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Aside from the fire pole in the middle of the restaurant and photos of fire engines adorning the walls, you might not be able to tell from the inside that the Washington Firehouse Restaurant was, in fact, once a functioning fire station.
“We don’t want to be super cheesy,” says Catering and Events Manager Jessica Henderson. “But it was a firehouse, so we really just want to keep that authentic, rustic feel.”
The Old Engine Company 12 firehouse, established in 1897, ceased operation in 1992 and was out of commission until the restaurant purchased the building three years ago. Since then, the team—led by the owners of Shaw’s Tavern—have worked to renovate the building, enduring multiple hurdles and setbacks that delayed the opening several months until Oct. 17.
Members of the New Engine Company 12 arrived at the opening with a fire truck and donated several of the original photos that hang on the walls. “The firefighters have been really supportive of this whole project,” says Henderson. “It’s because of them that we have this…We took their home, [but] we tried to keep as much of the building as we could.”
The floors and walls, complete with holes, are original, although the old garage doors that look out onto the street were replaced with replicas, and a new fire pole (for decoration only) was added. The third floor, which originally served as firefighter living quarters, was converted into a space for private parties or overflow seating.
Other subtle fire-themed touches include fire boots in the window and a sergeant’s hat behind the bar, which serves cocktails like the “Engine 12” with rye, St. Germain, lemon, and bitters, and the “Wild Fire” with tequila, Tabasco, peach schnapps, and soda.
The rest of the American menu includes pizzas, house-made pastas and lasagnas, and à la carte steaks. Executive Chef Peter Prime says the most popular dinner items so far are the house-smoked wagyu sliders with arugula mustard and frizzled shallots on brioche and the “Eat Your Greens” pizza with broccoli rabe, baby spinach, arugula pesto, feta, and garlic sauce. Weekend brunch, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., includes red velvet waffles and eggvocado, adish with baked avocado, “sunny” egg, and bacon chive vinaigrette.
The Firehouse Restaurant will be open exclusively for dinner during the week, as well as for happy hour from 4-7 p.m. with $5 rail drinks and house wine and $3 off draft beers and pizzas. (UPDATE: As of yesterday, the restaurant expanded happy hour until 7 p.m. It no longer ends at 6 p.m. as was stated in the initial version of this story.)
Washington Firehouse Restaurant, 1626 North Capitol St. NW. (202) 299-9128. washingtonfirehouse.com
Photos by Jamie Slater