Feature

5 DC Restaurants With Fresh New Looks

By Rina Rapuano  |  September 23, 2014
Credit: Scott Suchman

We started noticing earlier this year that several of DC’s favorite dining rooms were closing for renovations. It could just be a coincidence, or perhaps it’s to compete with all the shiny new kids on the block. Whatever the reason, these fresh new spaces are giving Washingtonians compelling reasons to return to these five mainstays.

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  • The Diner

    This beloved Adams Morgan spot has been open 24/7 for almost 14 years, so it’s no wonder that — like a burned-out rock star — it was time for a couple of weeks in rehab. The restaurant closed briefly last month to improve its kitchen as well as add seating in the back, redesign the counter space, move the back bar to the front, give the whole thing a fresh coat of paint and update the sound system. With a new look comes new drinks in the form of two rotating cocktails on tap, a Green Mary cocktail made with tomatillo and kale, as well as a fried chicken plate, among other things. Don’t miss the “Welcome Back Happy Hour” the restaurant is holding for the neighborhood Monday from 4-7 PM.

    2453 18th St. NW; 202-232-8800

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    POV Roof Terrace

    DC’s favorite rooftop just got a sleek, stunning new design that is nearly as breathtaking as the monuments that surround it. The indoor lounge now features custom lights in the shape of presidents’ heads and furniture upholstered in gold, while the outside now has two bars that draw inspiration from Washington architecture. Originally opened in 2009, the space has been reworked by New York architectural firm Nemaworkshop to provide a better chance at seeing the great view thanks to some innovative design changes, such as putting higher seats along the back wall and lower seats toward the railing. A new bar staff and new dishes — such as the addictive pork belly buns — complete the package.

    515 15th St. NW; 202-661-2400

  • Credit: Greg Powers

    Oval Room

    After 20 years in business in the shadow of the White House, restaurateur Ashok Bajaj felt it was time to give the old girl an update. Bajaj put $1 million into overhauling the dining room, tapping Martin Vahtra of Projects Design Associates of New York — a James Beard Award nominee for restaurant design— to re-create the space that now features a white marble bar and floor accented by dark wood and a bold painting by American artist Jennifer Bartlett. The menu has changed too, with executive chef Tony Conte introducing a lighter menu that includes such delicate beauties as fluke with coconut and lime and lobster with a saffron-ginger broth.

    800 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-463-8700

  • Tosca

    Servers still wear white coats and know how to create a very special experience, but this 13-year-old Italian favorite has been undergoing a gradual physical transformation since last year. Phase one included two eye-catching glass wine displays near the entrance, a new bar area and bathrooms as well as new carpeting. The ceiling now has handsome wood acoustical paneling and modern globe lights, and a splash of orange graces one wall. The next phase will bring semi-circular booths along the back wall with more globe lighting. A new pastry chef has also been on board: Catherine Flaherty, who has worked at Le Diplomate and Central, is now making such alluring desserts as a pistachio and sour cherry semifreddo.

    1112 F St. NW; 202-367-1990

  • Credit: Scott Suchman

    Urbana

    The 10-year-old space in Dupont’s Hotel Palomar reopened earlier this month following a six-week, $600,000 overhaul designed by DC-based Grizform Design Architects. The changes included a larger bar and lounge, a more open floor plan, new private dining areas and a fresh look inspired by an art deco cityscape. The kitchen and bar program came back from vacation with a heavy Italian accent, with amaro-heavy cocktails and handmade pastas — including housemade gluten-free options. A good time to check it out is during the Saturday Aperitivo Hour, held weekly from 4-7 PM.

    2121 P St. NW; 202-956-6650