Grady’s isn’t aiming especially high. “We’re doing a good job when people walk in and see their neighbors that they now know because they met them here,” says co-owner John Jarecki. “This is their default place to go for dinner or a celebratory drink. This is their local watering hole.”
[Record scratch sound effect.] You’re okay with being the default? “It’s what we want.”
The neighborhood bar quietly opened at 2210 14th St. NW this month. The downstairs dining room is outfitted with dark woods, funky wallpaper, and taxidermy. If anyone is pals with PETA, Jarecki assures that none of the animals were “taken down” to outfit the bar. They’ve been dead a long time. The moose is more than a century old and a buffalo is about 40 years old according to Jarecki, who is also behind Red’s Table in Reston. Upstairs, patrons will find dart boards and more of a late night lounge.
But the centerpiece of Grady’s, also owned by Greg Grammen and Mark Harris, is the downstairs bar. As the story goes, there was a mayor in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the ’80s who was obsessed with the Wild West. So much so that he collected paraphernalia for decades with the hopes of opening a museum. But then he retired to Florida and incoming local leaders auctioned off his collection. “I was watching it because it made some low level national press,” Jarecki recounts. “Little did I know my partners were bidding on stuff.”
A picker showed up at the tail end of the auction and bought the bar. It was divided into about seven pieces. “It took three trips and 15 guys to get it here,” Jarecki says. “It’s about 110 years old and from a ghost town in Nevada.”
At Grady’s, you’re drinking off of a menu of beer ($5-$6.50), wine ($8-$14.50), and cocktails ($12.50) curated by Matthew Wilcox. Wilcox has worked at Mintwood Place, Tallula, and most recently, Le Diplomate. Don’t miss the boozy “Tippecanoe & Taylor, Too” with Irish whiskey, Green Chartreuse, Taylor Tawny Port, Fernet, and clove bitters.
Chef Michael Hartzer, who worked under Chef Michel Richard at Citronelle, is manning the kitchen. The menu is dominated by American classics and entrees top out at $26. So far, the chicken wings fried in waffle batter are a hit. They’re encouraging early guests to tell the chef what they want to see on the menu on comment cards provided at the end of the meal. To fit with the lodge theme, Hartzer plans to offer wild game specials from time to time. See the full opening menu below.
“What Greg noticed in the decade he had Palace 5 is that from here to Columbia Heights is one of the most population-dense areas of the city,” Jarecki says. “And, what’s great about D.C. is its diversity, which is on display at 14th and U [streets NW].” He notes that you can get Greek food, Costa Rican, oysters, Ghanaian, and Ethiopian nearby. “But if you just want your neighborhood spot with excellent food, American classics that aren’t from a corporate place, we’re kind of lacking that in this neighborhood.”
Jarecki hopes that taking a neighborhood-first approach will safeguard its longevity. “When I first moved here I saw this poster and it had all the matchbooks of the big restaurants in D.C.,” he explains. Think Red Sage, Occidental, and Old Ebbitt Grill. “We’re talking about 70 matchbooks and all of the places are gone except for about two. We’ll be here for a long time. We don’t want to be one of those matchbook places.”
Grady’s is currently open daily starting at 4 p.m. The bar stays open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. They’re still determining weekday closing times. In the spring, they plan to start serving brunch.
Grady’s, 2210 14th St. NW; (202) 791-0270