They say luxuries are the first things to go in a recession. So you wouldn’t think it’d be the best time to open up a mom-and-pop (or in this case, young-husband-and-wife) shop specializing in high-end wines and imported charcuterie. But Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross—the team behind the always-packed Logan Circle wine bar Cork (and Washingtonian’s 2009 Restaurateurs of the Year)—know what they’re doing.
Cork Market, which opened a few weeks ago, is a few steps up the street from its better-known sibling. Inside, spotlights shine on bottles from 350 wineries, and exposed-brick walls surround the spacious market. The upscale bodega focuses on Old World wines, and its bottles are marked with the same bin numbers as at the restaurant. The market also offers a handful of New World varieties from small producers as well as high-end beers and Champagne.
“We’ve tried to focus on small and midsized producers, because that’s where you find the best value,” Pitts says.
Wines range from $8 to $100, with most bottles around $35. Customers can ask Pitts and Gross to track their purchases so the staff can learn their preferences and recommend new labels. What are the owners’ favorite lesser-known, budget-friendly bottles?
“I like the Canneta Vernaccia from San Gimignano,” Gross says, pointing to a $15 bottle of white. “It’s really nice with seafood or cheese and charcuterie. It’s not too serious.”
“I’m a fan of the Billard Bourgogne Rouge,” Pitts says, holding up a $17 bottle of Pinot Noir. “It goes well alone, dressed up with lamb dishes, or scaled down with a burger.”
Because wine on an empty stomach is rarely a good idea, the market offers a selection of fresh-baked goods—including cookies from DC’s Paisley Fig bakery—plus cheese, charcuterie, oils, and jams. In the back, Kristen Hutter, former sous chef at Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park, prepares carryout sandwiches and salads in an open kitchen as well as a few favorites from the wine bar’s menu (chicken-liver pâté, oil-cured tomatoes). There’s also a regular rotation of theme nights: On Tuesday, you’ll find Memphis-style ribs; Wednesday, fried chicken; Friday, meatballs. There are weekly—and often free—winetastings in the evening, while regular wine and food classes will launch at the tasting room’s upstairs loft in January.
Despite the warm reception the market received in its first few days, Pitts admits that opening a new store in an uneasy economy has come with its share of trepidation.
“When we opened the restaurant, there were no expectations,” he says. “What makes me nervous is that Cork wine bar was so well received by the community that it creates pressure for this new venture to succeed. It keeps us going when our neighbors tell us they’re rooting for us.”
Cork Market & Tasting Room, 1805 14th St., NW; 202-265-2674; corkdc.com. Open Monday through Thursday 10 to 9, Friday 10 to 10; Saturday 9 to 10, Sunday 9 to 8.
Cork Market Menu
Egg salad with bacon and goat cheese
Field greens to accompany all salads
Condiments and Sauces
Creamy anchovy dressing
Chorizo-lemon-and-garlic tomato sauce
Cork wine-bar chicken-liver pâté
Oil-cured Roma tomatoes
Chicken salad on a house-made bun
Soppresatta with roasted peppers, olive tapenade, and arugula on homemade focaccia
House-cured corned beef with Gruyère and whole-grain mustard on rye
Smoked-ham with Nancy’s Camembert, pickled onions, Dijon mustard, and field greens
Grilled vegetables with goat cheese and pesto
Turkey “BLTA” with herb aïoli
Fresh mozzarella with basil, oven-roasted tomatoes, and pesto
Main Courses (rotating)
Quiche of the day
Braised short ribs
Catalan meatballs and lamb meatballs
Marinated-and-grilled skirt steak
Memphis-style pork ribs (Tuesday)
Brined-and-herbed turkey breast
Garlic-and-herb-marinated fried chicken (Wednesday)
Roasted whole organic chicken (Sunday)
Scones—plain, maple-oat, blueberry, and bacon-cheddar
Muffins—corn, blueberry, apple streusel
Apple-cinnamon coffee cake
Blueberry-and-cream coffee cake
Banana-rum cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting