In the Chef’s Corner: The Block Restaurant and Wine Cellar

August 26, 2016

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In the  Chef’s Corner: The Block Restaurant and Wine Cellar

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By Maggie Matsko

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Des Barkalov

Des Barkalov, owner and founder of The Block Restaurant and Wine Cellar, has always had a passion for wine. Originally from Bulgaria, both his maternal and paternal grandparents were involved in the wine-making business. Growing up surrounded by beautiful wineries instilled in him this love, which is where his path to The Block—an urban restaurant and wine bar in downtown Charleston, WV—began.

After high school and a stint in the Army, Barkalov accepted a position as a wine tender with Royal Caribbean International. “The experience I gained with that position led me to where I am now,” he says. “For six years, I got to travel all over the world, explore 80 countries and dine in many different places.” That’s also where he realized his passion for food.

With the combination of his food and wine knowledge, it was only natural that Barkalov put his talents to work in the restaurant industry. When he first came to Charleston in 2005, he opened The Wine Valley, a quaint wine bar with a European atmosphere, in Teays Valley. After a few years of success, he was ready for his next business venture: The Block.

The opening of The Block on Capitol Street came at the perfect time for Barkalov. “The previous owner of this space wanted something different to be brought downtown, and I was ready for a new project,” he says. “Everything came into place since the entire philosophy of this restaurant is to offer something unique to the area.”

Donesha Barrett, executive chef

Donesha Barrett, executive chef

That uniqueness begins in the kitchen, where every dish is prepared with fresh ingredients and nothing is packaged or frozen—just the way Barkalov says food should be. Every entrée is approached with creativity in mind by one of the restaurant’s talented chefs, something Barkalov strongly advocates. “Here at The Block, I encourage experimental cooking with the kitchen staff because I believe that’s how some of the best dishes are made, and change is always a good thing,” he says. As a result, the restaurant has plans to change its menu every two to three months.

“To slightly mimic The Wine Valley’s ever-changing menu, I want to meet a new level in the restaurant industry by giving our customers the highest quality food, as well as a place that is anything but ordinary,” he says.

The Block offers lunchtime customers a casual feel with an urban twist with dishes like Marcona Chicken Salad, Eggplant Pesto Panini and Crab Cakes with Quinoa Fresca. During the evenings, patrons can choose from a dinner menu of traditional entrees with bold flavors, including the French pork chop, spinach-stuffed chicken and handmade pasta.

The Block also offers 500 different varieties of wine from around the world and more than 60 craft beers, a selection that gives Barkalov something to boast about while enabling him to offer his customers an atypical take on the traditional happy hour. “I started building up the wine collection at The Wine Valley four years ago, and we are constantly adding to the selection,” he says. “A large number of wines we have in the cellar are from family-owned wineries that focus on the craft of wine making while being affordable. The prices of our wines range from a casual dinner to a fancy night out—we have something for everyone.”

The Block Restaurant and Wine Cellar is located at 201 Capitol Street in Charleston. Business hours are Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, 12-9 p.m.

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