potenzaWhen they open their doors for dinner service tonight, Potenza will culminate the process of revitalizing a corner of downtown DC whose most memorable recent tenant was a surprisingly resilient bikini shop.  This newest offering from the Stir Food Group (the folks who’ve given us Zola and the new Zola Wine & Kitchen), is actually a variety of concepts under one roof: a trattoria-style dining room, a bakery and a wine shop will all co-exist under the Potenza name by the time everything is up and running.

Located at the corner of 15th and H Streets, NW, just a few blocks from the White House, Potenza is in a prime location for an Obama date night.  And their menu, as developed by Executive Chef Bryan Moscatello and his staff, features a broad range of flavors that can generally be described as “rustic Italian.”  But chatting with partner Dan Mesches, it’s clear that Potenza doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed.  How you see them will likely depend on which of their concepts suits you best.

scrollwork-over-pewsOn Saturday afternoon, with mock service going on all around us, I met with Darcey Thomson for a walk through the (vast) space.  Ms. Thomson is the marketing manager for CORE Architecture & Design, the firm responsible for turning a warren of chopped up little storefronts into a cohesive, flowing space for dining, drinking, and otherwise enjoying yourself.  If that name sounds familiar, you may remember them from their work with Founding Farmers and their efforts to design the space to meet LEED certification standards for ‘green’ building.

More of our first look at Potenza, including some additional photos and details on their official opening dates (beyond tonight’s dinner) after the jump. (more…)

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next-door-and-bensEarlier this year, Ben’s Chili Bowl celebrated its 50th anniversary – a truly remarkable milestone and a tough act to follow by any measure.  But the Alis are ready to try. 

Brothers Nizam and Kamal, the sons of Ben and Virginia Ali, have been working on a second act for the past two years.  They purchased the adjacent building at 1211 U Street “to ensure the longevity of the Bowl,” allowing them to control what went in next door.  As it turns out, they’ve got a pretty good idea of just what that will be – a bar and restaurant to complement and expand on Ben’s Chili Bowl without compromising the original.

next-door-from-the-frontWorking with their wives, a cousin and a nephew, Nizam and Kamal are in the process of putting the finishing touches on Next Door – a name that pays tribute to Ben’s without forcing the connection.  If you’re expecting an updated version of the Bowl, you’re in for a surprise.  With a 53-foot bar (at one point this spot boasted the longest bar in the city), warm tones on the walls and nine flat-screen TVs throughout the space, this is no Ben’s Redux. 

I had a chance to sit down with Nizam Ali just before the Thanksgiving holiday, and he gave us plenty to look forward to as we await Next Door’s opening some time this month.  Pictures, plans and some Anthony Bourdain gossip after the jump. (more…)

Image by Aude, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image by Aude, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

<<EDIT #2:  Not sure exactly what’s going on, but the listing is still active at www.costar.com as of 11 AM today (9/30).  To find it yourself, click on the link above and do a search for properties in ZIP code 20037.>>

<<EDIT:  As you can see from today’s (9/27) comments below, the owner has withdrawn Brickskeller from the market.  Thanks to John Nemeyer with Randall Hagner for the update.>>

You’ve been there – several rounds into an evening of “Around the World” at DC’s most famous beer bar – when someone in the group has a brilliant idea.  “We could totally do this,” is usually how it starts, before listing all the reasons that you and your friends are ideally suited to run a place just like the Brickskeller.

Well here’s your chance.

Though you won’t see a “For Sale” sign out front or a listing for an open house this Sunday, the Brickskeller is officially on the market.  Randall Hagner Ltd. Showcase lists 1523 22nd Street – the “Brickskeller Dining House and Inn” – as being available immediately for the low, low price of only $12.5 million (down from $15 million a week ago).  The best way to find it from the home page is to do a search for properties in ZIP Code 20037.  The entire five-floor building is for sale, including 40-plus guest rooms on four floors and the two-floor restaurant/bar.  The alcohol license will convey to the new owners, but you won’t be able to keep the memorabilia or even the Brickskeller name – the current owners will be holding onto those.

I can’t speak from personal experience, having never drunk enough downstairs to necessitate an overnight stay, but the general consensus is that the rooming house-style Inn has seen better days.  Guest rooms share common bathrooms in the hallways and are accessed via stairs or a hand-operated elevator.

Though the new owner will have to build a name for the new place from scratch, it’s hard to believe that the Brickskeller’s cache won’t carry over and help them start strong.  Assuming the place remains a beer bar (and why would you mess with success?), they would do well to focus on delivering what they promise; these days, the Brickskeller’s reputation isn’t entirely positive on that front.  As the manager of another popular bar joked, the $12 million dollar price tag is “about a million for every beer they have in stock.”

Check out the flyer, a .pdf found on the sale listing page, for more details.  And if you’re already drunk when you read this, do yourself a favor and sleep on it before making an offer right away.

While peering into the papered-over windows of Matchbox’s forthcoming second location on Barracks Row, I noticed large signs in the windows of Jordan’s 8, the upscale steak-and-sushi restaurant located next door at 523 8th Street, SE.  Intrigued, I walked over to check them out and got a shock.

The sign, posted by the Office of Tax and Revenue, indicates that Jordan’s 8 has had its Certificate of Registration suspended, efffective today.  As I write this, one city vehicle and two patrol cars sit outside the restaurant.

Although I don’t know what caused the suspension at this point, a pair of employees who were walking out indicated that they have been told to show up for work at the usual time tomorrow, suggesting that the problem is temporary and likely to be addressed in short order.  If this suspension has anything to do with the suit brought by Jeffrey Cappolla (also owner of the now-closed Tapatinis on Barracks Row) against partner Amber Lynn Koger, however, it could last quite a while longer.

In the suit, Cappolla alleges that Koger’s capital contributions were financed using funds embezzled from condominium and homeowners associations throughout northern Virginia.  For more on the suit, check out this Washington Post write-up.

And keep watching Barracks Row for more developments – I suspect we’re going to hear quite a bit more about this one before it gets resolved.

Sticky Rice DC exteriorAfter years of anticipation, Sticky Rice has finally opened its doors at 1224 H Street, NE.  As friends and neighbors of the new outpost of the Richmond sushi-and-tater tots fixture, we went on Thursday to check out their soft opening.

With a trifold menu that offers four pages of choices, it seems like there is going to be plenty to appeal to a wide range of tastes – they’re especially proud of the numerous vegetarian- and vegan-friendly items on the menu.  A word of warning, though – many of the appetizers and even a fair number of the sushi offerings are either fried or contain fried elements (shrimp tempura, fried ‘crunchies’, etc.). (more…)