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D.C. restaurateurs who have made a name for themselves seem to be embracing a new trend: making a place for themselves. Bar Charley, which opens tonight in eastern Dupont Circle (1825 18th St. NW), will be exactly the kind of place co-owner Jackie Greenbaum says she wants to go when she gets off work.
Like Baby Wale, which opened last week, the menu will be a hodgepodge of things the owners enjoy. No theme. No gimmick. Just “the food stuff we really like to eat, no matter where it comes from.” That explains the scattershot small plates that include papri chaat, sautéed gnudi, and shrimp-and-pork belly dumplings created by former Jackie’s chef Diana Davila-Boldin (who recently left for Chicago) and to be executed by chef LaMont Mitchell. Those will range in price from $6 to $14; two larger dishes—a whole roasted fish and a grilled steak—are priced and portioned for two.
But it’s the anchovies on crostini with marrow butter and whole roasted shallots that the co-owner of Jackie’s, El Chucho, Quarry House Tavern, and Sidebar says will stay on the menu, no matter what. “This is going to be our elote,” Greenbaum says, referencing the cult following of El Chucho’s Mexican street-style corn on the cob.
She wants Bar Charley to be comfortable and inviting, handsome yet not overly stylish. But bar manager and co-owner Gordon Banks imports a bit of the irreverence found at Greenbaum’s other spots. Among the drink offerings: two tiki cocktails on tap, a Rickey featuring carbonated gin, an Orange Crush served in a plastic cup (à la Ocean City), and a cocktail cheekily named The Stepdad because it smells like whiskey and tobacco.
One of the wackier drink offerings: a pickleback that comprises a shot glass made out of gelled house-made pickle brine, filled with a shot of whiskey. You take the shot, then eat the “glass.” Banks says it’ll be available in about two weeks and likely won’t be on the menu; people will just have to know to ask for it. “It’s totally weird, and it’s totally delicious,” he says. “This is one of the stranger things I’ve done.”
Greenbaum curated the wine list, which she is proud of both for its value and variety. “I think anyone who loves wine will freak out when they see our wine list,” she says. Prices currently range between $6 and $10 per glass. Beer drinkers can order anything from a $4 Schlitz Tallboy to a 22-ounce Jolly Pumpkin Fuego del Otoño for $24.
For dessert, the owners plan to serve nothing but pie at some point down the line. There’s also no sign yet, so you’ll have to arm yourself with the details before heading to this subterranean bar.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, this story originally said that the Orange Crush and Rickey were the cocktails on tap. The cocktails on tap include a Mai Tai and the Suffering Bastard. The Orange Crush and Rickey are not on tap.
Photos by Rina Rapuano