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Walter Gagliano is an interior designer who has designed 25 restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area. Tonight, he’s accompanying Young & Hungry columnist Tim Carman on a whirlwind architectural tour of District eats to reveal which offerings are hot and cold, off the menu.
Station 9, 1439 U Street NW
Hot: Originally an old post office, Station 9’s Greek revival facade and large stone columns create an imposing presence on U Street. “Walking into the space, the first impression is good,” Gagliano says. The interior boasts a “large open space”—-one required by historic regulations which don’t allow Station 9 to divide the room up with walls. Station 9 deals with the wiggle-room well, Gagliano says. “The elements are handled in such a good way that it prevents the space from feeling cavernous.”
The decor is “stagey and theatrical, and all done to the right scale,” Gagliano says. “There are big curtains, big bold stripes, and large spherical chandeliers” that—-on further inspection—-look to be stapled-together plastic cups. It all gives off the impression of “a reality TV-show where things must be done creatively, fast, and inexpensively.” The tiered seating, completed by dramatic high-back leather chairs, “improves the view for those on top of the tier and below the tier,” Gagliano says. The larger-than-life set-up would be quite impressive, actually, if there were enough diners to fill the space. On a Thursday at 8:30 p.m., the dining room served only two.
Cold: All that space can sometimes invite too much function.Station 9 suffers from what Gagliano calls “confused expectations.” The space “feels like a restaurant ready to erupt into a nightclub at 10 p.m.,” he says—-and perhaps the place is better equipped for the weekend club scene than the quiet Thursday dinner.
The martini-goggles might help to soften some of Station 9’s less savory design elements. Gagliano says that Station 9’s free-standing exterior is accompanied by an “air of neglect.” An outside window looks right into a cluttered storage room. Says Gagliano, “There’s obviously a manager here that doesn’t care anymore.” In contrast to the ironic glamour of Policy, Gagliano says, “the overall effect just doesn’t feel fresh. The glamour here has no irony.”