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You’re looking at beer man Chris Surrusco and Chef Teddy Folkman back in 2007 inside Granville Moore’s on H Street NE. The bar known best for its Belgian beer, mussels, frites, and dark corners for conversation will celebrate its 10-year anniversary Aug. 3.
The duo in the throwback photo recently reunited at the restaurant—Folkman full-time in the kitchen and Surrusco part-time while he still brews beer at Denizens Brewing Co.
The big birthday has Folkman reminiscing. “[Owner] Joe Englert had this idea to open a Belgian restaurant in the area and make it look like it had been there for 50 years,” he says. “So when people eventually came to H Street, it would look like a dingy, dive bar that’s been there forever.”
Folkman says 75 percent of storefronts were boarded up and abandoned from 4th to 14th Streets when he plated his first pot of mussels. He lists his 2007 contemporaries: Cluck-U Chicken, Palace of Wonders, The Pug, The Argonaut, Rock & Roll Hotel, H Street Martini Lounge, Red and Black,Horace & Dickie’s, Tony’s Breakfast and dueling Chinese take-out and fried chicken joints he calls “Good Danny’s” and “Bad Danny’s.”
“Everybody was tight back then,” Folkman recalls. “We knew that we weren’t in competition with each other. We were in competition with other neighborhoods.”
Anytime a new restaurant debuted, they would welcome them into what Folkman jokingly calls the “H Street Mafia.” Industry pros in the neighborhood would provide newcomers with a helpful list that included names of reliable contractors and contact information for dishwashers should an employee call out or not show up. The list still exists, most recently shared with Swiss restaurant Stable when it opened in April.
The 2007 clientele was limited to the neighborhood for the first couple months until the fall, when people started filing in from all over. Folkman says the big draw was their selection of Belgian beer because those brews weren’t as accessible as they are now.
“Then our food started taking off,” Folkman says. “We were serving foie gras, bison tartare, and escargot in 2007 on H Street. And it sold!” It helped that the bar got a boost from being featured on Food Network.
Only two dishes have been on the menu the entire lifespan of the watering hole: the blue cheese mussels and the bison burger. Folkman says the blue cheese mussels started out as an “I dare you to try it” dish, the thought being that crumbly, funky cheese and seafood aren’t good bedfellows.
But those two crave-worthy dishes alone aren’t what has kept Granville Moore’s going. “It all had to do with the staff,” Folkman says. “You can have amazing food and an amazing beverage selection, but if the people serving it aren’t loving it and they’re not into it, it just ruins it. That’s the secret of our longevity.”
In honor of their anniversary, Granville Moore’s is returning to its roots. “We realized six months ago when we were doing all sorts of stuff that it was time to go back to what we do best: mussels, fries, and beer,” Folkman says. “A lot of changes in the neighborhood made us change ourselves, but it wasn’t for the better. Now we’re getting back to what’s good.”
Folkman’s current menu highlights some of the most popular items throughout the years, including a brisket steak and cheese, asparagus soup with porcini mushrooms, and a mussel preparation with coconut milk, tomatoes, chipotle, and lime. Meanwhile, new beer monger Brendan Kilroy has recently added Belgian-style American craft beers from breweries such as Ommegang, North Coast, and Unibroue, as well as a more robust local beer lineup.
Note that in celebration, mussels will be $10 a bowl from Aug. 3-10.
Granville Moore’s, 1238 H St. NE; (202) 399-2546; granvillemoores.com