July 19, 2024


Free For All Food

A Paean for the Shuttered DC Restaurants We’ll Overlook Most of All

A Paean for the Shuttered DC Restaurants We’ll Overlook Most of All

It’s been a tough time for anyone, but among the the hardest hit have been the restaurateurs who rely on notoriously small margins to continue to keep their doors open up and foods on their customers’ plates.

To retain a cafe open throughout the coronavirus pandemic for any span of time has been an accomplishment in and of alone, as entrepreneurs have continued to stage up to the plate amid immediately transforming situations and protocols to present the most secure knowledge possible for diners. From no-get hold of buying to makeshift outside seating locations, no selections have remained untried, no proverbial stones unturned. And yet several of the city’s most beloved areas — some that had remained open for a long time — were being sadly even now pressured to shutter.

Final week, countless numbers of symbolic empty plates were being sent by restaurant staff and proprietors to the East Garden of the Capitol setting up, inscribed with the names of persons who lost their work opportunities and establishments that have closed this 12 months. The strong demonstration was the hottest effort by the near knit area cafe market to urge elected officials to go the Dining establishments Act — legislation that would develop a much-needed $120 billion grant fund for independent dining places and bars nationwide. Professionals in the field panic that even far more dining places will have no selection but to shut as the weather grows colder and coronavirus instances proceed to spike through the holiday season.

For longtime Washingtonians, the information of every single unbiased restaurant closure feels personal, their bulletins a induce us to relive the times we’ve dined there, drank there, danced there and produced reminiscences there. 

So, whiIe it’s normally sad to say goodbye, let’s get 1 final appreciative appear at just a handful of the regional joints we’ll be missing the most as the year lastly draws to a shut.

Johnny’s 50 % Shell

When John Fulchino and Anne Cashion very first opened Johnny’s 50 percent Shell back again in 1999 in an intimate 35-seat cafe area in Dupont Circle, there’s no way they could have guessed that it would have however been all around 21 a long time later on. During that time, the cafe has taken over quite a few locations and welcomed countless attendees, from politicos on Capitol Hill to the people of Adams Morgan. It’s unsurprising that it was tricky for many to fathom its closing this year, as Fulchino introduced the bad news on social media:

“Over the course of practically 22 years we have been blessed with the most mature, hardest working, loving team,” Fulchino wrote. “Each of them have been focused, selfless specialists, and they had been lots of enjoyable, we are grateful to have been capable to do the job along with them. Continue to be distinct of this business enterprise, it is a brutal way to go, but if you uncover on your own in it, do it with your greatest pal. Extended could you run, and thank you!”

For these looking to help the pair, Fulchino and Cashion are continue to running a single area of Taqueria Nacional, in Mount Nice.

The Oval Area

More than the training course of 26 several years, notorious energy-eating spot The Oval Space had welcomed several a movie star and politician into its eating room, wherever metaphorical tea would be spilled and prix fixe lunches devoured. Back again in 2014, owner Ashok Bajaj sprung for a $1 million renovation that provided the addition of a grand white marble bar and unique paintings by Jennifer Bartlett. Just after the coronavirus hit the city, Bajaj tried to adapt with the introduction of a takeout sandwich pop-up in September, but unfortunately was pushed to quietly near up store shortly just after. 

Longtime followers want not mourn for way too lengthy, though, as Bajaj is reportedly holding on to the room, prime genuine estate just measures from the White Residence, and programs to introduce a new challenge there according to Eater. “Stay tuned for the opening of a new cafe idea in the in the vicinity of long term,” the Oval Room’s web-site reads. 

El Centro D.F.

We’re persuaded that just as quite a few people today fondly bear in mind El Centro’s 14th Road area for the nights expended dancing to Latin songs on a Saturday as they do the tacos and enchiladas. That was the multi-tasking magic of the place, and what would make it so extremely tragic that following a 10 years-prolonged stint, the a few-stage taqueria and evening club was pressured to permanently near this calendar year. 

Taco lovers can rejoice about their continue to-open Georgetown area, but it is nevertheless nonetheless to be noticed whether or not owner Richard Sandoval Hospitality will opt for to ultimately relocate a next spot somewhere else in the city. Individuals lacking the tequila-shot side of factors will also be satisfied to understand the hospitality team is going ahead with plans to open up a tequila bar underneath a strip club in Mount Vernon Triangle someday upcoming calendar year. 


The closing of Otello strikes a certain chord with your corresponden. The typical crimson-checkered-tablecloth Italian cafe was a single of the initial locations I ever ate evening meal at just after transferring to the town to attend college. Its generous parts and inexpensive charges were being currently a sight for sore eyes, and its charming mom-and-pop mindset was comforting for any visitor looking for comfort and ease and carbs in its partitions. 

Now, soon after 30 a long time in Dupont Circle, it has permanently shut its doorways, composing to visitors that the limitations imposed by the pandemic produced it unattainable to keep in business. “Some other dining establishments were being able to pivot to decide up and shipping companies, but it was established that this was not a viable selection for our minimal cafe,” the site reads. “We hope you hold Otello in your memories as a place for very good food stuff, good instances and cheer.”

18th Street Lounge

Whilst not even technically a cafe at all, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a instant to identify the affect of the now-late 18th Road Lounge. In the 25 many years that the unmarked lounge occupied an legendary mansion overlooking Connecticut Avenue, it lent a hand in redefining the Washington nightlife scene, bumping distinct genres of audio in excess of the speakers and even participating in host to Thievery Corporation as they recorded their initial tracks inside ESL’s basement bar back in the 1990s. In new yrs, hopeful friends would still line up all-around the block dressed up to get in, ready for normal themed gatherings like reggae nights just about every Wednesday and DJ dance get-togethers on Sundays. 

It was a shock to a lot of when co-founder and proprietor Farid Nouri made a decision to shut up shop, citing an inability to occur to phrases on a five-calendar year lease renewal with the building’s landlords. “The in close proximity to-foreseeable future possible for this hospitality enterprise appears to be very dim — primarily nightclubs and reside show venues, in which we count on density and socialization,” Nouri explained to The Washington Write-up

He also claimed that he’s “not accomplished with this company,” while, adding that he sees himself “coming again on the other side, with a new model of Eighteenth Street Lounge at a distinctive locale — a reincarnation of ESL, continuing the songs variety and the vibe and the electrical power we have developed so significantly.”

Momofuku CCDC

When superstar chef David Chang of Momofuku fame first introduced CCDC to Metropolis Centre, it meant additional than just the opening of a new restaurant. The arrival of the cult-favored New York import was indicative of the regional eating scene’s promptly rising star, and was one of the initial of lots of New York-primarily based restaurant chains that would soon established their sights on our truthful city. 

Sure, it intended there was a new location to seize some scrumptious ramen or maybe a corn cookie from Milk Bar, but the opening (and now eventual closing) of Momofuku CCDC also showed the nation that eyes were being on us, and that DC experienced now develop into the sort of location where glitzy restaurateurs preferred to plant a flag.

For these looking for a silver lining soon after CCDC’s closure, Momofuku alum Peter Serpico has brought his “kinda Korean” Pete’s Spot to DC — a supply-only procedure functioning out of St. Anselm that provides dishes like two times-fried chili-glazed rooster wings and bibimbap.

Mrs. K’s Toll Household

A single of the most not too long ago extra spots to the even now-growing record of neighborhood restaurant fatalities is sad to say Mrs. K’s Toll Home — 1 of the oldest restaurants in the DMV. The Silver Spring landmark experienced been in business enterprise for a whopping 90 decades right before calling it quits a pair weeks in the past.

The restaurant first opened again in 1930 in a historic Tudor property, named just after its primary operator Olive Blanche Kreuzburg, who operated the restaurant with her spouse Harvey until about 1950. Ease and comfort food and epic brunch buffets were the identify of the recreation at Mrs. K’s, and a $1 million renovation in 2008 noticed the addition of a stone-and-brick wine cellar in the basement.

Any InsideHook viewers searching to start out their very own restaurant may even be fascinated in the historic house, whose leasing agent advised nearby publication Resource of the Spring that “the entrepreneurs want to choose the time to come across the appropriate operator to choose it to the subsequent level.”