hours,” he says. “I wanted the cocktails to have a strong sense of place, showcasing why the Mid-Atlantic is a place to explore, so our menu was written to show regional drinkways, flavors and stories for guests to discover.”
In addition to serving locally made cider and beer on tap, the cocktail menu rotates seasonally, with some drinks like the Haymaker remaining a staple. “It’s a historical regional drink that we can make entirely with local inputs: D.C. white rum, ginger vinegar from two people that used to work with us, honey from Maryland, and salt from JQ Dickinson in West Virginia,” Polyoka says. “It’s been on the menu since the first day and will stay on as long as we’re there.” Others drinks, such as the Improved Old Fashioned, use preserved fruit. “I wanted a stirred drink that brought a pick-your-own-adventure fruit flavor to it. We’ll constantly rotate the fruit syrup out through the year, and guest get to pick the base spirit. We cut our own ice and, of course, make our own bitters, too.”
To adapt to the hotel setting, Polyoka also added a classics section of the menu to offer a few familiar options for guests in addition to house specials. But the goal is about more than just making great drinks; Polyoka also wants to have an impact on the local community. “I’m seeing more restaurateurs and bar owners thinking about how our industry can affect change in this world. Can a drink, in a hotel, do that? I think it can,” he says. “We cut out middlemen, support regional agriculture, buy from small distillers, give new spirits and beverages a platform to grow, all while delivering a meal our guests hopefully enjoy.”
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