Brent Kroll announced today that he signed a lease and will be opening his own wine bar come late spring in Shaw. It’s a project that’s been four years in the making in terms of finding an appropriate space, conducting research, and securing the right partners.
The 30-seat bar, which will have additional patio seating, will be in partnership with Fat Baby Inc., and more specifically, Max Kuller—a principal in the company. “He’s family, like a brother, and I plan on working with him for the rest of my career,” Kroll says.
Kroll is already familiar with Fat Baby Inc. because he’s been the general manager at Proof for six months. He took the job to bone up on the operations side of running a business. Fat Baby Inc. also owns Estadio, Doi Moi, and 2 Birds 1 Stone. Kroll will remain involved in these establishments in some capacity after his bar opens.
“It’s exciting and invigorating to come together on it,” Kuller says. “But it’s his baby and I’m happy to see his dream come true. Whatever degree he calls on me for support, I’ll help him see his vision through.”
For Kroll, 31, a wine’s value has always been just as important as whether it’s red or white, and even where it’s from. When he first moved to D.C. in 2008 to take over the wine list at Ashok Bajaj’s Bardeo in Cleveland Park at age 23, he overhauled it. “Even though that’s a neighborhood that was pricey, I preached value and it went off like a huge hit, which is why Ashok didn’t fire me for having so little experience,” he jokes.
Kroll’s knack for finding under-appreciated wines and passing value off to customers further blossomed in his four-year career as Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s wine director. At restaurants like Iron Gate and The Partisan, he introduced more wine drinkers to Greek wine, wines from lesser-known regions of Europe, orange wine, and lambrusco.
He’ll follow suit as his bar. “Value is going to be huge,” he says of his wine list that will include 40-50 wines by the glass. “I’ll have a bottle list where you can run into pricier things, but I’m really against the model where you go into a restaurant and every glass is $10-$12 or $12-$15.”
The selections will rotate frequently and will have no specific regional or stylistic focus. “We still plan to work with indigenous varietals and underutilized regions, but we will also work with classics,” Kroll says. “We’re not claiming any one territory.”
The “we” in the equation is Daniel Runnerstrom who Kroll has tapped to be his right hand man. The two connected at Iron Gate where Runnerstrom has served as a bar manager and sommelier.
In addition to wine, there will be a small selection of beer and cocktails, plus food. “I’m in the process of talking with chefs, but you’ll definitely be able to get a meal, not just snacks,” Kroll says.
Further details, including the bar’s name and exact location, are forthcoming.