Fans of Duke’s Grocery will feel at home when they step into the second restaurant from the team behind the Dupont Circle original, headed up by Managing Partner Daniel Kramer. The Woodley Park installment, dubbed Duke’s Counter, opened quietly Friday, replacing Zoo Bar Café across from Bao Bao’s domain. It has the same East London vibe and menu staples like the towering “Proper Burger,” plus they’re doubling down on the bottomless brunch that won the 2016 RAMMY Award for best “Everyday Casual Brunch.”
Kramer says the addition of a deep fryer is the biggest departure. “From a food perspective, a fryer really opens up all lot more doors,” he says via email. “The open kitchen at Duke’s Grocery is so cozy (to put it kindly), that we don’t have space for a fryer, so we’re pretty pumped.” Expect dishes like fish and chips from Jillian Catterton, who leads the kitchen.
The centerpiece of the new space is an L-shaped copper bar, and it was already full of customers Sunday afternoon ordering beers and sarnies (the restaurant’s word for sandwiches). In addition to the Proper Burger, Duke’s Counter serves a take on a cheesesteak called “Taken with Liberty,” and the “Spicy Aubergine” with panko-crusted eggplant and squash, smoked Gouda, charred red onion, pickled jalapeños, fennel pesto, chili sauce, and coriander on ciabatta. Small plates span the yet-to-be-played-out avocado toast, local corn elote, and truffle mac + cheese.
Duke’s Counter pours a wider selection of craft beer than Duke’s Grocery and early picks include suds from Port City Brewing, Founder’s Brewing Co., and Abita Brewing Company. Cocktails mostly stick to classics like the Boulevardier, Old Fashioned, Rusty Nail, and Pimm’s Cup.
In addition to the handsome copper bar, there are a few high-top tables and a line of booths in the back that face an eye-catching mural painted by Alia Akthar. “We said East London, D.C., zoo, animals, funky, and take your time,” Kramer explains. “With artists, like electricians, master-brewers, and brain surgeons, the most important thing you can do is stay out of the way.”
Kramer says the team selected Woodley Park because of its status as a “great, historic, residential community” with a lot of people who come to work and play. “And of course, pandas are cute,” he adds.
The restaurant is currently open daily from 10 a.m. until late serving one menu. In the coming weeks, they plan to add weekend brunch, patio seating, and live jazz.
Duke’s Counter, 3000 Connecticut Ave., NW; facebook.com/dukescounter