When Juan Antonio Casarrubias and his wife, Leslie Iverson, began work on their petite hotel Onora Suites in downtown across from the Graebel Van Lines building, there was a space on the McClellan Street side they planned to use as a business space for their guests.
But COVID-19 changed the office space climate, and by the time they got Onora Suites open, that no longer seemed like such a good idea.
So instead, they turned the little area into a high-end micro-bar, with top shelf beers, spirits and wines on offer.
Today, Venado (which means stag in Spanish) is something of a hidden gem on the northside of downtown; a little spot tucked away that has been spreading through word of mouth amongst those in the know. And many of those in the know have a taste for high-end wines and spirits, as well as craft beers.
The couple completely renovated the space, putting up walls, developing the infrastructure and turning it into a cozy little niche for getting together with a friend or now grabbing a lunch as they add a lunch menu inspired by Casarrubias’ home country of Mexico.
All the wines are hand-selected by Iverson, as is the decor, which is similar in taste to how they furnish and decorate their suites and other AirBNB rentals outside of the suites.
Iverson says these aren’t wines one can find in the grocery store, and part of her goal with Venado is to introduce people to new wines they might not otherwise come across. That’s all with the goal of making fine wine less intimidating. She has a selection that represents all of the wine regions, especially of Europe with grape strains going back hundreds of years.
“For example, my Bordeauxs from France, some of those grapes they make the wine from are 900 years old,” Iverson explains. “It’s the history, the authenticity that I really appreciate.”
Casarrubias says they use a special stopper that employs a CO2 mechanism to keep an opened wine bottle as fresh as if it weren’t yet opened.
Spreading the word
Word about all those little touches have been spreading on their own.
“All of it is word of mouth because we didn’t want a place that is packed for 10 days, then nothing,” Cassarubias says. “We wanted to go step by step, maintaining good service and good food.”
Besides walk-in business, Venado is open for organized gatherings and have hosted some of them already. “It’s the perfect spot because it’s like being in your living room here,” Iverson says. “It’s just the right size.”
Venado is open for lunch from 11 am to 2 pm Tuesday through Friday; open until 2-8 pm Tuesday through Thursday; and 2-9 pm Friday and Saturday. Check out Venado on Facebook and at venado.us.