The best seat in the house at Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill isn’t a seat at all. For an ideal experience at the 13,000-square-foot restaurant aiming to open in Georgetown by the end of the month, plant two feet in front of the 40-foot marble raw bar. There, frenetic bartenders will be doing everything from popping Champagne and pouring Muscadet to shucking oysters and rolling sushi.
“It’s a very modern take on a raw bar,” says Dyllan’s owner Donald Carlin. The former director of restaurants for Stephen Starr says to expect raw fish preparations from around the world including ceviche, maki rolls, carpaccio, and tartare. “The look and feel of our raw bar is going to be a real wow for the area and it’ll feel more like European tapas-style service.”
Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill replaces Sea Catch Restaurant & Raw Bar that operated on the C & O Canal for 38 years (1054 31st St. NW). Long before the address was a seafood restaurant, it was the birthplace of IBM. Inventor Herman Hollerith patented punch cards that had rudimentary data storing capabilities similar to a floppy disk that came in handy for the 1890 Census. Hollerith’s punch card company merged with several other ventures and eventually became the International Business Machines Corporation in 1924.
Carlin tapped New Jersey-based hospitality industry designer Garrett Singer to give the historic space an upgrade while also maintaining some nods to the building’s original purpose. “Our back bar is a loose interpretation of the punch card machine, with clock faces and mirrors and tiles,” Carlin says. “The back dining rooms are called the ‘Punch Card’ dining rooms; we’ll have an abstract light structure covering the back wall that looks like a punch card; and the back party room is named the Hollerith room.”
The sprawling restaurant will have outdoor seating in both the courtyard and along the canal in addition the standing-room-only raw bar, a “Canal View” bar, and three more dining rooms. The color scheme features splashes of a deep teal blue, glossy whites, and natural woods. Carlin hopes customers wind their way through.
“We really want the concept to feel like there’s a sense of discovery,” he says. “Ultimately you can have five or six different experiences in here.” The back dining room is fully equipped for private business functions.
Executive Chef Neil Corman will man the kitchen. He most recently worked as the corporate director for the Alicart Restaurant Group, where he was also the corporate executive chef for Carmine’s. “He wanted to come back and do something more entrepreneurial,” Carlin says. “He’s been doing $30- and $40-million restaurants all over the country.”
In addition to the raw bar menu there will also be a steakhouse-like menu with appetizers, sides, various cuts of beef, a double-cut pork chop, and a handful of seafood dishes.
Bartender and sommelier Andra “AJ” Johnson is drawing up the beverage menu. The raw bar area will serve a fine-tuned selection of white wines, sparkling wines, and vodka shooters while the beverage menu for the remaining spaces will include a full wine list, beer, and cocktail selections. She most recently worked at Macon Bistro & Larder and is currently retooling the cocktail menu at Unconventional Diner.
Carlin, who most recently served as the VP of Restaurants and Bar for Host Hotels & Resorts, shopped around in various locations looking for real estate for his first solo venture before deciding on Georgetown.
“Georgetown to me felt like a real neighborhood,” he says. “This is one of the few areas in D.C. that felt authentic. There’s people. You don’t feel like you’re walking around in a ghost-town, which some of D.C. feels like sometimes.”
He’s so smitten with Georgetown that he’s considering Dyllan’s the first in a series of restaurants. “This area is a winning horse,” he says. “This place has been starved for a really great restaurant group.”
Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill will start out serving dinner and weekend brunch. Come the fall, they’ll add lunch and happy hour. Carlin says he hopes to open by the end of this month or the first week in August. Reservations will be accepted on OpenTable.
No word on who Dyllan is. “There’s some hints to it on our website and on our menu,” Carlin says. “We’re not saying if it’s a girl or a boy or an it.”
Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill, 1054 31st St. NW; dyllansrawbargrill.com