Openings

First Look: The Royal Opens in LeDroit Park

By Rina Rapuano  |  June 25, 2015
Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

The Royal, a brand-new spot in LeDroit Park from Vinoteca owner Paul Carlson and chef Lonnie Zoeller, officially opened for business this morning offering Counter Culture coffee drinks, teas and juices. Dinner service kicks off tonight; and starting tomorrow, breakfast pastries, sandwiches and other light morning fare will be available starting at 7 AM weekdays and 8 AM weekends before the menu switches over to afternoon and evening offerings. 

Lunchtime brings a roster of Colombian-inspired savories served till midnight that include empanadas and arepas plus meats, seafood and veggies that take a turn on the wood-fired grill. The South American-leaning menu is a nod to Carlson's five years spent growing up in Colombia. Some favorite dishes from a preview dinner included steak with chimichurri, grilled squid with smoked tomato and grilled avocado with quinoa and lentils.

Cocktails here, crafted by Vinoteca beverage director Horus Alvarez, are just as exciting as the food. There will be shaved-ice concoctions, cocktails on tap, housemade vermouth and classics. Scroll through the photos below to get an idea of what you're in for when you visit.

501 Florida Ave. NW; 202-332-7777

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  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    A communal table near the front door is one of several seating options in the cozy space that seats only 45 total.

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    The bar will serve coffee, tea and juices daily until 11 AM, when cocktails will also become available.

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    The upstairs back room features repurposed pews from a church in North Carolina and chairs from the old mess hall at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Carlson and his family, who partnered with him to open this restaurant, opted to use items they've found on their travels for outfitting the space instead of hiring a decorator. The window pane above the fireplace was original to the space, which was previously Royal Liquor Store, and exposed brick, a fireplace and seating for 12 round out the room.

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Chef Lonnie Zoeller, who also heads the kitchen at Vinoteca, checks one of his sauces while waiting for the wood grill to heat up. 

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Among the upcycled items at The Royal is an antique fire extinguisher that Carlson transformed to house two taps to dispense housemade vermouth and a seasonal draft cocktail — currently a Zombie.

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Five draft brews ($7-$9 each) — including Atlas Rowdy Rye, 3 Stars Peppercorn Saison and Heavy Seas Loose Canon IPA — are served from this former milk jug turned beer tap. The draft pulls are made from Mayan slingshots that Carlson bought at a flea market in Guatemala. 

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Old bottles found in the basement now sit on a shelf by the front door. 

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Morning manager Cecile Blot uses the vintage hand-cranked ice shaver, which Carlson also bought back from Guatemala. Carlson, who spent five years of his childhood in Colombia, remembers women using such contraptions on the streets to make and sell icy drinks from carts.

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Freshly shaved ice from the hand-cranked ice shaver is loaded into a cocktail glass. 

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    The Ascension ($12) features house-infused pineapple cachaca, dark rum, hibiscus and citrus. Classic cocktails ($10 each) like the Cuba Libre, Paloma and Daiquiri are also available. 

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    The housemade vermouth, aged for months in 53-gallon barrels, is served on tap ($9) and can be sipped inside or on the patio. 

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Passion of the Spice ($13) is a fiery blend of Milagro Blanco tequila, jalapeño, passion fruit and lime with a cilantro garnish.

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    Cortados can be made with regular or coconut milk.