Appetizers
December 19, 2008
In the mix

Mason Wong is kicking back on a couch at the Park Ultra Lounge, sporting work boots with a winter jacket by his side. The cool Diesel shoes and blazer will wait for another day - at least until Dec. 31. That's when Wong is set to open Mix Downtown on 16th and L streets in the renovated Firestone building. The plan is for a New Year's Eve blowout and grand opening party, but on this day, the only music coming from Mix Downtown is a cacophony of construction.

Mix Downtown is a $3 million project, with 8,000 square-feet of space that will include swanky VIP booths, a spacious outdoor lounge and boomin' sound system. The preliminary menu focuses on small plates for sharing, including trios of soups, beef sliders and other fodder for late night snacking. And of course, plenty of drinking will be going down here. Mix Downtown will feature 25 wines by the glass, but which ones to pour? That's being worked out by Darrell Corti, who is a consultant for Mix Downtown's wine program. Plan on champagne and sparkling wine tastings on Wednesdays, wine flights and pairings on Thursdays and a martini program on Fridays.

Wong knows this is a tricky time to launch a new club, given the shaky economy. And there's the competition, some of it from Wong's own enterprise. Just a block away from Mix Downtown, Wong already runs Mason's Restaurant and its adjacent Park Ultra Lounge. So Wong is aiming for a particular niche: those who might feel old compared to those just-turned-21 clubbers, but not too old and fuddy duddy to party.

"The economy's definitely bad now, but people still want to be entertained," says Wong. "We're trying to fill a niche and do something different than what other places are doing. We're targeting a little older audience: 30 to 35 year-olds. So we've got things like scotch and cigars on Tuesdays, and a 'girl's night out' on Wednesdays with champagne and bubbles. We're also setting up a 'Dirty 30' VIP club, where you can go straight to the head of the line if you're 30 or older."

The music at Mix Downtown will also skew a little older than the typical hot spot. The playlists at Mix Downtown will lean toward old-school, disco and funk from DJ Larry Rodriguez on Saturday nights, and an '80s format for Fridays.

Wong describes Mix Downtown's decor as "organic and Malibu-ish" but balanced with accents of steel and cement throughout the club. Seeing all this in action will have to wait a couple weeks, so until then, you'll find Wong in his work boots and surveying the work crews.

"You've got to stay fresh and change things up," says Wong, as crunch time for construction continues.

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