The co-owners of The Roosevelt Room are revamping the downtown bar.
By Meagan Leahy, Bar photo by Marc Swendner, Founder photos by Alex Miller, Drink photos by Eric Medkser
As you slip behind the heavy velvet curtains obscuring The Roosevelt Room from Fifth street, you’re transported to the Prohibition era. Books and portraits line the brick walls and a projected black-and-white film illuminates the space. The bar stretches along the back wall with an endless array of spirits. Despite the pervasive vintage decor, hints of modernity bring you back to the present.
Since opening in 2015, The Roosevelt Room has become a popular destination for craft-cocktail enthusiasts or really anyone who enjoys warm hospitality, a transformative atmosphere and, of course, an imaginative cocktail. Co-owners Justin Lavenue and Dennis Gobis strive to give every guest the most delectable experience by focusing on service first and drinks second.
“It’s written in our core values,” Lavenue explains. “Treat every guest like the guest of honor, whoever comes in, no matter what.”
Lavenue and Gobis first connected because of their commitment to this mission, and it spurred their decision to become business partners. They also attribute the overwhelming success of The Roosevelt Room to this mindset.
Soon after opening, the bar was running at maximum capacity and Lavenue and Gobis decided they needed to reset or The Roosevelt Room was going to be a thing of the past. Realizing the level of service was suffering, they made simple but crucial changes to once again put the guest experience first. Lavenue and Gobis began seating patrons in the space as if it were a restaurant, encouraging guests to sit rather than stand. And they started taking reservations. They also increased hours of operation and dove into an ever-evolving project: the menu.
The Roosevelt Room’s original drink menu consisted of eight cocktails. To give guests a true craft experience, they transitioned to a “classically modern cocktail bar,” offering guests the opportunity to drink cocktails ranging from 1800s classics, such as the Manhattan, to modern classics like an Old Cuban and true house creations, such as the bar’s Cigar Box or The Poet’s Muse.
The end result was a 53-drink menu, but Lavenue and Gobis did not stop there. Not long after launching this expanded menu, the two business partners began more than a year’s worth of meetings, planning and perfecting their revamped drink selection. After polishing the classics and imagining new creations, in October, The Roosevelt Room relaunched a drink menu consisting of 80 modern and classic cocktails.
With this new menu, Lavenue says he hopes to bring “what’s old and what’s new together in harmony.”
“It kind of has a nostalgic, classic feel but we’re also wanting to push some boundaries of what’s been done in Austin before,” he says.
While it’s difficult to pick a favorite from such an extensive menu, Lavenue favors the classic drinks that highlight simple ingredients with complex, balanced flavors, like the mai tai, Manhattan and daiquiri. From their selection of more modern cocktails, Lavenue loves the Cigar Box.
“If we were to distill this bar into one drink, I think it would be pretty much that drink,” he says.
He also praises the Silver Meadows as a crystal-clear drink with a flavor profile that possesses a surprising amount of depth.
Not content to rest in the success of The Roosevelt Room, the two are already planning their next concept and actively looking for the next space. They also have plans in the works for a mobile catering company that Lavenue describes as “a unique way to deliver the level of cocktails that The Roosevelt Room would offer to an off-site location or around the country, really.”