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The Emerging Restaurant Scene on 11th Street

by Rebecca Cooper

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The new restaurants along 11th Street NW.

There’s been a lot of anticipation, a lot of trying to peer through cracks in papered over windows, and a lot of wondering when boards are coming down off storefronts on a stretch of 11th Street NW in Columbia Heights over the course of the past year.

That’s because there are no fewer than four new restaurants slated for the two blocks between Monroe Street and Park Road, which will join Room 11, Red Rocks Pizzeria and Meridian Pint on what The New York Times dubbed Columbia Heights’ “hip strip”.

The neighborhood’s curiosity is starting to be sated, however. The first of those planned new restaurants/bars opened in April, and construction is well underway at the others. Here’s a look at what some of DC’s innovative restaurateurs and owners have up their sleeves for the area.

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Lori Robertson owns Maple with her husband, Eric Gronning.

Maple: This new Italian wine bar and restaurant from first time restaurateurs Lori Robertson and Eric Gronning is a small space at 3418 11th Street NW. It has an intimate feel and a long, striking bar made out of tiger maple — which is how the spot got its name. Gronning, an architect who has designed several other restaurants around the District, built the bar, as well as a lot of the other features in the space.

Robertson and Gronning, who are married, live a few blocks from Maple. Robertson, who also works as a journalist for FactCheck.org, felt that the neighborhood could sustain more restaurants. “We thought we would do a restaurant probably geared to a bit of an older crowd — 30s,” she said.

They settled on an Italian-centric menu because they wanted to start with small, simple dishes with high quality ingredients. The Maple features a handful of salads, bruschetta dishes, paninis and pastas, and they’ll slowly add more as the kitchen gets into the swing of things. In addition to the robust wine list, they’re also offering two beers on tap and several in the bottle, including some Italian craft beers. They’re hoping to add brunch and sidewalk seating over the next couple of months.

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The outside of Kangaroo Boxing Club.

Kangaroo Boxing Club: Two doors down from Maple at 3412 11th Street NW will be Kangaroo Boxing Club, the soon-to-open neighborhood bar and restaurant from the team behind PORC Mobile, the food truck known for its pastrami, pulled pork sandwiches, and a tri-pork creation known as the “3 lil pigs.” Co-owners Josh Saltzman, Trent Allen, Chris Powers, Zach Spencer, and Peyton Sherwood are almost done with a renovation of the old Latin restaurant space, and are hoping for a June 1 opening.

“You want a drink after work, or somewhere to take your family for brunch, or a place to kick back with your buddies at 11 p.m., you’ll have a place to be,” Saltzman says.

Peyton Sherwood knows a thing or two about neighborhood spots; he’s a silent partner in Solly’s Tavern at 11th and U Street NW, and worked at Fox & Hounds for years. He will be the friendly neighborhood bartender and GM at KBC — duties that may include creating some of his own house-made infusions — while the bar settles into a groove.

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Constantine Stavropoulos, left, and Dave Fritzler, the group’s beverage operations manager.

Unnamed project from owner of Tryst, Diner and Open City: He may not have a name for it yet, but Constantine Stavropoulos has made a lot of headway on his massive diner/lounge/coffeehouse concept on the east side of 11th Street at Monroe (map) in the ground floor retail space of 1020 Monroe, a new condo project that recently sold its final unit. Front windows are in, the diner counter is being constructed, and Stavropoulos tells UrbanTurf he’s just hired a chef: Robert Theriot, a veteran of several restaurants on Florida’s panhandle.

Even the complete build-out of the 7,000 square-foot space — which will feature pressed tin ceilings, diner banquettes, and exposed brick — seems to be easier than choosing a name for the restaurant.

“We always hit a wall with the name,” Stavropoulos says, laughing. The Diner ended up with its obvious moniker after the owners had agonized over another final pick, only to have Stavropoulous’s mother in Greece nix it because she thought it was confusing.

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The future lounge area at the restaurant from the team behind Tryst, Open City and The Diner.

But whatever it ends up being called, the owners want the Columbia Heights restaurant to be a “third place” that combines all of their existing concepts and stays open 24 hours. They’re hoping to have it open by the end of the summer.

El Chucho’s: Down the street at 3313 11th Street NW, El Chucho’s Cocina Superior is planning to round out the neighborhood’s new offerings with a Mexican restaurant from Jackie Greenbaum, the owner of Jackie’s and Quarry House in Silver Spring. It’ll have about 100 seats between the inside, the patio, and the roof deck, Greenbaum told New Columbia Heights earlier this year.

As for the menu, it’ll include tortas, tacos, and regional dishes cooked up by chef Diana Davila-Boldin, as well as some pretty tasty-looking aguas frescas, if a photo pasted on El Chucho’s Facebook page is any indication. The owners originally told NCH they were hoping to open for Cinco de Mayo, although they appear to be delayed. UrbanTurf couldn’t reach Greenbaum for comment this week.

With the varying options opening up, 11th Street is likely to become a bustling block in the coming months, and there could be opportunities for collaboration once everyone’s open.

“We really want to maintain that sense of a local main street, which is very different from what you find on 14th,” Stavropoulos says. “Columbia Heights residents are lucky, in that they have a place to go over and buy toilet paper and go shopping, but this is where they will come to hang out.”

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See other articles related to: dclofts, columbia heights, 11th street

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/11th_street_in_columbia_heights_picks_up_the_pace/5524

1 Comment

  1. l said at 3:48 pm on Friday May 11, 2012:

    The prices on 11th street are getting out of control. Walk over to DC Reynolds if you know what’s up (I am not affiliated with those guys at all but they provide a quality product for a very fair price).

    Of course, in ten years they too will have to renegotiate their lease and jack up their prices. Shame.

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