The Good King Tavern at 614 S. 7th Street has been an intimate oasis of taste (literal and figurative) and decorum when it comes to all things French in Bella Vista. From its chalkboard menu of fresh, French-inspired cuisine to its dimly-lit mood and its avant-kitsch décor, father and daughter Bernard and Chloe Grigri have created an anomaly, as well as an embarrassment of riches.
The only place for the Grigris to go, then, was up, what with the addition to/opening of The Good King Tavern’s second floor with the sexy, natural wine-focused le Caveau. Here at the newly opened “bar à vins,” colloquially named for “wine cellars” or caves, Chloe Grigri maintains her role of hosting the city’s most dynamic and relevant natural wine programs, with 130 plus bottles between the two floors, with all of its wines focused on the sustainably farmed, and produced. The food menu is small. The wine list is huge. The good vibes run deep.
Chloe Grigri gave me the dirt on all things le Caveau.
A.D.: Between The Good King and now le Caveau, you have your own little corner of the world, or even French fiefdom… What have you always liked about that corner, and how has that vibe evolved to the point where you’re opening the second floor of your space to something separate?
Chloe Grigri: The corner has always felt alive, even without three active businesses (Nomad, Hale & True, us). I remember when we were still renovating The Good King Tavern. It was a super late night, and a few of us were eating take-out pizza over boxes, brown paper still covering all of the windows, and there was an amazing African drumming group that just marched up the street. Like, what?! I feel like that sums up why this corner has always had soul. As far as opening le Caveau was concerned, it just made sense! This building has magical bones. Stripping down the second floor only revealed this more so. There are obvious advantages as well, like sharing a liquor license, which allows me to offer great bottles at great prices. Plus, the neighborhood has evolved so much over six years. A cozy nook to disappear into a wine glass and a hunk of cheese was precisely what the doctor ordered.
A.D.: There have been more than a few wine bars that have opened within the last 12 months. Why now, do you believe that is true, and what sets le Caveau apart?
Chloe Grigri: I think we, as wine professionals, are just over it – over Philadelphia not being in the mix when wine or, even beyond that, beverage programs, are discussed nationally. People still to this day say, “Oh, Philadelphia… great BYOBs, right?” There are so many challenges in Pennsylvania for a wine director because the sale of alcohol is still state-controlled. Our wholesale price is ultimately the same as the retail price you see in a Fine Wine & Spirits store. Anyhow, I think everyone is just motivated to make wine a success story in this town, despite the hurdles. Le Caveau is truly inspired by the hole-in-the-wall bars à vins spattered throughout the Loire Valley and beyond. It embodies a feeling. Share the space, the table, the bottle, the cheese, the feelings! Share a moment in time that just feels good. Let that feeling take over.
A.D.: Your menu is small but solid. What is the idea behind it? And what is a French Hot Dog, le Caveau-style?
Chloe Grigri: The food comes second to the wine. In France, these bars have massive lists of crazy vintages from produces we would die to drink on the daily (whether or not you know them); there is always a ton of wine pouring by the glass, as well. With wine, there should almost always be a piece of cheese or charcuterie, some olives… They are supporting actors. Consistent and tasty. In the Loire Valley, you see a lot of fish rillettes, too, because it sits on the Atlantic coast. Our chef makes an amazing Salmon Rillette that we serve upstairs! As for French hot dogs, they hail from futbol matches and village fairs in France. They are specific to a machine that essentially hollows out the baguette and toasts it inside-out. We then slather it with spicy Dijon mustard, of course. The hot dog itself is closely related to a frankfurter. It looks like the American hot dog we all know and love, but longer.
A.D.: If I came in tonight, what several wines would you pour me, and why?
Chloe Grigri: I would pour you all of the wines because I genuinely love them all for different reasons. Currently, we are pouring Sulauze’s “Super Modeste” pet-nat of Rolle (aka Vermentino) as our “Flavor of the Week,” and I am especially obsessed. Aside from that, we have classic, and we have funky – depends on my mood, but more so, what I think you would dig.