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A new chapter for an Ellicott City wine bar: Revel & Main focuses on tacos and tiki drinks

PJ Strain, owner of Revel & Main, a new cocktail bar and restaurant started following the closure of Pure Wine Cafe (owned by the same proprietor) holds some of the food offered on Main Street.

PJ Strain knows a thing or two about surviving an unexpected catastrophe.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Strain and his restaurant, Pure Wine Cafe, had already weathered two devastating floods that claimed lives and wiped out businesses all along Ellicott City’s historic Main Street.

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When the pandemic arrived, “the whole world sort of felt what we had felt in Ellicott City” after the floods, Strain said. “The other side of those things is never the same.”

Bangin' Shrimp Tacos (Marinated Shrimp, Sweet Chili Sauce, Jicama, Country Cabbage Slaw, Lime Onions) at Revel & Main, a new cocktail bar and restaurant at the same location of Pure Wine Cafe (owned by the same proprietor) on Main Street Wednesday., Sept. 28, 2022.  (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

Sometimes the only response to change is to evolve. That’s what Strain decided to do with the 13-year-old Pure Wine Cafe, a cozy tapas and wine bar that closed at the end of July to morph into something new.

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Pure Wine’s successor, Revel & Main, puts a focus on tacos and tiki drinks like the “Tia Mia,” a blend of white rum, mezcal, orgeat and lime, and the “Blue Hawaiian,” an electric-blue cocktail laced with tropical flavors like pineapple and coconut. There are a half-dozen tacos on the menu for now, including a bulgogi-marinated, braised steak taco topped with pickled veggies, rice and sriracha aioli that’s reminiscent of a Pure Wine favorite.

The restaurant, which opened late last month, reinvigorates the intimate Pure Wine Cafe space with a menu that appeals to post-pandemic Covid tastes.

“Craft cocktails are a huge category right now and will continue to gain traction in the food and beverage world,” Strain says. There’s Instagram-worthiness to consider, too: “Taking a picture of a glass of wine is great, but taking a picture with a colorful cocktail and a great garnish is better,” he said.

Creme Bržlee (Vanilla Custard, Caramelized Sugar, Mango, Toasted Sesame Seeds) at Revel & Main, a new cocktail bar and restaurant at the same location of Pure Wine Cafe (owned by the same proprietor) on Main Street Wednesday., Sept. 28, 2022.  (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
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Regulars will still find traces of the beloved Main Street wine bar at Revel & Main. The new restaurant maintains a thoughtful wine list, and the taco selection draws inspiration from a weekly Taco Tuesday special at Pure Wine Cafe.

Revel & Main has a half-dozen tacos on the menu for now, including a bulgogi-marinated, braised steak taco topped with pickled veggies, rice and sriracha aioli that’s reminiscent of a Pure Wine favorite. The restaurant also serves appetizers such as truffle fries, birria mac and cheese and a “Maryland elote salad” (read: roasted corn, queso fresco and, of course, Old Bay), as well as a dessert menu with sweets like tres leches bread pudding and creme brulee.

On top of the menu changes, Strain is making tweaks at Revel & Main to fit the post-COVID hiring landscape.

Many of the restaurant’s staff are new to the hospitality business, and Strain has developed his cocktail recipes with easy-to-follow “systems” that help bartenders turn out drinks quickly and consistently. He says he’s building the business with an eye toward expansion.

“Change is hard for everybody; it was hard for me, honestly,” he said of this next phase. “But when you put yourself in the position where you embrace a little bit of fear, good things can come from that.”

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Revel & Main

8210 Main Street, Ellicott City. 410-480-5037. revelandmain.com


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