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When Bonfire opens in mid-March, the District will gain a bar for pyromaniacs. The idea for the fire-inspired bar and restaurant, replacing Famous Luigi’s on 19th Street NW, came from a beach bonfire at co-owner Mike Bramson’s 2014 nuptials in Jamaica.
“I thought then how amazing it would be if we could capture the lively, vivid, convivial spirit,” Bramson says. He and his partners at Social Restaurant Group, Naeem Mohd, Jad Bouchebel, and Alex Lopez, are also behind Provision No. 14 and The Prospect.
Bonfire guests will be able to feel the flames on the first floor by the entrance where a large, rose gold fire installation separates booth seating from high-top tables and the bar area. Come summer once permitting is in place, a rooftop bar will have fire pits. More fire features include a fire escape mural painted by the stairs leading to the second floor bar where a lounge awaits decorated with repurposed oil canisters wrapped in flannel. Swatchroom, which outfitted Provision No. 14, handled the design.
The drinks have been dubbed “cocktails from the hearth” by bar consultants Chad Spangler and Glendon Hartley of the Menehune Group. “The big focus is aged spirits in stirred cocktails incorporating fire and smoke,” Spangler says. To accomplish this, the bar is amassing barrels from Lyon Distilling Company in St. Michaels, Md. and Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Va. They break the barrels into individual staves, which torch-wielding bartenders light on fire to smoke glasses. “We’ve all seen it before, but the idea here is that you can get the nuances between the different types of wood that come from local distilleries,” Spangler says.
One smoked cocktail is the “You’re Killing me Smalls,” which plays on the restaurant’s s’mores dessert. It combines chocolate tinsain (a fancy term for cocoa shells), añejo tequila, mezcal, cane syrup, and a toasted marshmallow garnish. In addition to the smoked, Manhattan-style cocktails that range from $12 to $15, Bonfire will serve six draft cocktails that are lighter and more refreshing priced at $9 to $11, plus beer and wine. Spangler says the “very craft beer list” will be the group’s “most interesting and esoteric” with both American selections and European beers such as a Belgian IPA called Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor.
The food menu is still in flux, but chef R.L. Boyd, who most recently worked at Ten 01 on H Street NE, has been tapped to lead the kitchen. Two dishes that will make the opening menu include bone marrow tots with veal cheeks, Irish cheddar, and red curry ketchup as well as crispy duck and waffles.
Construction should be completed by the end of the month and they’re optimistic about a mid-March opening for dinner, followed later by lunch and brunch.
Bonfire, 1132 19th St. NW; facebook.com/Bonfire-407320489461879
Photo of Chad Spanglery with a Copper Fox Distillery barrel stave by Laura Hayes