Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Burgers, Steaks and Music Coming to 14th and U

You may have heard rumblings recently of what's coming at the long-neglected corner of 14th and U streets. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Local 16's Salvatore Rosa to learn more about the plans for the building at the NE corner of 14th and U. Although negotiations for a voluntary agreement for liquor licenses for the two establishments (yes, two)--something that is always, as they say, "delicate"--he was able to share some details with me about the plans for the space.

According to Rosa, the basement of the building will be an as-yet-untitled "music and arts" space, which will feature a bar area as well as a performing arts space which will host live music as well as potentially other events, such as fashion shows. (This is not to be confused with the U Street Music Hall, a completely different venture from the ESL guys further down at 1115 U Street.)

Though there will be a bar space (separate from the performing space), Rosa is quick to point out that the venue is not a "nightclub". "There will be a bar, yes, but the focus will be on the performing arts space," he said. Rosa made a point of distinguishing the arts space from a 9:30 Club or Black Cat-type of venue. "We will have bands that perform there, but we also want to open it up to the community--as a practice space for local acts, for charity events and so forth."

Rosa and his team are currently negotiating a voluntary agreement with ANC1B commissioner Peter Raia. 14thandyou will be intrigued to see how this plays out; Raia heads up the ANC's Liquor License Committee and isn't typically confused with someone who is overly supportive of new alcohol licenses in the neighborhood. To that end, Rosa's insistence that the music space is not a "nightclub" may prove to be an important distinction. Although it's difficult to understand how a venture at the corner of 14th and U streets could disturb the "peace and quiet" of the neighborhood, it doesn't mean that some wouldn't try. (After all, apparently some move to the 14th and U area looking for a little peace and quiet.)

Rosa's team doesn't have a lease on the first floor of the building--that space hasn't been finalized, but it looks likely to be a bank--but he, along with Policy owner Omar Miskinyar, do have a lease on the top two floors, which they are looking to convert into an as-yet-unnamed restaurant focused on serving high-end burgers and steaks (the current working name, Cafe Society, is likely to change.)

The unnamed establishment, which Rosa indicated he hopes to have opened by July 2010, will be open Monday to Friday for dinner only, and Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. The most striking feature of the establishment however will be on the third floor, will have a bar and roof deck--providing patrons with views of downtown Washington and well-known landmarks.

Rosa calls the concept "Retro Classic Steakhouse"--even if the prices aren't exactly retro. With burgers in the $16 range (and a wagyu beef and foie gras burger going for $22), this will very much be a contemporary DC establishment. Other items tentatively scheduled to be on the menu include classic steaks such as New York Strip and Hanger ($25 for a 12 oz. NY Strip, $21 for the Hanger), sides such as mac and cheese and mashed potatoes and a selection of appetizers and desserts.

Rosa indicated that the search for an executive chef for Cafe Society remains ongoing, but that they hope to have a decision soon. With an expected opening of July 2010, Rosa and Miskinyar are hoping to have their rooftop deck open for the 4th of July--which is sure to be a hot ticket on U Street.


A couple of other notes to pass along:

Next door to the Music Space/Bank/Steakhouse on U Street, another building is currently undergoing renovation. We've been told that the space is going to be occupied, at least in part, by a restaurant serving Jamaican cuisine. Though the build-out of the space is ongoing, details about the restaurant are scarce at this time.

A block down 14th Street, I learned from Rosa that the previously announced Table 14 has been delayed due to some structural issues with the building. While that's being worked on, the concept for the restaurant remains in development. Rosa recently learned that the space was previously occupied by the Ware's Department Store. According to the District's office of planning:

When it opened in 1915 at 1832 14th Street, NW,Ware’s Department Store was the city’s first African-American owned and run department store. Originally founded as a shoe store by Richard Ware, the specialty store was transformed into a department store as Ware recognized the community’s need for such an establishment.

That's what is so fascinating about the neighborhood--so many buildings have an interesting (and, occasionally, culturally significant) history. Rosa indicated that he's currently searching for ways to incorporate the "Ware's" theme into the restaurant's concept.


mony said...

I believe the Jamaican spot is called Patty Boom Boom from the Marvin and Thievery Corporation folks.



Steve S. said...

wait, so U Street is getting another over-priced sit down restaurant? Columbia Heights gets a Chipotle and U-Street gets more of what it already has too much of. I've lived near U Stret for 3 years I'm sick of walking to Columbia Heights or Dupont when I want something convenient to eat. My kingdom for a Panera.

Melissa said...

Thanks for the great reporting! I really appreciate that you seek out answers and report them on your blog, compared to some local bloggers who are content to just ask questions and hope that answers magically materialize. Thanks for the great service to the neighborhood!

verb said...

steve s. check out "u street cafe" or move back to the burbs. i mean, really. it's like my relatives who visit london and wish a ruby tuesday's was in sight. know and appreciate where you live and visit. what you want is available if you take the time to search it out. get a sandwich at ulah. go to the market and buy some cold cuts. geez. (i'm really not this pessimistic) happy holidays!

verb said...

quiznos? busboys? subway? if you want a sandwich? you can find it!

Mister Knuckelz said...

This ain't exactly great news for the 'hood. The food at Local 16 is mediocre at best, as is the service. The place is a straight meat market, selling overpriced drinks to suburban twenty-somethings. Not exactly a "local" joint.

Jno said...

What is a local joint in our neighborhood these days? Unfortunately we have become an IT destination, I'm not sure if we want the alternative to that? I do agree wtih Steve S., there is a dearth of inexpensive quick places to eat, I believe the new Cork Market sells sandwiches pretty reasonably, so that is good news. Subway? Really we have settle for Subway or Quizno's? U Street Cafe? The service is glacial. Please, I will drive to Potbelly's if those are my options. Enough with the burger barns alreay, we should boycott them.

Anonymous said...

HomeMade Pizza Company is coming to Logan Circle with a grand opening celebration on Thurs. Jan. 21. For more info, please contact mia@miamcwilliams.com.