First came The Fainting Goat. Then came Tiger Fork. For their third act, partners Greg Algie and Chef Nathan Beauchamp are sticking with the animal theme by opening Calico in Shaw’s Blagden Alley, ideally by September’s end. “We figured we’re kind of like alley cats down there so we wanted to give the cat a name,” Algie says, describing the kitties with multicolored, spotted coats.
Calico will have a smallish interior of around 1,500 square feet. Its main attraction is a 3,000-square-foot outdoor area. The centerpiece is a vintage greenhouse that the restaurant’s design firm, Edit Lab by Streetsense, unearthed on a trip to North Carolina. Above it will be string lights, lanterns, creeping ivy, and grape vines, creating a romantic space helped along by local gardening company Love & Carrots.
The inside of Calico will match. Though the shell has an industrial feel, feminine accents, including lights and stools with the kind of floral patterns you’d find on packets of potpourri, will soften the space. In the winter, when outdoor dining is off the table, it will be a cozy, lounge-like space.
Focusing on the al fresco experience fits with the restaurant’s goal of being a relaxed, hidden retreat. But don’t call it a beer garden, the owners plead. It’s an “urban backyard.” They want guests to feel like they’ve been invited to a dinner party at a friend’s house, only no one’s burning the food because a chef is working the grill.
“It’ll be Eastern Seaboard, picnic-style food,” Beauchamp says. “We’ll have a grill outside—whether we’re doing steamed crabs or sausage links out there.” Menu highlights include grilled BBQ oysters ($3 each), fried clams with caper lemon aioli ($16), corn on the cob with beef jerky butter ($3), tomato pie “Philly style” ($6), and a French dip with gruyere, onion, and bacon jus ($15). The menu will change seasonally. (See a full menu below.)
Beauchamp grew up in Maryland and has Eastern Shore food covered, while Algie hails from New Jersey. “We’ve got this idea that it’s that neighborhood guy on the corner that invited everyone over during the summertime and the food was kind of eclectic,” Algie says. Chef Sam George, who has been a sous chef at The Fainting Goat, will serve as chef de cuisine of Calico. He’s from Philadelphia, hence the hoagie and Philly-style tomato pie.
Ian Fletcher of Tiger Fork and J.D. Quioco of The Fainting Goat will collaborate on the drinks, which include session beers on draft and in cans, wine and cocktails on draft, and potentially some large-format drinks.
The building, at 50 Blagden Alley NW, used to be both an art studio and a boxing gym and the owners hope to pay tribute to the history of the alley, which was once a haven for D.C.’s underground arts scene. For example, they’ll serve a “Fight Club Burger,” named for when the alley played host to Fight Club, an underground skate park and arts venue, in the ’90s.
The duo doubled down on the neighborhood where they already own Tiger Fork instead of planting a flag elsewhere for several reasons. “It’s a cool alley, we’ve got great neighbors, we’ve got the convention center, new hotels are popping up, residential is popping up everywhere,” Algie explains.
When it opens, Calico plans to be open weekdays at 3 p.m. and weekends at noon. Those hours could stretch even longer in the summer.
Calico, 50 Blagden Alley NW. facebook.com/calicodc.
Food menu (subject to change):
Crab Dip, Eastern Shore style $14
Grilled BBQ Oysters $3 each
Soused Shrimp, horseradish basil $14 per pound
Fried Clams, caper lemon aioli $16
Corn on Cob, beef jerky butter, espellete $3
Wedge skewers, blistered tomato, mozzarella, iceberg lettuce, pancetta $8
Blagden Hero: salami, ham, coppa, pickled peppers, hero sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion $12
Fight Club Burger: smoked Gouda, iceberg lettuce, dill pickles, potato bun $9
French Dip: Gruyere, onion with bacon jus $15
Crab Cake: greens, shaved fennel, tomato $18
Fried Chicken Sandwich: lettuce, mayo pickle $14
Tomato Pie, Philly style $6
Sides ($5 each)
Broccoli Salad, charred,
Potato Chips, Route 11
Cucumber dill salad
Desserts ($8 each)
Watermelon for the table
Root beer Floats