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The new Shaw restaurant from the group behind Lincoln and Teddy & The Bully Bar is exactly 1,776 square feet. Within 15 minutes of learning that, owner Alan Popovsky had a name for the place: Declaration. After all, the Declaration of Independence was signed in the year 1776, and all of Popovsky’s restaurants are American history-themed. Popovsky swears he didn’t fudge the square-footage number as part of any gimmick: “I’ll send you the lease,” he swears.
Declaration centers around pizzas, but don’t mistake this for an Italian restaurant. Rather, chef Demetrio Zavala‘s 13 “colony pies” are inspired by the first 13 states in America and named after signers of the Declaration of Independence from each state. The Georgia Lyman Hall pizza is topped with oven-roasted Amish chicken, celery, carrot, onions, and mushroom—similar ingredients to chicken and dumplings, a state staple. The North Carolina Joseph Hewes pizza riffs on vinegar barbecue. And a New York Lewis Morris pie nods to the New York bagel with chive crème fraîche, capers, cured salmon, shaved onion, arugula, and tomato confit.
All the pizza prices correlate to the year each colony was established. So, for example, the Virginia pizza costs $16.07 because 1607 was the year America’s first colony was founded in Jamestown, Va.
The super thin crust pizzas are extra crispy thanks to the high-protein flour and combination wood and gas pizza oven. Zavala, who used to operate coal-fired pizza restaurants in Florida, has also developed a gluten-free crust made with rice and tapioca flours.
Zavala has tried to put some kind of unusual twist on a lot of the other dishes as well. The kale salad, for example, isn’t chopped up into little pieces. Rather, Zavala scrubs the kale leaves with salt and olive oil and then compresses them, so that the olive oil shoots in their veins, making them extra soft. The kale is served with lightly smoked pears, pecorino cheese, and a winter squash romesco that’s made by roasting whole peeled squash and then pureeing it—seeds and all.
“What I try to do is use every vegetable from end to end,” he says.
Other entrees include a Philly cheesesteak with housemade cheese sauce and bone marrow aioli as well as a clam chowder with potato gnocchi and parsley air. Zavala is also making his own vinegars, including beet and mushroom varieties, as well as his own mozzarella and ricotta for the the pizzas.
The dining room is outfitted with quotes (drawn freehand by a local calligrapher) on the walls and tables. The chandelier used to hang in the Maryland State House, and the host stand is made of materials salvaged from Union Station’s renovation.
Unlike Lincoln and Teddy & The Bully Bar, Declaration isn’t centered around a specific president. It’s generally founding fathers–themed, although Thomas Jefferson is featured prominently. Not only does the third president get his own painting and appear on the restaurant’s T-shirts, but there’s an entire wall of nickels—all face up. (Lincoln’s floor is made completely of pennies.) Declaration plans to have a contest where people guess how many nickels are on the wall. The winner will get $100 gift cards to all three of the group’s restaurants, and a donation will be made to the charity of their choice.
Declaration is less than a quarter the size of Lincoln or Teddy & The Bully Bar. Popovsky likes the cozier neighborhood vibe, which makes him nostalgic for his days running Felix in Adams Morgan, and he hopes to open additional, similarly sized restaurants in the future. “You can really get more personal with the customer when you’re in a restaurant this size,” he says. “I think we’re set with our large places.”
Popovsky also isn’t done with the presidential theme.
“Jack and Jackie will definitely be next,” he says.
Declaration, 804 V St. NW; (202) 627-2277