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Following the closure of Mediterranean restaurant Dunya, the owners of The Front Page, Bottom Line, Madhatter, and more are taking over the three-story space—complete with a rooftop bar—to open 801 Restaurant & Bar.
“We didn’t want to get too corny with the name,” says Dick Heidenberger, a co-owner of The DC Restaurant Group. So the American restaurant is named after the address: 801 Florida Ave. NW
Heidenbergerand his business partner Michael Tobin brought on Heidenberger’s sons, Eric and Alex Heidenberger, as equity partners in their establishments a couple years ago. “It was just a great move for us and enabled us to develop,” the senior Heidenberger says. They’ve since taken over ownership of Shaw’s Tavern (and its building) and are now moving on to their next project in the neighborhood. The Heidenberger sons will be primarily running 801. (The DC Restaurant Group actually operates 17 restaurants and bars, including Cafe Soleil, Cedar, and spots in Delaware and Baltimore.)
“It’s a very hipster neighborhood over there, and it’s very competitive,” Heidenberger says of Shaw. “And these people, they know what they want to eat.”
The chef of Shaw’s Tavern and the chef of The Front Page and Madhatter are collaborating on 801’s menu, which will be very limited. Expect just five or six entrees, including steak, fish, chicken, and vegetarian options. The rooftop will have its own menu with lighter fare. The exact dishes are still being finalized.
Heidenberger says quality can often be sacrificed with a menu that’s got 30 or more dishes, which is why the food menu will be so small. He was also inspired by restaurants that serve almost exclusively one dish, like steak. (Think Medium Rare.) “That kind of struck a chord with us because you want to keep your costs in line and whatnot,” Heidenberger says.
801 will have bars on all three floors, although the first two will be focused on dining. Heidenberger says the cocktail menu won’t be to the level of Jack Rose Dining Saloon or The Gibson. “We don’t want to have our bartenders sitting there peeling rose petals,” he says. “We want to provide quick service.” Rather, there will likely be drinks like an orange crush, moscow mule, and mango-rita. “Founding Farmers, those guys do a great job,” he says as a point of reference.
Cosmetic changes to the space are underway and Heidenberger says the final look will be “very chic and simple, clean.” 801 is aiming to open the first week of July.