We recently sat down with Daniel Souder, one of the owners of OTR gem, Pleasantry. We tasted amazing wines and food and got to learn more about the history of the restaurant and the intentionality behind it.
How did Pleasantry come about?
It was two and a half years ago, almost three years ago, in June of 2016. I worked for Joanna Kirkendall who owns 1215. And together we just wanted to broaden our reach. I’ve always had a passion for food. It's just as much an equal passion of mine as wine is, but I’ve worked more intimately with wine. Anyway, we decided to explore opening a restaurant. This place, Pleasantry, was born out of the desire to open a wine-centric restaurant and build upon a harmonious professional relationship.
So you knew you wanted to open a joint restaurant. What happened next?
Joanna and I went to a wine convention in California and had some time one day to go explore. One of the places we went to was a little wine shop in Oakland. It was a wine shop and a wine bar and their focus was natural wine. This was the first time I was aware of natural wine and the first time I’d seen a place devoted solely to it.
We spent four hours with the owner there. Joanna was pregnant so she didn’t get to enjoy as much as I did, but we sipped wine and tried a whole bunch of stuff while just chatting with the owner. All of the wine we tried was stuff we didn’t have access to in Cincinnati. So, we decided that’s what we should do, bring more natural wine to Cincinnati.
What was that process like—bringing more natural wine to Ohio?
So, here is the way it works, I have to buy wine from a distributor and the distributor has to buy from a producer. So, I just started reaching out to distributors and producers with natural wines asking if they had any interest in exploring Ohio as a market. Some said yah let’s try this and some said no. As we started to build those relationships and the wine list we started to develop what we thought the restaurant would be as a whole.
So, you had the wine list started, what about the food?
I knew this guy I worked with at the Phoenix he was cooking there and I knew he could be really good. Evan Hartman. Joanna trusted me, even though he'd never been in the Executive Chef role before. He just had great work ethic and drive. He came on board and we started collectively developing the menu. Evan has total creative control now and he’s constantly tweaking the menu.
The menu is really ever-changing, but it’s always rooted in the same things. We stick as much as we can to locally sourced, super fresh, seasonal food. Local food tastes better, it’s fresher if it comes from 2 miles down the road instead of 500 miles down the road. We also love our local farmers. Farming is really hard and not lucrative. We want to support that and keep our local money in our ecosystem. It’ll come back to us.
How would you describe the vibe of Pleasantry?
We don’t have a specific style that we have to adhere to. We want people that come to take a few little bites of a lot of different things. We want people to experience as many flavors as possible and share in that familial kind of environment. Our staff doesn’t wear uniforms and we want them to have actual conversations with our guests, like people.
This space is beautiful (really go check it out). How did you land on this spot?
Well, we settled on this space honestly because it spoke to Joanna. It used to be a run down old convenience store that was vacant for 12-15 years. There were empty lots all around it. But the building had a lot of history, it was built in the 1800s. We’ve tried to maintain parts of that.
A lot of your restaurant is built around natural wine. What is natural wine?
There isn’t one set definition. It means a few different things. It means it’s clean farmed, the wine was made through clean winemaking, no additives no corrections and low to no sulfate usage. There isn’t a need for super fancy equipment or chemicals. It's just wine.
It seems like what you do here is really intentional. Like, intentional meets casual and informal.
It is. There isn’t a wine on the list or item on the menu that we don’t know where it comes from and the story behind the person who grew, harvested or sold the product. We believe in these people and we want to share their stories with the world through Pleasantry. There is a mindfulness behind what we do. It’s not just about the taste. There is love in food when you labor through it and that’s what we want to come across.
We’re a small 38 seat neighborhood restaurant. You can come here and spend a lot of money if you want or you can come in and have a glass of wine and something small and be out of here for $25.
If you had to describe what kind of food you serve what would you say?
I would say we serve good food. That’s it.
We're having an event with Pleasantry on 4/29 on natural wines if you want to learn more. If you can't come then be sure to check out Pleasantry.