“It’s never gone this fast before,” says David Gwathmey about the opening of the store he owns with wife Sheera Rosenfeld.
Gwathmey speaks from 15 years of restaurant experience. He’s helped run Rocklands in Alexandria and before that a restaurant in San Francisco, but this is Gwathmey’s first place of his own. When he and Rosenfeld lived in San Francisco, they fell in love with California’s wine country. This, coupled with an appreciation for the small cafes and bars in San Sebastian, Spain, where Gwathmey once traveled, “made us long for something like that—neighborhood places that you can walk to,” he says.
The couple set up shop in the South Royal Street building owned by Rosenfeld’s father. They’re still only allowed to serve coffee—fair-trade Counter Culture Coffee beans come in fresh shipments every week—but a notice in front proclaims plans to convert Grape + Bean into a 22-seat wine bar and, eventually, a restaurant. If things go well, it may eventually expand to the building’s second floor.
In addition to coffee, the shop sells daily baked baguettes, challahs, and olive loaves from nearby Restaurant Eve, locally made Kudzu cookies, specialty chocolate, cheese, and an extensive selection of wine (bottles start at about $20). The latest issue of Wine Spectator and cards explaining the cheeses decorate the bar, but Gwathmey is happy to provide additional information about any of his products while he makes java on his $11,000 Clover coffee machine, one of about 50 in North America.
Grape + Bean holds free wine tastings Friday evenings from 5 to 7. It will also host Sunday-morning coffee tastings, lining up samples of three to six different brews.
Grape + Bean, 118 S. Royal St., Alexandria; 703-664-0214; grapeandbean.com. Open Wednesday and Thursday noon to 6, Friday noon to 8, Saturday 9 to 7, Sunday noon to 5.