Dan Lathroum, owner of the three Bar Veloces in Manhattan, has lived in the neighborhood for ten years and is bringing a "grown up" vibe to the Burg with The Custom American Wine Bar, which opened on Driggs and North 4th last weekend.
"We hope to appeal to an adult crowd, not kids looking for $2 shots and PBRs," says Lathroum (neither of which you find there, by the way).
As the name suggests, Custom is committed to serving American wines -- Oregon Riesling, Washington rose and a slew of chards, cabs and pinots from California line the walls.
"A lot of people didn't think you could have have a wine bar that only sells American wines, " says Lathroum. "But obviously, we did it."
And did it well.
The selection was handpicked by Lathroum and his partner, which often meant going directly to vineyards because certain, smaller winemakers didn't offer their wares wholesale. "We didn't want to do those big typical American wines," he says.
And the bar's ode to Americana extends beyond the wine selection. The bar itself and all the tables were reclaimed from a barn in Pennsylvania and one of the walls served as a boarding school floor in its previous life.
The menu was planned by Bar Carrera chef Ryan Bartlow and is divided by regions: the East Coast is represented by a Philly Cheesesteak and Waldorf Salad, the South brings fried green tomatoes and and a shrimp po'boy, and cheese fries and a "chi-town" Vienna beef dog the Midwest's greasy offerings.
The kitchen will be open until 2 a.m. every night because, says Lathroum, "There aren't a lot of places to get good food around here late at night," and he wants Custom to be a place to relax after work -- whether you're getting off the L train at 6:00 or finishing a bar tending shift at nearby Walter Foods.
As of Sunday afternoon, opening weekend had gone off without a hitch (besides a case of Pinot Noir from Oregon which had not yet arrived) and Lathroum seemed pleased -- then again, he is probably just happy to be open in the first place.
In a liquor license saga that began at last fall's community board meeting and finally ended with a letter from Borough President Marty Markowitz in January, it seemed for a time that they wouldn't be serving any wine, American or otherwise.
Lathroum is still baffled by a few of his new neighbors' continued opposition, "But," he says, "I promise you they will eventually be coming in."