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An Update on Black Whiskey, A New Bar From the Chef-Owner of Kushi

Darren Lee Norris reveals a few details about his upcoming pub.

Ari Kushimoto and Darren Lee Norris. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

As if 14th Street needed any more highly anticipated openings in 2013: Darren Lee Norris says his new project, Black Whiskey, will debut in about 90 days.

Word came in the fall that the Kushi chef-owner signed a lease at 1410 14th Street, Northwest, and is transforming the two-story space into a whiskey bar and mixed-use art gallery. Here are five things to expect there.

Robust eats and drinks: While Kushi is known for delicate slivers of sashimi and flowery sake, Norris is taking a heartier direction for the Logan Circle spot. You’ll find a selection of whiskeys focusing on small-batch American producers like Smooth Ambler, Old Scout, and Corsair, around 20 draft beers, and cocktails from former Passenger barkeep Mick Perrigo. The fare, which Norris refers to as “19th century Scottish bar food,” is inspired by the United Kingdom’s carvery pubs, where bartenders shave slices of large roasts and serve them alongside traditional sides like Yorkshire pudding. Here you’ll find the likes of roasted leg of lamb, baby pig, or other cuts of local meat, which are carved to order and served with a variety of sauces and seasonal vegetables.

Lunch: While many 14th Street spots only cater to the dinner crowd, you’ll eventually be able to drop in to Black Whiskey during the day. Lunch plates will be similar to the evening eats, with items like house-roasted beef and turkey sandwiches on freshly baked bread. Norris says meats will also be sold by the pound. 

Food truck fare: Norris and business partner-wife Ari Kushimoto recently launched a mobile spinoff of their popular izakaya called Kushi-Moto. The food truck, which could roam the streets or cater during the day, will find a semi-permanent home in the evenings behind Black Whiskey, where it will sell a variety of sushi rolls and donburi, or rice bowls, topped with proteins like pork belly, tuna, and shrimp. Guests will be able to take the Japanese offerings into the bar. 

Arty entertainment: The first floor of Black Whiskey is set up to be a flexible art space, with exhibits featuring or curated by the prominent local street artist Kelly Towles. You may also find deejays spinning on certain nights, or Norris cooking a special dinner for a group of 25 inspired by a show that’s running. 

Other amenities: Bar people can never have enough pool tables or warm-weather decks for outdoor drinking. Black Whiskey will have both.

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  • Chad Robinson

    FYI - "Smooth Ambler" & "Old Scout" are the same thing i.e. the comma between them is unnecessary.

  • RJR

    Since there are only 3 decent restaurants on 14th, I hope this will be #4. For all the cultural mix that DC is suppose to represent. this city is getting very bland. Enough of the chain looking restaurants. Take tips from SF and Chicago or ever (ick) Boston.

  • Skolarr77

    I don't know what it's like on weeknights, but it seems every time I've been out on 14th on a Saturday night the eating establishments there are almost always packed. And this is before all the condos/apartments are completed. I think it will be awhile before 14th reaches its saturation point.

    I remember reading that there was going to be some "molecular gastronomy" (I hate that term) at Black Whiskey. I see no mention of that in this article. Is that still the case?

  • JessVoelker

    It's become a destination for people dining out, so arguably the more places that are there, the better they'll all do. On the other hand, if there end up being a lot of restaurants and bars with similar identities, it could become difficult to distinguish them from one another—creating a sort of brand blur that may not be favorable. What would be a good case study for this?

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