A prominent pair of Lehigh Valley restaurateurs are expanding their tasty empire in downtown Bethlehem.
Husband and wife Juan Carlos and Cara Paredes, who operate Tapas on Main and three other restaurants on Main Street in the Center City historic district, this week will open their fifth full-service restaurant on the delicious drag.
Peculiar Wine Bar & Bites, serving small plates and wines by the glass, bottle and flight, is scheduled to open Saturday at 520 Main St., next to Urbano Mexican Kitchen & Bar, Juan Carlos said.
The 40-seat restaurant will supplement the couple’s other downtown Bethlehem dining spots: Urbano, breakfast and lunch spot The Flying Egg, French-inspired Cachette Bistro & Creperie and Spanish restaurant Tapas on Main, the latter of which they operate with partner and chef Rafael Palomino.
It will replace the Parades’ Peculiar Wine & Beer Shop, a store offering beer and wine to-go, which the team closed in October 2019 in preparation for the wine bar.
The couple originally planned to open the wine bar last spring, but as was the case for many restaurant owners with blossoming concepts, the coronavirus pandemic threw a major wrench into those plans.
“It’s so great to finally be opening [Peculiar] because Cara and I have worked so hard on this project,” Juan Carlos said. “The pandemic has been really tough on us, like it’s been on everyone, and we were basically waiting for some of the restrictions to be lifted before opening. So, with seating capacity being increased to 75% and bar service resuming, we knew it was the right time. We’re a wine bar, afterall.”
Peculiar will offer more than 40 red wines, around 30 white wines and around a dozen rose and sparkling wines.
About a half dozen of both red and white wine varieties will be available by the glass, with the rest being available by the bottle, Juan Carlos said. Wine flights, featuring three 2-ounce pours of wines of your choosing, also will be available.
Customers will be able to enjoy premium wines from around the world, including top winemaking regions in Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and South Africa, Juan Carlos said.
Domestic wines from California, Washington and other states also will be available.
Most bottles will be in the $30-$50 range, with select varieties costing more than $60.
“We’ll have wines for all tastes and budgets,” Juan Carlos said. “And I always tell people, ‘Don’t mistake less expensive wines for less quality.’ We are going to carry some very, very good wines for around $30 or $40 a bottle. We’re also going to have sparkling wines like prosecco as well as cava and champagne. We’ll have some organic wines, which are huge right now, as well.”
Peculiar may carry some Lehigh Valley wines down the line, but to start, its focus will be on “premium wines from the West Coast and around the world,” Juan Carlos said.
“There are already a lot of places where you can get Lehigh Valley wine locally,” he added. “So, we want to bring some more multicultural options to Bethlehem. It’s all about bringing a taste of the world to Main Street.”
Peculiar will offer a rotating menu of small plates, or “bites,” that will complement customers’ wines.
Dishes will have mostly Mediterannean influences, with items from a sample menu including personal margherita pizzas, artichoke cauliflower dip with parmesan and pecorino cheeses, seasonal melon with prosciutto and Seasons citrus mint white balsamic and “Peculiar caprese” (mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, olives, basil and Seasons olive oil and balsamic).
“The menu will be constantly changing to feature new items,” Juan Carlos said. “A staple though will be Italian meat and cheese platters, which will come with olives. We’re also planning some other international flavors like German sausage and pretzels with mustard.”
Since Peculiar will have an interior connection to Urbano, guests also will be able to order from Urbano’s menu, Juan Carlos said.
The set-up will be similar to that of Tapas and Cachette down the street, where customers can order from either menu at either restaurant.
“I’m not sure how many people would want Mexican food with their wine, but if they want it, they are more than welcome to order it,” Juan Carlos said. “Actually, Urbano’s rice bowls and a few other dishes would be complemented very nicely by some wine.”
Peculiar will feature a “cozy vibe,” Juan Carlos said, with booths, greenery and dimly lit pendant lighting.
One side of the wine bar will feature exposed brick while the other side will feature walls painted in light gray tones.
Newly constructed wooden tables were painted in a way to make them look distressed, and plexiglass dividers are situated between certain tables as COVID-19 safety precautions.
“We wanted to create the ambiance of an old, vintage wine bar in Italy, France or Spain – a place that is cozy, rustic and welcoming to all,” Juan Carlos said. “[Peculiar] will be a place for wine lovers as well as casual wine drinkers, and we want everyone to feel relaxed in an unpretentious atmosphere.”
Peculiar, which will feature outdoor seating and occasional live music, will be open noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. The bar may stay open later on certain nights depending on the crowd.
“If there are a lot of people here having a good time, we will definitely stay open later,” Juan Carlos said.
For more information on Peculiar, call 610-419-1736 or visit the business’ Facebook page, Peculiar Wine Bar & Bites.