Fans of the dearly departed Mid City Caffe may finally be able to fill that neighborhood coffee bar-shaped hole in their hearts. Bar di Bari, at 1401 R St. NW., aims to be a spot for freelancers to camp out with laptops, espresso and a bite to eat -- and a place they can stick around for dinner and happy hour, too. The 71-seat casual restaurant plans to open by Friday, June 21.
"We want to be a community place; we want people to make themselves at home inside or outside," said owner Aaron Gordon, who also nearby Drafting Table two blocks south on 14th Street. "We want people lingering all day."
It's a good niche to fill on the busy restaurant corridor, since lingering has been made difficult at other local coffee spots like Peregrine (where the tables are too small for laptops) and the Coffee Bar (where it can be hard to snag a seat). Bar di Bari will open at 7 a.m. daily with house-made baked goods, including zucchini bread, streusel and three types of scones, in addition to standards like muffins and baguettes. And yes, there's free WiFi.
There will be counter service during the day for espresso (the coffee program is by Swing's) and pastries, with antipasti, salads and sandwiches offered during lunch. The restaurant will switch to table service and dinner entrees at 4 p.m. Though the restaurant's name comes from Gordon's family heritage -- they emigrated from Bari, Italy -- the menu is pan-European, reflecting French, German and Greek influences, as well.
Head chef Stephanie MacGlaughlin hopes people will mix and match the salads she developed for the menu, which include golden beets with escarole, penne with tuna, German potato salad and a Florentine panzanella salad. There's also a focus on gluten-free and paleo-friendly foods to appeal to the patrons of the several CrossFit gyms and yoga studios in the area.
Diners will have a drink menu of 20 wines, three draft beers and 10 bottles to choose from. "At 5 p.m., we hope people will put away their laptops for happy hour and have a glass of wine," Gordon said.
One of the draws of Bar di Bari will be its broad 44-seat patio, with colorful tables and chairs. Gordon had just set up some of his patio furniture and umbrellas, but in a stroke of bad luck, yesterday's storm shredded all but two of the umbrellas and sent chairs tumbling. Gordon took it in stride, and will have the umbrellas replaced shortly after opening. He's considering it an omen of good luck.
A full menu, subject to change, is below.