The powerhouse duo of chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough are at it again. In just a few short months, they plan to open the doors to their newest restaurant concept, The Old Sage, which will neighbor Tavern Law in the space that once occupied The Local Vine. According to Tough, it's a space they've been plotting to take over since September.
The two longtime friends, both very much equal partners in their restaurant ventures, say the concept will be much homier than the clean presentations and preparations they've built their reputation on at Tavern Law, Spur and The Coterie Room.
"[The concept] is smoked meats in a fun bar setting with interesting bar food. Our meats will not be your everyday pastrami and things like that; we found that a lot of smoked meats go really well with whiskey and beer and that's kind of the direction of the bar," says McCracken.
"[The concept is] something we've been sitting on for a while," says Tough. "Don't think barbecue whatsoever. One thing we're going to have on the menu for sure is hickory-smoked Virginia ham—sourcing domestic hams, like cured hams. Think the texture of prosciutto but hickory smoked, thinly sliced with like a malt mustard."
"Like Brian said, it'll be a very meat-centric menu. Anything that's not meat-focused will be vegetable-focused. Not a whole lot of starch-heavy things going on, just rich meats and lighter vegetables."
Keeping with the tradition of their other restaurants, the guys will be promoting from within their growing empire for their kitchen staff.
"Our sous chef will be Matthew Woolen – he's our pastry sous chef for The Coterie Room and Spur," says Tough. "The reason why we wanted to promote him is because he has the attention to detail of a pastry chef, but he also has a savory background as well. We used to work together at Tulio years ago."
The duo believes Capitol Hill is the perfect fit for this new bar.
"We understand that Capitol Hill is a neighborhood that kind of stays the same age," says Tough. "You have the two colleges here, you have the industry that lives up here. I know we've said this a million times, but it's very true: it's kind of a fixed demographic in a way. Those colleges bring in a younger crowd, so a bar setting seems to make a whole lot of sense up there. We always try to look at an opportunity in the neighborhood from the perspective of the consumer and what the neighborhood needs. So, that's the way we approach business a lot more than running with an idea that we think will miraculously work."
Tough says the name The Old Sage was inspired by the ubiquitous old man sitting at the bar that you inevitably strike up a conversation with.
"The Old Sage—there's a few different meanings for it, but basically what it refers to is the wise old man. It doesn't necessarily tie into the smoked meats thing or anything like that; it does, however, tie into the concept of striking up ordinary conversation and being enlightened; having something familiar done in a completely different way."
Being nothing less than vague about a grand opening, Tough says we can expect a "late winter" arrival.
"I think of February when I think of late winter, but we're going to do our best to open as soon as possible."
[Photo: Chris Laurion]