You can take the craft-cocktail movement to the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of the craft-cocktail movement. That, essentially, was the lesson Stephen Oshana learned when putting together a bar program at Quench.
The Rockville bar and restaurant was designed to bring an “urban nightlife experience in the suburbs,” as Oshana told All We Can Eat in March. But early feedback suggested that locals wanted a little more suburb in their urban nightlife experience, he says.
“The feedback we got from the community was that they wanted something a little more family-friendly,” the beverage director tells All We Can Eat today. And by “more family friendly,” the community meant children’s dishes and highchairs. “I didn’t hide the fact that I wasn’t exactly okay with that,” Oshana says.
The mixologist’s position was apparently too much for the rest of the Quench team. The decision to part ways was made yesterday, just days after Quench officially opened on Friday, May 22. Head bartender Matt Allred is expected to assume Oshana’s duties.
“I kind of got blind-sided by this,” Oshana says. “I really didn’t see it coming.” Nonetheless, he says there were “no hard feelings.”
“I never really fit in,” adds Oshana, 27, a native of Chicago. “I’m a city boy, and I had a hard time adjusting out there.”
Oshana still considers Quench a craft-cocktail establishment despite his departure — and despite the fact that, he says, the cocktail menu is about half as large as what he originally planned. The bar program is more focused on “sweeter drinks,” he says, although it still features premium spirits and fresh-squeezed fruit juices.
“I think you could still make the case that it’s a craft-cocktail bar,” he says. But its suburban locale, he notes, reflects “where the people in this area are at in their culinary lives and cocktail lives.”
Quench owner Michael Holstein, a lawyer-turned-restaurateur, “was somewhat surprised that [Oshana] was surprised” by the split. “It was an amicable parting,” he adds.
The owner likewise still views this, his first restaurant, as a craft-cocktail haven. “I guess I can see his point,” Holstein says. “If there are degrees of craft, this isn’t the Columbia Room. Few things are.”
“We’ve seen a few more kids than we expected to, but it’s still a grown-up restaurant,” the owner adds.
Quench has no official kids’ menu, but as the dinner menu points out: “[W]e’re happy to serve yours a kid-size portion of any of our items, or to try to make any of our items more kid friendly. We’re also happy to try to accommodate your fussy eaters (kids or adults), so if there’s something they want that’s not on the menu (chicken nuggets, buttered noodles, mac and cheese, PB&J, etc.) just let us know, and we’ll do our best to make it happen!”
What’s more, Holstein mentions that Quench is planning to roll out a “cartoon brunch” in about three weeks. It’ll feature classic cartoons on the TVs and “kiddie cocktails” such as bubble-gum lemonade.
Despite the added kid focus, Quench chef Rich Gunter is rolling out more adult bites, he says, including Singapore-style crab chips, pierogi and ricotta fritters.
Some people in the area have “plain tastes,” the chef adds, “and some people have incredible tastes. . . .We’re taking everything into account.”
And how is he doing that?