It seems that every new restaurant has a gimmick. (Korean sushi burritos, anyone?) For Crisp Bar + Kitchen, it’s that they’re trying to avoid one.

The no-frills Bloomingdale spot from Jamie Hess (formerly a partner in Ivy & Coney) opened earlier this week with a menu from Alex McCoy. The chef previously worked at Duke’s Grocery and is preparing to open a Southeast Asian restaurant called Alfie’s in Petworth. Chef Akiem Brooker, also a Duke’s alum, will oversee the kitchen day-to-day.

“I’d love to see our place have the same kind of following as Ben’s Chili Bowl, where you go to Ben’s Chili Bowl because you know what you’re getting,” McCoy says. “Places like that, every city needs one on every corner.”

If the menu looks like it has a Southern bent, that’s because part of McCoy’s family comes from the South and Brooker comes from Georgia. Growing up, McCoy and his family would road trip down from D.C. to Mississippi. They always stopped in Nashville for hot chicken.

McCoy talks up his own hot chicken at Crisp. “We thought this was a great opportunity to bring real Nashville hot chicken, not a riff on hot chicken,” he says. “One of my [pet peeves] is when people take Southern food and try they change it too much and make it fancy. And it really steals the essence of what it is.”

Half of a chicken is brined for 24 hours then soaked in a buttermilk mixture for seven hours, battered, and fried to order in lard. The dish comes with white bread, buttermilk ranch, shaved onions, and pickles. You can order it “hot” or “very hot.” Compared to Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish—McCoy’s favorite spot for hot chicken in Nashville—Crisp’s heat levels translate to medium and hot. “Personally I want it hotter, but we’ve had a couple criers in the house so far,” McCoy says.

Other offerings include “mom’s mac & cheese”—a riff on McCoy’s mother’s recipe that’s more like cacio e pepe with lots of black pepper than a traditional Southern dish. There’s also biscuits and gravy, poutine, and hot wings.

One of McCoy’s most popular dishes in his Duke’s Grocery days was his burger. Crisp’s burger uses the same beef and the same bread, but he compares it more to an old school diner burger with thin patties, mustard, red onion, and pickles. There’s also a patty melt burger.

“I used to leave work at midnight and go over to Tastee Diner in Bethesda just so I could get a BLT: iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomato, white bread,” he says. “It’s just good honest food…We’re not trying to do anything fancy or make a statement.”

The same attitude applies to the drinks. Beers are mostly served in cans and cocktails are no more than $10. All drinks are $5 during happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m. every day.

Here are the full food and drink menus:

 

Crisp Kitchen + Bar, 1837 1st St. NW; (202) 853-9115; crispdc.com

Photo courtesy Crisp Kitchen + Bar