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Restaurateur cousins Nick and David Wiseman of DGS Delicatessen and Whaley’s are so D.C. that their goal is to have a place in every quadrant of the city. Hill Prince will make three when it opens Friday at 1337 H St. NE on one of the Atlas District’s most happening blocks. “For us, everything is rooted in D.C. because we’ve been here for four generations,” Nick says. “We love telling these old D.C. stories, and there are few blocks as storied as H Street.”
Everything at the neighborhood bar contains a shot of history, starting with the moniker. Hill Prince is the name of the horse that won the 1950 Preakness Stakes. And the Wisemans, together with their third partner Josh Battino, went with it because there’s a long history of horse racing in D.C.
“When the White House was built, there was a one-mile horse track around it,” Nick says. The track was later moved up the hill to Meridian Hill Park where it was dubbed the National Race Course. “Presidents would gather there. It was a center for drinking, so we’re continuing that legacy.” Just not for presidents. Because, can you really picture No. 45 on H Street?
Hill Prince is housed in a 100-year-old row home, and the Wisemans designed it themselves because their mission was to simply reveal the bones of the beautiful old building. They stripped away layers of dry wall to expose the original brick, restored the original hard pine floor, and found some cool horse flare to decorate the walls.
“It was also an old stable. The alley way was a famous set of horse stables,” Nick says. “It’s had many iterations since, but it was most recently an auto body shop.”
One of those iterations was an illegal funeral home called Ridley Funeral Establishment, as evidenced by two embalming machines the city found on premises in 2007. Maybe ghosts will enjoy the $10 drinks just as much as the next guy.
Indeed the cocktails from longtime DGS beverage manager Tony Lawson top out at $10. They’re all classics like the Old Fashioned, Aviation, Americano, and Sazerac, but some have subtle twists like the Daiquiri. Instead of creating the signature foamy head with egg whites, Lawson uses “aqua fava.” Nick explains that they produce a lot of chickpea water at their Dupont Circle hummus shop Little Sesame, which they’ll bring over in batches.
There are also 16 beers (starting at $4 for Natty Boh), a tasty canned cider, and nine varieties of wine by the glass.
There will be a handful of snacks at Hill Prince, most of which celebrate local makers. There’s grass-fed beef jerky from Red Apron Butcher ($7), a soft pretzel served with ranch powder and mustard made by Erik Bruner-Yang a couple doors down at Maketto ($5), and Gordy’s pickled okra ($5), to name a few.
The front bar will open Friday at 5 p.m., but there’s more to come in June or July. Where the front bar ends, an expansive courtyard begins. Nick says he’s going to be decking it out with as much greenery as possible creating a lush space to hang. Continuing on past the courtyard is a whole second bar with 20-foot ceilings, skylights, and seats for 30 where patrons can expect a rowdier atmosphere thanks to DJs spinning soul, funk, and old school hip-hop and house.
The Wisemans say that they toyed with the name “The Mullet” for the bar because the front bar is more business and the back bar more party. “We kind of want the vibe to be that you work your way through, throughout the course of the night,” Nick says. “It’s like a lot of bars down in Austin and New Orleans.”
The second bar will also be reservable for private events. Wiseman says he can tap his other restaurants like Whaley’s or DGS Delicatessen to provide the food or call on his friends like Timber Pizza Co.
Hill Prince will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight; Friday-Saturday from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.; and Sunday from 4 p.m. to midnight. See the menu and more pictures below.
Hill Prince, 1337 H St., NE; (202) 399-1337; hillprince.com