Photo by Seth Kaplan

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This spring Petworth Citizen quietly brought on a new chef whose local resume includes stops at two of the District’s Michelin-starred restaurants—The Dabney and Tail Up Goat. Chef Jamie Rutherford says she’s excited to swap out fine dining for bar food, but hopes to make the menu more sophisticated.

“I’m trying to do this fine balance of introducing people to vegetables again,” she says. “The way I’m approaching the clientele here, I’m teaching them how to eat. The neighborhood doesn’t quite support the kind of cooking that I come from yet, but I feel like there’s an opportunity here to get people on board with more interesting ingredients and flavors.”

While she’ll keep the cheeseburger and mac & cheese on the menu, one of her new dishes is grilled asparagus with onion marmalade, soft boiled egg, prosciutto shavings, radish, and dill ($11). Another is a salad with roasted yellow spring beets, radicchio, chives, goat cheese, sugar snap peas, mint, charred orange, and a guajillo chili vinaigrette ($12).

Later, Rutherford plans to serve a bone-in lamb chop with a salad of fermented vegetables. Pickling and fermenting have long been among her passions and she’s already started sneaking house-made pickles into the bar’s grilled cheese sandwiches. Rutherford got into fermentation in California, where she lived most of her adult life before coming to D.C.

“I was a hippie,” she jokes. “I think it’s required at some point [if you live in California] that you spend a year eating tofu.” While in San Francisco and Oakland, Rutherford was in the landscaping business. Cooking is her encore career.

She moved to the D.C. area almost two years ago from New York where she was cooking at Prune. “I smelled that D.C. was on the cusp of a food awakening,” she says. “It seemed like it was going in that direction a couple of years ago when I visited and ate at Komi and Little Serow,” she says. “It’s the Southeast Asian food that drew me here.”

The chef spent nine months cooking at a Mediterranean restaurant in Bangkok, and likes to eat at Bad Saint and Thip Khao on her days off.

Tyler Hudgens, a bartender at The Dabney, hooked Rutherford up with Petworth Citizen owner Paul Ruppert. “He was interested in finding a strong female chef for Petworth,” Rutherford says, adding that she’s been asked to reimagine the menu a couple years into the bar’s operations. 

Rutherford is still determining how she will make Petworth Citizen stand out on its small stretch of Upshur Street NW, which already boasts Himitsu, Taqueria del Barrio, Timber Pizza Co., Slim’s Diner, and Ruta del Vino. She’s only certain that vegetables will be a focus and guests should expect Mediterranean flavors. “It’s as much as an experiment for me as it is for Paul,” she says. “That’s what we’re doing here—testing the waters and seeing how people react.”

Petworth Citizen, 829 Upshur St. NW; (202) 722-2939; petworthcitizen.com