Candles, welcoming neon sign, tall windows, classy interior…That’s a new bar that opened less than 3 weeks ago at 101 Wilson Ave in Bushwick. I popped in out of curiosity only to find myself welcomed by a photo of Miles on the wall, the dog that lent his name to the place, and his friendly owner Daniel Romero, who runs and co-owns this place with his boyfriend Travis. While we were talking, Phoebe, a wine enthusiast and a bartender at Miles, came in and told me all about their stellar wine selection, and the process of wine curating. Travis added praise of their wide beer list, and most importantly, Daniel described the specialty bar food – slow-cooked meals. Daniel has been experimenting with a slow-cooker for about a year and came up with this awesome idea of to offer a delicious slow-cooked bite to pair with the wine…
It is pretty inspiring to talk to Bushwick business owners, especially because it seems that every single business is someone’s dream coming true, such as the case of Daniel Romero who worked in architecture for years. I had a bunch of questions about how that dream became reality, and here is what Daniel, Travis and Phoebe told me about it….
I was wondering at first if you named the bar after Miles Davis…. [laughter] Anyway, what type of dog is Miles?
Danny: He is a Cairn Terrier; like Toto.
Do you live in Bushwick?
Danny: Yeah. I have lived here for nearly 6 years.
How did you decide to open a bar?
Danny: I’ve kind of always wanted to open some sort of a bar or a restaurant type of place; and it finally seemed like the right time. Having lived here for nearly six years, and having finally found a place that feels like home with a community to be a part of… It felt like this is the right time.
You must have seen many changes to the neighborhood. How do you feel about them? We have had this big talk about gentrification recently….
Travis: I like the fact that there are more places to go out to. There used to be so few places to go to have dinner or a drink… The neighborhood has changed, but I still feel like the core of Bushwick is here. You have artists here; you have Puertoricans and Dominicans here, and it feels like we are one big happy family.
Danny: It is one big family. I don’t like the term gentrification…. I don’t really think that that’s what’s happening. If you want to put a term on it, it’s happening everywhere in New York, not just here.
What is your vision for Miles? What would you like to build here?
My vision for the place has always been to create a comfortable beer and wine bar; the kind of place where you just want to hang out, and be able to have a conversation.
A date place (hahaha).
Also a date place, yes. It’s not a rowdy bar. But first and foremost it’s beer and wine bar, which is reflected in our beer list and in our wine menu. The idea was also that it was a beer and wine bar that served really good bar food.
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What about you Phoebe? Are you a professional wine curator?
[She laughs.] I have worked in wine since I was 19, before I was even legally allowed to drink it, and I love it so much! My roots are definitely in Italian wine. I have worked in this neighborhood for a little over four years now. That’s how I know these guys; just from having bartended at several other places in the neighborhood. I really enjoy wine, and I am really proud of the wine list we have created here. About half of our wines are either biodynamic or organic and sustainable. Trying the wines we have here now feels like we did such a good job! There isn’t a single dud on the menu!
How does it work to create a wine list? How long did it take you? Was it fun?
Danny: Oh, yeah, it was fun! We worked with distributors who set up tastings with us here before we opened. We had several Wednesday nights when we were a little drunk [he laughs]. It was a very fun process. Very exciting too!
Tell me more about the organic wines.
Phoebe: One of the distributors we wanted to work with was Savio Soares, who deals primarily in biodynamic and organic sustainable wines. Our baby right now is Champs de Cailloux. I think it was the last one we tried on our 1st wine tasting, and we thought it was so fantastic, we immediately committed to a huge order. So far everyone has been gravitating towards that wine. It is really amazing!
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What about your nice selection of beers?
Danny: We took the same amount of care in curating the beer menu as well. We wanted to give our guests a nicer beer menu; something better than what you can get at other places in the neighborhood.
Pheobe: We feel like there is this generic beer list that you see in most of the bars, not only in this neighborhood. We wanted more than just average.
Danny: We also carry the whole Sixpoint line, which is sort of a staple in all the Bushwick bars.
Travis: We don’t have any PBRs, Bud Light or Coors…
How did you find this space?
Danny: We found this place through our friend Shari, who used to be sort of a Bushwick’s real estate guru. She doesn’t do that anymore, but she knows a lot of people and buildings in the neighborhood. She helped us find this place, which used to be quite a run down bodega. When we came here, we had to completely gut the entire space. We did most of the work here ourselves. We did everything from the wallpaper on the ceiling to the bar and the wood back here. We even made the light fixtures.
I just noticed the beautiful ceiling.
Danny: We had our hands in everything here. The floor is the original floor of the building, which is nearly 100 years old. I also have a really cool photo of this building from the 1930s…
You guys are very rooted in the Bushwick community. Do you think there is something specific to it as opposed to other places you know?
Danny: What makes Bushwick home for us is the community…The people we have grown to consider family.
Travis: And camaraderie too. Everyone is really willing to help out. Other business owners have been really great and helpful. There isn’t a lot of competition going on. Everybody shares the information.
Pheobe: That’s actually very evident in just the staff we have right now. All of our bartenders have two jobs in this neighborhood. I work at Café Ghia and some other bartenders work at Tandem. And it’s not a conflict of interest. It’s like a family.
Danny: Yes, I feel like all the business owners here are like a little family, which is nice.
What is your background, Danny?
I am an architect. I have a master degree in architecture. I worked in architecture for about 10 years before I went more freelance for the past 3 years, but it got to a point when….
Was this always your dream?
Yeah, I was in art school, 18 years old, and I remember telling my parents that I just want to get an art degree and open up a hotel or a restaurant. I just wanted to walk around and take photographs and make art. My parents thought I was crazy and they pushed me to get a “real” career, so I just picked the most creative profession I could find, architecture, and immersed myself in that. However, the corporate world wasn’t really for me… It was something that I wasn’t ever really happy doing. Then once I found myself in Bushwick and I really didn’t see myself leaving anytime soon, I decided it was time to pursue this dream….
Congratulations to you!