The first thing I noticed upon entering Lis Bar, Kingston’s newest delightful addition, was a sense of unity in design. Aesthetics and functionality are paired with a feeling of warmth that customers will notice upon entrance. A perfect blend of casual and classy, Lis is a Midtown bar and restaurant serving Polish-inspired foods and specialty cocktails. “Lis” is pronounced “lease” and is Polish for fox, a nod to the operation being on Foxhall Avenue. Personally, I was knocked out by the pitch-perfect combination of a terrific small menu, outdoor seating on the full north side of the building, yummy and sophisticated drinks and the establishment’s beautiful artwork and interior design, including a very cool transom glass display box built by local craftsman and my old drummer friend Purdey Darrow. Located a stone’s throw from The Beverly, Lis Bar adds yet more enticement to visit a part of Kingston that’s been overshadowed by other nightlife hot spots in town.
Proprietors Patricia and Jonathan Rich did ample renovation after purchasing the spot about a year ago. I asked the couple what made them jump on the location, the same 240 Foxhall property formerly occupied by Promised Land and Valerie’s.
“This wasn’t a pre meditated thing,” says Patricia. “My background is fine dining and ever since we’ve known each other we’ve enjoyed bars and restaurants, the whole culture of it. Hospitality, food, what we like and don’t like. The reality was we really like Kingston. We’ve lived in Woodstock for 10 years now and our kids go to school here.”
“Most of our day to day life has been in Kingston for awhile and we’ve been wanting to invest in the area for awhile,” says Jonathan. “We have two kids and busy lives. Were we really going to still go with a restaurant thing or should we just try and do something in the real estate realm? We kind of kept going back to it and this property had been available for a bit. We felt like there is a lot of chic stuff happening in Kingston overall, but Midtown is really interesting right now. So that’s why we purchased over a year ago. It’s been a journey.”
Born and raised in Queens to Polish immigrant parents, Patty has a lot of experience with Polish food and culture. When the couple purchased the venue in 2017 they knew they wanted to make the kind of place they themselves like to frequent. Comfortable couches, artsy little reading nooks and a welcoming gas stove complement more upscale date-style tables. You could have pretty much any manner of experience you set out to there and come out happy.
The mouth watering menu and the kitchen run by executive chef Logan Pettinato ensure you can be comfortably full and still enjoy some beverages from the bar program put together by Stockade Tavern veteran and well loved Kingston resident Erica Brown. From a rosemary sour to some enticing Belgians to potato pancakes, beet tartare and even a Zapiekanka Polish pizza menu option, there’s an enticing range of options for thirsty or hungry Midtown Arts District patrons and party people. You can’t go wrong with a $6 pierogis special that pairs perfectly with a beer or two. I mean, come on. That sounds like heaven, right?
“I am one hundred percent Polish and grew up with Polish speaking parents. I lived in Krakow for years as well. I am first-generation,” Patricia says. “I studied and worked there. Polish people here, there is a stereotype of what Polish food can be. Heavy and home cooked and comfort food. Living there I also learned there is a fine version of it and I really wanted to bring that to the forefront. Both here and Krakow we have a comparable seasonality and there are so many places where the flavor combinations are different, but some of the foods are the same. Let’s enlighten some folks about Polish food. I have one foot in each country so I am constantly trying to marry the two.”
“One of the things we liked is that it is also such a creative outlet,” says Jonathan. “It’s a business, of course, but we get to keep it interesting.”
“It is also interactive with the community and that was part of the appeal for us,” Patricia adds. “We wanted to be involved and not just to exist in Kingston because there are really amazing people here and we dig it. It was nice to have a year and gave time for things to organically happen.”
Lis has a certain vibe that is hard to capture but suffice to say it was the most I have been impressed by a new bar and restaurant in our city in years. Everything from the graphic design to dim but enjoyable and non intrusive lighting as well as subtle design choices left me just plain excited, and that is not even counting the assortment of food and drink. Head to Lisbar.com to find out more and please do your part to support this place as it has the momentum, quality and style to go from best-kept new secret to long-term valued staple.