The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Beka Compton
The Times 

The Royal Block is open for business in Waitsburg

 

October 21, 2021

Beka Compton

Joseph Roberts and Tiina Jaatinen, the owners of the Royal Block at the opening of the wine bar on October 14. They are excited to bring a unique experience to Waitsburg, opening their doors to visitors, residents, and everyone in between.

WAITSBURG-Whether you want to sip, sing, appreciate art, or just enjoy a relaxing evening in Waitsburg, the Royal Block is the place for you. The historic building celebrated the opening of its newest business on October 14 after years of being an empty storefront.

Over the last year, owners Tiina Jaatinen and Joseph Roberts have poured heart and soul into their building, incorporating its nearly 140 years of history into their current day. The building's original floors, walked on by the town's founders, including Perry and Caroline Bruce and Sylvester Wait, have been buffed and shined for fashionable 21st Century footwear. Brick walls that have stood against storms, floods, fires, and other disasters are now a showcase for Pacific Northwest artists. Odd treasures inherited with the property, including quirky metal chairs, have found their way into the new decor.

Roberts and Jaatinen want the new wine bar to be an experience everyone can enjoy, whether new to town, a long-time resident or just passing through.

"It begins with Waitsburg. This quaint little historic downtown corridor is fantastic, and this building is a key component of that history," Roberts said. "In doing the renovation, we tried to retain the historic facade, the brick walls, the floors, all of that. Our hope is that people feel comfortable and feel like this is interesting, even if they don't particularly understand why."

Staying as local as possible, Jaatinen said the wine bar is hyper-focused on small wineries and wines grown and produced within the Walla Walla American Viticulture Area (AVA).

"We have tried selecting wineries and winemakers that are, perhaps, the less-known ones," Jaatinen said. "They could be boutique wineries, incubator wineries, or side projects of some of the bigger wineries."

She said the wines served at the Royal Block would reflect the split in product from the Walla Walla AVA- heavy on the reds, with a small selection of white wine.

"The fun thing for all of us, even those of us in the middle of things, is that this allows us to taste, compare, and contrast the same grape in different soils and terrain," Roberts said. "There are some fabulous wine bars in the area, but they are all tied up to a name. What we are offering is a chance for a guest to come in and, in one sitting, taste a cab that was grown in the rocks and a cab that was grown in the foothills."

The Royal Block also offers a selection of craft beers and ciders, featuring local breweries including Laht Neppur Brewing Co., Five Dollar Ranch, Quirk Brewing Co., and Blue Mountain Cider.

A small food menu is being curated. In the meantime, guests can enjoy a basket of peanuts mixed with ethically sourced crickets from a cricket farmer in Portland, Ore. A salty, crunchy treat.

"It's the food of the future," Jaatinen said. "It's a fun thing. We had been interested in trying them and found some Portland-based growers who produce crickets just for this kind of thing.

Roberts, however, didn't waste the opportunity to interject a little humor into the intriguing food selection.

"We opened last Thursday with no fanfare, no advertising, and even telling people that we were still closed, knowing that there would be a lot of bugs to work out of the system," Roberts shared. "It occurred to us that it was easier to serve the bugs up to guests than try and work them out."

Jaatinen said that she had multiple guests come in and ask specifically for the crickets, so she was pleased that the Royal Block could fulfill those requests from day one.

The Royal Block will be home to Thursday night open mics, hosted by local wine writer and musician Paul Gregutt. The building's natural acoustics made opening night performances sound warm and inviting. Advance registration will be required for future performances. Contact Paul Gregutt by searching his name on Facebook or emailing him at paulgwine@me.com.

Roberts said that he plans on hosting other open mic events, including poetry nights, that will be announced at a later time.

While Thursday was the Royal Block's big day, Roberts and Jaatinen recognized that in a place like Waitsburg, businesses must work together to be successful. They brought one of the valley's favorite food trucks, Fiasco Pizza, for Thursday's opening event. Jaatinen said that she is hopeful that the pizza truck will be a regular thing at the Royal Block. Of course, that may depend on Fiasco Pizza's availability. Owners Tom and Judy Bennett have started their own Waitsburg adventure, having bought the former Anchor Bar to become the new home for their firetruck pizza.

Roberts and Jaatinen said they are looking forward to working alongside Waitsburg businesses, including the new owners at the former Anchor Bar, Whoopem Up Cafe, Jim German Bar, and the Plaza Theater.

Looking forward, the Royal Block will open the five guest rooms upstairs for overnight lodging. Completion of this part of the project has been heavily affected by supply chain issues, Roberts said, with furniture delivery dates being stretched out farther and farther into the future. Once the rooms are ready, Roberts said, there will be an announcement.

The Royal Block wine bar is open on Thursday and Fridays, 4 p.m.- 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 12 p.m.- 8 p.m. Be sure to follow them on Instagram, @theroyalblock, and on Facebook.

The Royal Block adheres to current COVID-19 mandates and asks that guests kindly wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

 

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