Update on 9/1: Lil’ B will open on Sept. 6.
Update on 8/25: Lil’ B is no longer slated to open Aug. 28. The opening has been delayed. This story will be updated with the new opening date when it becomes available.
Take a look at the menu of Lil’ B, slated to open soon on Rhode Island Ave. NW and you’ll see a lot of food that reminds you of the South: pimento cheese, muffuletta sandwiches, grits topped with bacon, and beignets. A few are carry-overs from Chef David Guas’ New Orleans-style restaurant Bayou Bakery in Arlington, but for this new “eatery and coffee den” he’s widening his focus to encompass the entire region, from Texas to the Carolinas.
The menu also includes a confection that could draw Cronut-level acclaim, a baklava croissant. Lil’ B pastry chef Tressa Wiles came up with the idea and it tasted so good that Guas had to put it on the menu, even if it wasn’t quite within his theme.
Other highlights from the food menu include “Thick Mint” cookies (blown-up versions of the signature Girl Scout offering), a vegetarian “Hippie Melt” sandwich, and chicken, egg, and tuna salads packaged in 8 oz. containers. Wiles is testing savory croissants too, including one that utilizes the olive spread from the muffuletta.
Lil’ B will operate inside The Darcy Hotel near Scott Circle. It joins Siren by Robert Wiedmaier, which opened this spring. Guas’ restaurant provides more weekday breakfast choices and a variety of grab-and-go options will be available throughout the day. To start, patrons can visit Lil’ B from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
While he’s trying to check his love for New Orleans when it comes to the food, Guas couldn’t help himself when it came to the decor. It features a lot of black and gold, the same colors worn by the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
He event sent the cafe’s La Marzocco espresso machine across the country to be painted black and fitted with brass knobs. “It’s like a Ferrari,” Guas says. “It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous machine.”
Lil’ B will serve Counter Culture coffee and Guas says he’s hired the right team to compete with the saturated coffee shop market that surrounds him. “There are 15 of them within a six mile radius,” he says. “The Wydown, Peregrine [Espresso], Dolcezza, Slipstream, they all do a great job.”
But Guas doesn’t just want to compete on a neighborhood level—he’s hoping his lead, soon-to-be-named barista will win at regional and national coffee competitions. Beer, wine, and mead, much of it local, will also be served.
The soundtrack at Lil’ B is also important to Guas, who has been compiling vinyl. “We’ll have a turntable,” he says. “It was like going through Congress with how we had to switch that up but I got what I wanted.”
This is Guas’ second attempt at operating a restaurant in D.C. proper. Most recently, he ran a second location of Bayou Bakery inside the Hill Center’s historic carriage house. It closed in March. He thought the project would be succeed immediately but there wasn’t enough traffic on weekdays. He says, “I don’t have a lot of regrets but it will allow me to do some things differently here. It makes me a better operator.”
Lil’ B, 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, lilbdc.com