Even on a quiet afternoon after a busy lunch rush it's easy to get the reason for the success of this gastro pub style restaurant that straddles the transition between Brookside and Waldo [Wornall & Gregory]. The vibe is friendly and welcoming, the ambiance is warm and inviting, and the menu offers just the right balance between home style comfort food and some edgier contemporary American fusion offerings. When you meet owner and head chef, Dan McCall [as you are very likely to do on any visit] it's crystal clear where the inspiration for success resides.
Dan and partner Jason Rourke, have each been in the industry over 20 years bringing volumes of experience to this endeavor. Jason gets creative behind the bar, so he handles the Pour House drink program and front of house. Dan works closely with Sous Chef Johnny Magno crafting the menu and food offerings that leave the kitchen just as important and tantalizingly good as beers, spirits, and infused creations for which they are perhaps best known. Both long-time denizens of the Waldo-Brookside area Dan and Jason had a dream of opening their own establishment - "just a nice, friendly place for locals to come for a great meal." They wanted it to be casual, not too trendy; but a "go to" place.
Two years ago in September 2013 Dan and Jason found the perfect space in the community that they love and set about creating District Pour House and Kitchen. Dan drew on his experience with Coach's Bar & Grill, Strouds and Classic Cup to develop this concept. The space, originally part of Romanelli's, underwent extensive renovation and the choices, guided in part by Dan's artist wife Jenny [Meyer-McCall] resulted in an "industrial chic" blend of reclaimed woods, exposed brick and concrete, and some contemporary sculptural installations. The over all effect is pleasing to the eye, and the mostly open space is warm and welcoming. Dan also wanted it to be eco-friendly, easy to clean and incorporate some state of the art touches as well. Speaking of which, no visit to District can be considered complete until you visit the bathrooms and experience the "no touch" features - very slick!
Dan's enthusiasm for and pride in his restaurant is more than evident when you speak to him. When asked about what makes it stand out form his competitors Dan has a growing list of answers. First and foremost is that they exist to "make the guests happy," that's why they open the doors every day. That's achieved in part through the creative specialty cocktail menu designed by Jason [who cut his bartending teeth at The Well and Lew's] and featuring over 32 house-infused spirits of all varieties that change seasonally. Dan says that the Strawberry-Rhubarb Vodka is a current fave of his. The wine list is not to be sneezed at and beer on tap & craft beers round it all out with style.
Of course, the lunch & dinner menu is also seasonal and everything on it is made from scratch in house. Lots of basic comfort foods, often with an upscale twist such as the Duck Risotto, another of Dan's favorites. The philosophy behind menu changes is often a tricky balancing act so theirs includes some guest favorites but also items that get tried as chef specials and then after listening to the guests are tweaked and added into their food scene. Dan believes that menus are about finding out what folks need, then making the adjustments that create demand. On our visit the chef's special soup of the day, a creamy black bean, was the perfect antidote for the cold, rainy day outside. The 1/2 Smoked Salmon sandwich selected to go with was a wonderful surprise as well.
There's more to recommend District Pour House as well. A well appointed, covered patio for the warmer, sunnier days of more temperate seasons is just outside the bar area. The venue also boasts a private dining space for 50 that is flexible enough [with a few minor adjustments in the furniture & decor] to host a raucous "watch party" for a favorite sporting event or be the elegant setting for a bride's rehearsal dinner or formal dinner celebration for nearly any occasion. Dan is clear: "Come in and give us a try - odds are you'll find your home away from home". We are certain he is right and we know you'll make new friends in Dan and Jason!
-1 pound mussels, live or cooked frozen
-1 ounce of diced prosciutto or bacon
-2 ounces of olive oil
-1 medium shallot, minced
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 small pear, sliced thin (core removed)
-1 sprig of rosemary
-2 ounces white wine
-4 ounces heavy cream
-1 tablespoon butter
-1 teaspoon stoneground mustard
-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
-1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
Garnish with fresh chives, lemon wedges, and toasted French baguette.
Rinse the mussels in cold water to remove excess grit and strain from excess water. Discard opened mussels.
In a medium sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Render the bacon or prosciutto until slightly crisp. Add the shallots, garlic, pears, rosemary, and S&P. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the white wine, heavy cream, butter, stoneground mustard, and the mussels. Cover the pan and cook on medium-high heat for 6 minutes or until all the mussels are open. (Optional: for a creamier sauce, remove mussels from the pan and reduce the liquid until desired consistency is reached)