T he subtitle at August: Upscale Bar and Eatery is hardly necessary; a refined candlelit decor accented by blooming roses communicates the idea quite well on its own. Married proprietors Andrew Hotis and Michelle Chadwick-Hotis have built a deeply personal space that’s tailor-made for hospitality.
August is the first restaurant for the couple, together or separately. He trained as a fine artist and saw his paintings featured in West Coast shows, and she enjoyed a career as a singer. Then they merged paths. “Once we realized this is the way we wanted to spend our days,” Chadwick-Hotis says, they scouted several properties in New Haven and Branford before choosing the location at 3 Edwards Street in East Rock.
“We wanted a neighborhood place, and this is our neighborhood,” Hotis says. The name is also close to their hearts; August is the name of Hotis’s son from his first marriage, an energetic elementary schooler fond of asking people whether they’ve visited “his” restaurant yet.
That restaurant is the result of a 10-month renovation utilizing the talents of his and her fathers—a former shop teacher and a wall and flooring tradesman, respectively. The familial contracting crew left the plumbing to the professionals but did almost everything else themselves, stripping the venue back to bare wood and brick, then filling in the blanks a little bit at a time.
The couple unearthed several gems at the Urban Miners salvage shop in Hamden, incorporating treasures like the sliding barn door on the bathroom, and the slab of maple they use for a striking sign out front to advertise their presence. Hotis burned the name onto both sides of the tree trunk segment himself, installing the signage just a few days before opening in May.
The wine rack sitting front and center behind the gleaming mahogany bar migrated with Hotis from Napa and acted as a headboard in a former residence (wine bottles not included). “So many of our things found a home here,” Chadwick-Hotis says. The old-school radio near the front window nook first played melodies for her husband’s great-grandparents, and the flowers blooming in the mason jars are always roses, in honor of her mother. Smartly, they realize that it all has to translate into a comfortable and familiar environment for customers, too. “We want it to be a true mom-and-pop shop, and every time you come in, it’s Andrew and Michelle,” Hotis says.
Chadwick-Hotis brings her performance experience to the fore on a nightly basis, what she calls “the choreography of the restaurant business. You rehearse, and then you open doors.” Michelle and Andrew dance skillfully together, navigating the tight quarters of their intimate 18-seat establishment with aplomb. The menu is guided by their pas de deux, ensuring that Hotis can prepare the sophisticated, New American bar food they’re after while he operates in a prep and cook space with nearly nonexistent storage. Side effect: everything is fresh because there’s nowhere to keep it for long. A recent program included a garden gazpacho for $6, a pork loin panino for $12 and charcuterie plates with three choices for $18.
When it comes to the wines, Hotis revels in the thrill of introducing a customer to an unexpected pleasure. “The really good sommeliers can make that passion contagious,” he says. “And it’s a fun challenge to find the right one for somebody, especially the ones that might be reluctant.”
“That’s a super-fun part of what we do,” Chadwick-Hotis agrees, “matching wine with people.” You can sip a glass of red, white, or rosé starting at about $10, and work your way up to the special occasion sparkler for an Andrew Jackson note. There are also a few beers in the mix, and wine bottles that start around $30 and climb to about $65. August also stocks five forms of wine glassware, a point of pride for Hotis. “We wanted to do an elegant experience,” he says of the two red, two white and one bubbly stemware styles. “I think it does enhance the experience, the vessel.”
The sips and nibbles are intended to be seasonal and changing, so guests who come in multiple times a week can experience different tastes each visit. And it’s not just the produce that alternates. Hotis is already looking forward to the new cheeses and oysters that usher in another season. “But I’ve just learned the cheeses!” Chadwick-Hotis says with a laugh.
Both are eager to share their interests with the rest of East Rock. “There’s something happening here,” Hotis says, referring to the State Street corridor. August patronizes Chestnut Fine Foods & Confections for its baguettes, and Ryan Taylor of the nearby Coffee Pedaler has been known to swap pour-over cups of joe for pours from a bottle. During one of Taylor’s recent trips to August, he recognized the majority of the guests because they were also his own customers.
“We’re meeting so many diverse, wonderful people we wouldn’t have met without opening this place,” Chadwick-Hotis says. The next time you’re strolling by, perhaps an introduction’s in order.
August: Upscale Bar and Eatery
3 Edwards Street, New Haven (map)
Written by Lauren Langford. Photographed by Dan Mims.