An Early Look at Cork Wine Bar

A rustic-chic spot for wine and seasonally-minded small plates.

For ten years, newlyweds and Logan Circle residents Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts have been watching as their neighborhood slowly shed its identity as a Dupont castoff. With the opening of their brainchild, Cork Wine Bar, they’re helping carve a new niche for the growing area. As of now, many residents know it as the new spot replacing Sparky’s Espresso Bar—itself a favorite local hangout. It won’t be long, we’re guessing, before residents embrace the rustically elegant Cork.

The name is an homage to the roster of 20 wines by the glass and more than 130 by the bottle. While the list focuses on the Rhône region and Old World varietals, the owners wanted everyone—from a seasoned oenophile to “the guy on his first date,” as Pitts says—to feel comfortable ordering wine.

Pitts had two requirements for his dream wine bar—first, that neighborhood residents feel like it was theirs and, second, that they serve the best French fries in town. For the former, Gross and Pitts hired local architect Eric Gronning, whose past projects include Hank’s Oyster Bar and the newer Marvin. He preserved Sparky’s exposed brick and pressed-tin ceiling but otherwise gutted the place.

A garage behind the property was transformed into kitchen space, and the basement became an open wine cellar. In the dining area, the walls are a subdued chocolate brown, accented with retro-style light bulbs and flickering candles. There are a handful of cozy nooks, including sophisticated banquettes with striped cushions, alcoves in the two front bay windows, and an L-shaped bar with a short granite end that’s a snug spot for two. The total seating comes to about 70, including 15 seats at the bar.

For the French fries and other fare, Gross and Pitts enlisted Ron Tanaka, an eight-year veteran of such haute kitchens as Citronelle and, more recently, CityZen. Among the sharable, seasonally minded small plates ($5 to $15) are a creamy rosemary-chicken-liver bruschetta with shallot marmalade; a simple salad with romaine hearts, anchovy dressing, and downright addictive wine-soaked croutons; and a twist on a croque madame, a pan-crisped brioche sandwich with prosciutto, fontina, and a sunny-side-up egg.

Oh, and we tried those French fries. The potatoes are double-blanched, tossed with a lemon-parsley gremolata, and served with house-made ketchup. Tanaka—and the young couple behind Cork—might just be on to something.

Cork's Menu 

Cold Plates to Share
Cheese Selection   
3 for $10, 5 for $15, and 7 for $21

Charcuterie Selection
$6 each, 3 for $15, or 5 for $24
House-Marinated Olives  $4

House-Roasted Marinated Peppers $4
Romaine Hearts, creamy anchovy dressing, shaved pecorino, cabernet croutons $7
 Bin 16 or Bin 55
Mesclun Salad, shallot vinaigrette $7
Roasted Eggplant, chili, mint, grilled bread $7
 Bin 27 or Bin 97
House-Cured Trout, shaved fennel, toasted hazelnuts, tangerine vinaigrette $9
 Bin 12 or Bin 71
Celeriac Salad, mustard, caraway, bacon and watercress   $7                     
 Bin 22 or Bin 137
Rosemary Chicken Liver Bruschetta,
shallot marmalade, herb salad  $9
 Bin 11 or Bin 58
Hot Plates to Share

Exotic Mushroom Duxelle, sweet onions, fine herbs, grilled bread  $8                              
 Bin 25 or Bin 84
Oil-Cured Roma Tomatoes, chevre, grilled bread  $7
 Bin 17 or Bin 18
Caramelized Sunchokes, walnut oil and lemon salt  $5
Lemon and Black Pepper Dusted Calamari and Rock Shrimp with caper remoulade  $11
 Bin 19 or Bin 68
Pan-Crisped Brioche Sandwich of prosciutto, fontina, Path Valley egg   $10
 Bin 32 or Bin 90
Potato And Leek Gratin, Caramelized Onions, Gruyere, bacon  $7          
Mussels, garlic, white wine, herbs $11
 Bin 7 or Bin 72
Pan-Roast Organic Chicken Breast, prunes, olives, preserved lemon with garlic-tarragon jus  $13
 Bin 21 or Bin 87
French Fries tossed with parsley, garlic, lemon, house-made ketchup $5
Crisp House-Made Duck Confit, creamy mushroom polenta  $14
 Bin 30 or Bin 85
Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with madeira and marjoram  $7
Red-Wine Braised Lamb, pomegranate, radicchio, spinach  $15
 Bin 41 or Bin 119
Grilled Flat Iron with brussel sprouts, pancetta relish  $14
 Bin 31 or Bin 134