33 Wine Shop & Bar in Lafayette Square expands food menu

In the not-so-distant past, 33 Wine Shop & Bar (1913 Park) in Lafayette Square hosted a popular monthly pop-up series called Dorm Room Dinners. The idea was for a guest chef to create a five-course meal using only equipment that one might find in a college dorm room. Under those parameters, such chefs as Ben Poremba and Jonathan Justus would produce items like corn-lobster consume and deviled pullet eggs using basic cooking equipment, such as a toaster oven or hot plate. (When Farmhaus’ Kevin Willmann was asked his secret to an absolutely perfect red snapper en papillote, he gestured to a microwave oven and nonchalantly said, “Two minutes on high.”)

Nearly a decade later, 33 Wine Shop & Bar is bringing the spirit of those dinners back in the form of an a la carte menu that will be available daily. To implement the menu, the wine bar has partnered with Khana, a two-chef operation consisting of Nhat Nguyen and Remy Javed. Here’s what to know before you go.

The Menu

Inspired by concepts such as the former Niche Food Group-operated BrassWELL at Rockwell Beer Company, owner James Smallwood and his partner, Jessica Spitzer, believed that their guests would appreciate having additional food options, as well, and looked into introducing a similar partnership-style arrangement. After speaking with Nguyen and Javed, a decision was made to have Khana produce food on site.

The menu is a combination of influences from Nguyen’s Southeast background and Javed’s Pakistani background. Selections include items such as butter chicken flatbread with herb whipped cheese, as well as Crispy Brussel Sprouts with sweet chili sauce. The menu occasionally ventures to other parts of the globe as well. “Our best seller is a skirt-steak slider with a chimichurri aioli,” says Nguyen. “That was developed from my experience living in south Florida. I definitely think the offerings we’re doing are different than any other wine bar.”

The wine shop’s existing charcuterie program remains as well, and the wine shop serves Union Loafers bread with extra virgin olive oil. The location also has a free wine tasting program every Tuesday from 5:30–7:30 p.m.

On weekends, the kitchen is open late, closing at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. “Post-pandemic, there were not a lot of people doing late-night food,” says Smallwood. “And as industry people, we’ve definitely missed going out and grabbing a bite to eat later in the night.”

The Background

Nearly a quarter century ago, Jake Hafner opened 33 Wine Bar in a Lafayette Square building dating back to the 1870s. From the beginning, it was different than many wine stores. “Conceptually, 33 has always been unique in that it’s always been a wine shop first from a pricing perspective,” says Smallwood, “and then you have the opportunity to hang out and drink wine at the bar or on a hidden back patio as well.”

Smallwood moved to Lafayette Square in 2003, while working in corporate litigation, and soon became a regular at the wine bar. He decided to leave the corporate life behind and pursue a career in food and wine, learning the ropes at the now-closed Mosaic Restaurant & Lounge and training to become a sommelier. “Jeff Stettner [the second owner of 33] and I started talking,” Smallwood recalls. “He had decided to go in a different direction, so I bought 33.”

Smallwood originally wanted to add a more robust food menu, but the lack of a kitchen put the plans on hold. “I took space that had been storage and an office space and turned it into a more expansive bar kitchen,” says Smallwood. “By the time Nhat, Remy, and I had started talking, we had built out a kitchen with a stainless-steel fridge, work tables, and other appliances.” A convection oven and induction plates were also installed. He eventually began visiting with Nguyen and Javed about Khana producing a nightly menu with limited equipment.

Prior to launching Khana, Nguyen was the owner/chef of Copper Pig, an Asian fusion pub in Southampton, which closed two years ago. Nguyen still owns the building where Copper Pig was located and leases the space to Ful, a healthy meal prep service concept. Last fall, Nguyen hosted a pop-up brunch there, and the experience inspired him to return to the kitchen. “Remy also kickstarted my interest into getting back into being creative,” Nguyen adds.

The two formed Khana, which translates to “food” in Hindi. (The business also designed the menu for Vino in the Central West End.) Nguyen says the current menu at 33 Wine Shop & Bar is still in its formative stage, and he thinks some of Copper Pig’s more popular items, such as the crowd-favorite avocado tacos, may make an appearance. “We might reimagine some of it,” he says, “but the menu would never be a full Copper Pig takeover.”

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