Grand Duchess, the low-key Adams Morgan cocktail bar that opened in 2017 with cheap Old Fashioneds and a short list of grilled cheese sandwiches, is now a bona fide restaurant serving pasta and seafood dishes. of an alum from Fiola Mare.
Chef Enoc Lopez, who also served as a chef at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, joined the team last year and was preparing to roll out a full menu ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the bar adapted to restrictions triggered by the public health crisis by hosting a take-out hoagie pop-up with the help of Lucky Buns owner Alex McCoy.
“We’ve always wanted to complete the experience with good food, and it’s been a long, crazy race to get there,” said co-owner Vinnie Rotondaro. “It has been a brutal year, but we have succeeded and the team is intact. “
Starting this month, Lopez started sending out creamy chicken rigatoni, shrimp scampi, and pan-seared gnocchi with nut-free pesto. A pair of plump crab cakes – a hot commodity that is disappearing from DC menus this summer amid the price spike – is also on board ($ 24). “He’s definitely a fan favorite here so he wanted to put it on,” Rotondaro said.
The co-owner describes the menu as “eclectic” American. Creative entrees include a Philly Cheese Steak Empanada stuffed with shaved rib-eye, ‘whiz’ and masa. Matzo breaded chicken fillets are served with a tangy honey mustard. The bar will also slowly roll out steaks, like a New York strip served with truffled fingerling potatoes and olive tapenade. Desserts include cannoli and a mini cheesecake tower.
“At the end [Lopez] don’t try to do something big and fancy, ”says the owner,“ He has a great ability to take something simple and make it tasty. It fits perfectly with what’s cool about the Grand Duchess – it makes you feel right at home. “
Partners Rotondaro and Rory Adair pay homage to the space’s old life as a townhouse dating back to 1890 with decor like a dusty blue sofa, candle-filled fireplace, vintage jukebox, and bookshelves near a bay window. Before the Grand Duchess, it was Pharmacy Bar – a cult cocktail venue that closed in 2014 – and the owners have converted one of its pill-covered table tops into wall art.
“Me and Rory are the two classic guys who wanted to open a bar on a budget,” he says. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We love the amaro, and it will vibrate a lot more with the food.
Longtime hits like a Negroni and combos from Narragansett and Old Overholt Rye join new additions like a frozen Miami Vice – a swirl of pina colada and strawberry daiquiri.
“It’s extremely hot right now and that’s good,” said Rotondaro.
The bar took a break shortly after it opened to sort out an occupancy issue: there was only one bathroom on site, which meant only 15 patrons were legally allowed into the hotel. 1,200 square foot space at one time. There is now a second toilet and a room for 48 people. One of the benefits of the pandemic was to capitalize on a winterization grant with a new 14-seat patio up front.
La Grande-Duchesse is open Wednesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight (and later on weekends), with a kitchen closing at 11 p.m. on weekdays.