Father and son team Larry and Justin Harbin are bringing an American diner and an English pub focused on cask ales to 1248-1250 H St. NE next spring. The former, Blue Diner, will occupy the second floor of the building, and the latter, Spile & Spigot, will be located below.
The Harbins are first-time restaurateurs, but Justin has been in the industry for a dozen years, bartending and working front-of-the-house at places like Evening Star Cafe and Cheesetique. His father is an attorney and real estate investor.
Blue Diner will be a “modernized version of a traditional diner,” Justin says. At the same time, the menu, which is still in the works, will have “influences from around the world” including dishes with some California Baja flare. Ideally, the owners hope to keep the place open 24 hours, depending on the demand.
The 160-seat establishment will have booths and a counter overlooking the kitchen as well as an outdoor patio in the back and a bar. “You’ll still see subway tiles. You’ll still see the vinyl-type covered seats and booths, but it will be a bit brighter, a bit cleaner, and just a bit more ‘today’ than other diners,” Justin says. As the name suggests, the color blue will be prominent in the color scheme. Justin also wants to host live blues music as well as jazz and R&B at the diner.
Spile & Spigot gets its name from the parts of a cask used to serve traditional English, Irish, and Scottish ales—a dozen of which will be on the menu at any given time. Larry Harbin spent some time working in a small town in England where he fell in love with the pubs, and specifically, cask ales, which he’s struggled to find in volume on this side of the pond. The bar’s cask cellar will have a big window so patrons can check them out.
The food menu will feature pub fare like fish and chips and bangers and mash plus other dishes with an “international influence,” Justin says. The “rustic” space will be made up of dark woods, rich leathers, and exposed brick.
Justin describes Spile & Spigot as “a lot like a gastropub but please don’t ever call it a gastropub.” He doesn’t like the term because “it sounds a lot like indigestion.”
Justin says he and his father chose the H Street NE neighborhood first, and then decided on the concepts based on what they felt was underserved. There is another European pub (The Queen Vic) nearby, but, he points out, they’re Liverpool supporters. “I figured it might be fun to open a Chelsea pub just so we can have that rivalry in that neighborhood,” Justin says.
Still, he says sports won’t be the pub’s main focus: “The focus is the ale and the food.”
Hat tip to PoPville who first spotted signage for the two businesses.