Maybe you could apply the “glass half full/empty” distinction to what happened when Gregory Holm first opened his Eastern Market-area eatery called Antietam last summer. But perhaps there’s a more appropriate idiom: It’s “the Devil” or “God” that’s in the detail.
Holm certainly had a devilish first go-round. Despite rave reviews during Antietam’s late July “soft” opening, it quickly shut down due to “staffing issues.”
Several months later, Holm has a new team in place. He reopened last Friday with an imported trio of New York restaurant veterans — two chefs and a beverage director. Social media reactions have been positive so far.
When it comes to the décor, Holm certainly has the details beautifully lined up. Each of three visits to this renovated Art Deco space has revealed a new and delightful discovery.
Walk through the front door past the facade’s custom tiles and gold leaf window treatments, and then start exploring. That large clock jutting out from the wall is a refurbished, pneumatic antique. Wine shelves visually frame a glass-covered display case of serving wear. Over the cabinet is a globed light fixture suspended by a wire and pulley system. A candleholder with an old reflecting tin graces the wall at one table.
And that’s just the “entrance” side. Go through an archway with an old roll-down security door above it to get to the bar and main dining area.
Poured cement tables and custom chairs made by local artisans are lit with porcelain lamps draped with knitted chain. One wall features a fresco made of ground-up rocks and oxidized metal.
Walk past the bar and there’s an area labeled the “Ladies’ Lounge” — an intimate space with a few two-tops that looks to be an inviting location for a semi-secluded private party.
The day after the grand opening, a group of passers-by were peering in the window, and Holm was more than happy to open the door and invite them in for a mini tour.
After all, Holm is justifiably proud — it took him well over two years to put it all together after nabbing the building for under $40,000. The time and money lovingly restoring the place — pretty much only the terrazzo tiled floor and the stamped tin ceilings were saved — were well worth it.
So, the look is stunning, and the new team is ready to roll. The new menu’s French-inspired dishes sound tempting — think terrine of oxtail, escargot pate, entrecote of boeuf, and braised leg of rabbit. The drink offerings look fresh and appealing, too.
Antietam is near enough to Eastern Market (just north of Russell and across Gratiot from Busy Bee Hardware) that the day after the opening, one of the new chefs had made a morning trek to find just the right mushroom source.
Time will tell whether the total Antietam experience matches the promise of its décor, but so far the new staff seem detail-oriented enough to live up to the challenge.