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That old saying “it takes a village” is especially apt when describing Bar Luca, a new East Nashville wine bar and eatery that describes itself as “by the community, for the community.” The space was conceived by eight friends as a chill neighborhood hang on the corner of Gallatin and Stratton avenues, with each member of ownership bringing his or her unique skills to the table.
Abi Hewitt, spokesperson for the group of owners, handles business development and marketing for Bar Luca—but it’s apparent that this enterprise is more than just a job for her.
“We wanted to create a bar that we wanted to drink in,” Hewitt explains. “So we asked people we knew who were experts in their fields to come together and devise the concept and plans. Everybody had the final say in their own areas, but the whole team fed into the decisions. So far, it has worked better than we imagined.”
Rosemary beet hummus, $7
Build your own board, $7 to $24
Warm almonds, $5
Trio of macarons, $8
General manager Luke Tidwell is also the architect who designed the comfortable space, complete with garage doors to create a more expansive area for patrons to gather near the small bar. It’s a nook with only seven two-top banquette tables and a large communal table, but the garage doors add extra elbow room. Another owner, Katie Vance, has a talent for interior design and was integral in converting the former boxing gym into a stunner of a dining room, accented by subway tile on columns and behind the bar as well as handsome lighting fixtures that offer just the right level of dimness.
Co-owner and beverage director Robin Riddell Jones is a wine professional by day—she currently teaches wine education classes through Raising the Glass: La Tavola—and has put together a solid menu of beverage options. Wine is definitely the highlight here, with 20 choices available by the glass, including four interesting and affordable wines on tap. A well-curated list of bottles is divided into Bubbles, Whites, Rosés, and Reds and features many unique French options. With prices ranging from $30 to $170, there are bottles for just about every budget, plus you can order any of the tap wines by the carafe.
Chef Molly Martin, who also works at The Food Company in Green Hills, has developed a fun menu of small bites to accompany the wines, beers, and classic cocktails. She says that the food items are intended to be more of a “dinner substitute” than a full meal, which is why she keeps the focus on small plates. Patrons can build their own charcuterie board from a list of meats, cheeses, and what Bar Luca calls “side show” options, like balsamic figs, raisin onion relish, or white wine mustard. The roster of snacks includes clever savory treats such as popcorn with chili oil and nutritional yeast; rosemary, fennel, and orange-infused olives; and warm almonds with smoked salt and lavender.
True to the neighborly vibe of the wine bar, larger plates are designed for sharing with friends and include a rosemary beet hummus and a variety of tartines, such as roasted grape and ricotta, eggplant caponata, and carrot harissa and goat cheese. For a sweeter option, Bar Luca also offers a trio of macarons in seasonal flavors to finish off your communal meal of snacks. The atmosphere at Bar Luca is grown-up but approachable, upscale but not pretentious.
“We always knew we wanted a neighborhood bar that was welcoming and friendly with an accessible wine and cocktail list—a place for conversation and fun, where you can meet your friends or make new ones,” Hewitt says.
It seems like the ownership group is well on their way to creating the exact sort of gathering spot that they envisioned when they came together to plan the venture—and East Nashville is better for their efforts.
1100 Stratton Ave; 615-750-3802; lucanashville.com