In a world with draft cocktails, multiple Mules and farm-sourced everything, was there anything new at the media preview of Stoke Wednesday night? Well, of course. To wit: The pressed cocktail.
Built in a French press, it’s actually cold (although I bet this winter will bring a hot version), with tea, a little alcohol, fruit and club soda. The nice thing is that it’s low in alcohol, not cloyingly sweet, and large enough to serve two. They’re offering two on the seasonal cocktail menu: Evolution, $14, has Monkey Shoulder Scotch, tea, mint, lemon and orange, while Southern Swag, $12, has Starr African Rum, tea, raspberry, lemon and rhubarb. (Click through the slideshow above to see the lineup, plus the place’s menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.)
That was one of my picks of the highlights when a group of media types swarmed through Stoke, Stoke Bar and Coco and the Director for a quick look. If you know the Marriott City Center space at Trade and Tryon, you may be disoriented. The first-floor remake is extensive. I had to look for the escalators to figure out where I was.
It’s a buzzy, contemporary space with a lot to bring interest in the center of uptown.
▪ A completely open kitchen, with the sleek/white dining tables, counters and booths centered around the prep area. At the back: Executive chef Chris Coleman’s pride and joy, an Australian-made wood-burning oven. A lot of his cooking will feature long-cooked creations such as four-day-roasted pork shank and three-day lamb shoulder.
▪ That eye-catching bar, where the modified-mohawked Todd Bayley, “manager of drink,” has a short but inventive list of house cocktails. Featured Wednesday night: The Bartender’s Handshake, with Sazerac rye, apple cider, house-made bacon jam and maple syrup. Eye-catching means: The back of the bar features a chalkboard design with a display of cut-glass urns and all-copper bar ware. Pretty.
▪ The best of what they served Wednesday: Wickedly buttery roasted Rappahannock oysters, charred watermelon topped with crab, Goodnight Brothers country ham, and toasted cornbread squares topped with shredded pork shank.
▪ The new coffee/lunch/bakery, Coco and the Director. It’s smaller than the uptown Amelie’s, but it’s trying to cram in almost as much to do and see. There’s a co-working space at the back with three tables set up for small meetings complete with white board, free WiFi and plug-and-play tables. The space is free for work groups, with a “first come/first grabbed” sign-up board at the front. The rest of the space includes a loft seating area with a variety of perching spots, and fun touches like bundles of old magazines (Gourmet!) that you can buy for $5 or $10; the money’s donated to a variety of causes.
▪ Watch for: The Sandwich of the Day, such as house-made porchetta. They’ll announce it every morning on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and when it’s sold out, it’s sold out. Prices will vary, but expect the $10 range.
Stoke officially opens Friday, and they’re taking reservations now. Details: 100 W. Trade St., 704-353-6005, open daily from 6:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.