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When you survive four years of delays in opening your first restaurant, there are some things you’re not willing to give up on. For Saam Jahanbeen it was a old school cash register. “I was hunting these things down and could not find one,” Jahanbeen says. “When I did, it was overpriced or it was pick-up only and these things weigh 200 pounds.” Finally he found an octogenarian in Arnold, Maryland, who was once a repairman for National Cash Register.
“I called him up, he said, ‘If you don’t mind, it’s in my house.’ I come by and he had 200 of them. I fell in love with one and said, ‘That’s the one I want.’ Now it’s the centerpiece of the restaurant.”
That restaurant, The Hilltop Bar & Restaurant,opens Friday in the Pleasant Plains neighborhood (2737 Sherman Ave. NW) with a food menu that crests at $18, affordable and interesting wine and beer, and a cozy atmosphere that feels part saloon, part living room. In warmer months, there will be a 44-seat outdoor beer garden. But not THAT kind of beer garden.
“It’ll be a boutique beer garden, not high volume, crazy noisy,” Jahanbeen says. “I love Dacha [Beer Garden], but sometimes it’s just loud. This is going to be where you want a chill, quiet night.”
The 34-seat interior has the same relaxed vibe. There are no TVs, so it’s a place to hole up for conversation. Jahanbeen borrows a motto from his uncle Kamal Jahanbein, who owns The Saloon on U Street NW. “In the spirit of what my uncle does—good beer, good conversation, good service. I want to attach onto that good food as well.”
Chef Angel Franco will man the kitchen. His résumé includes hot spots like Compass Rose, minibar, and Maketto. The menu spans bites and snacks ($4-$14), entree-sized plates ($13-$18), and desserts ($7-$8). Cheese bread with roasted mushrooms and salsa verde; roasted Brussels sprouts with Serrano ham, apricot, Manchego, and sherry; and a beer-glazed bratwurst with all the trimmings are some highlights.
Beer drinkers can find everything from a $6 pilsner to 22 oz. bottles such as Ballast Point’s Mocha Marlin vanilla coffee porter ($18), and there are a handful of wines by the bottle priced $9-$12. (Find the food and drink menus below.)
To start, The Hilltop Bar & Restaurant will be open Wednesdays through Mondays from 5 p.m. until close (1 a.m. on weekdays, 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).
In about two months they’ll open during the day on Saturdays and Sundays with a limited a menu, and then brunch will follow. Come mid-January the goal is to open from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. to serve coffee and grab-n-go breakfast.
The Hilltop Bar & Restaurant, 2737 Sherman Ave. NW; (202) 642-1584; thehilltopbar.com