When Quench opens in May at the former Beale Street Grill location, owner Michael Holstein will fulfill a long-time dream of opening his own restaurant.
The Montgomery County native took some time to answer questions about his upbringing in the county, what he looks forward to in working in the North Potomac (and surrounding) community, and how Quench is shaping up ahead of its grand opening.
North Potomac-Darnestown Patch: You were born and raised in Montgomery County and work professionally in D.C. Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing in the area and what you do in the district?
Michael Holstein: I grew up first in Montgomery Village, then Potomac. I graduated from Wootton, and my whole family is still here. Other than living in Miami for college and D.C. during law school, I've been in Montgomery County most of my life. I love it here, and I'm glad to be raising my kids here.
In addition to Quench, I'm an entertainment lawyer and TV producer. The D.C. area is surprisngly good for that kind of work, so I've been able to stay local instead of getting pulled to New York or Los Angeles.
North Potomac-Darnestown Patch: How long had you been looking to get into the restaurant business and how did this project (Quench) come together?
Holstein: Like most lawyers, I've always thought about owning a restaurant or bar. In high school and after, I worked at just about every restaurant on the Pike and in Bethesda, as a waiter and then a bartender. I feel really lucky to be in the business now.
Quench was born from my travels — every city I went to seemed to have a great bar scene that wasn't just confined to people right out of college. There were thriving bars with great food that adults could hang out at too. Our area has some great places — I liked Beale Street a lot, and enjoy and respect Cava and all they've done — but I just felt like there was a still a need in our market for a real, cool restaurant/bar, something like Cantina in San Francisco or Holeman & Finch in Atlanta.
So over a year or so, I developed the plan for Quench. I honed and refined the concept and once we found this location, I began to recruit talented and experienced industry veterans — management, chefs and bartenders — to help make it happen. One of the hardest pieces was actually the name — all credit for Quench goes to my friend Becky, who thought of it last year when we were in Key West.
North Potomac-Darnestown Patch: What about working with and in the North Potomac, Rockville, Gaithersburg communities excites you?
Holstein: It's really cool to be doing this near where I live now and where I grew up. It's been fun having my family excited about and involved in Quench, and I just think our area really needs a place like this. My kids go to school right here, and my wife's a pediatrician in Germantown, so we're hardcore local. Bethesda is great, but going to Bethesda and dealing with parking is not much easier than going to D.C.
Quench is easy to get to, has free parking, and can give suburbanites like me a great place to eat, drink and hang. To be doing this in my hometown means a lot to me, and it's been really cool to have Quench already involved with my kids' schools, my nephews' baseball teams, etc. We're looking forward to being an active part of the community for a long time.
North Potomac-Darnestown Patch: You've said Quench "is basically a place for grownups — people too old for lemon drop shooters and Miller Lite specials to hang out in a really cool and comfortable atmosphere. It’s something I think our area has been missing...” What are some of the key elements of the Quench atmosphere that you hope will help fill that void in this community?
Holstein: We're bringing the urban dining experience to the suburbs. We've recruited a team that's had high level positions in great restaurants and bars — places like Restaurant Eve, Elisir, Charlie Palmer Steak, Firefly, Blacks, etc. What we can provide in terms of food, drink and design is an experience that you'd normally have to go into D.C. for. We're even bringing some of the most popular food trucks in D.C. out here for our Food Truck Fridays.
We've spent a lot of time finding out what people in this community want. We have a 20-member advisory board that's helped shape our menu, events and other aspects of Quench. Quench is for our community in part because it's by our community, and we'll continue to refine and hone the concept to make sure that's always the case.
North Potomac-Darnestown Patch: What can you tell us about the menu — both food and beverage? Are there any plans for a "signature" drink or meal at Quench?
Holstein: The menus are available on line now at QuenchNation.com. I think people will be excited by a lot of it. For me, our chefs and mixologists just absolutely nailed it. It's a great mix of creative, modern American cuisine, with healthy options, gluten free dishes and a cool policy of basically making kids whatever they want.
We're also using fresh, organic and local ingredients when possible, and even making most of our own condiments. The menu is super creative — we're using things like a cotton candy machine and food dehydrator in creative ways! And a lot of what people see on shows like "Top Chef" they'll be able to experience at Quench.
As far as drinks go, I'm really proud to be working with our great bartenders. They've created about a dozen signature drinks, a dozen re-takes on classic cocktails, and even skinny drinks, non-alcoholic drinks and kids drinks. I think we'll see what the signature items turn out to be, but I'm personally most excited about our brunch, housemade crab chips, matzoh ball "soup" (which is actually an entree, not a soup!) and our take on a grilled cheese sandwich. Our menu will always be evolving and regulars will soon learn there are even some hidden gems and secrets on it!
North Potomac-Darnestown Patch: Your location used to house a very popular local spot in Beale Street Grille. Our readers have been curious if there are any plans to incorporate some of the things that make BSG so popular, particularly the live music, into the plans for Quench?
Holstein: I loved Beale Street too. I was excited when it opened and sad when it closed. I wish we could do live music, but we're not set up like they were to accomodate a full band. We're looking into occassinally having musicians — piano players or guitar players — actually hang out behind the bar to perform. Karaoke night is under consideration too.
One thing that Beale Street had that I know we'll be trying to replicate was a great happy hour and a real neighborhood feel. I think a lot of our planned events — the family-friendly cartoon brunch, making ourselves available for private parties and even working with the hosts to create a menu especially for them, etc. — should help us quickly become part of the communnity and fill the void left when Beale Street closed.